The sheer size of this 18 000 hectare (44, 480 acres) nature reserve in the Makhonjwa Mountains close to Barberton in Mpumalanga Province is compelling and it is one of the few pristine treasures in South Africa. In a 360 degree view all is dominated by idyllic scenery, mountains, blue sky, wildlife and beautiful African sunsets.
Mountainlands is situated three hours from Johannesburg, two hours from Maputo, one hour from Swaziland and the Kruger National Park, half an hour from Nelspruit and its international airport and only, ten minutes outside the historic town of Barberton. This is wild Africa at its most romantic – and it’s most accessible.
The land was first reserved for conservation in 1985 and finally consolidated into what is today know as Mountainlands Nature Reserve when the perimeter was game fenced in 2000. It is named after the Barberton Mountain Land, as the area is know to geologists. Mountainlands Nature Reserve is at the core of the new Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains World Heritage Site, as it is central to the Archaean Greenstone Belt in which some of the oldest preserved rocks and earliest life forms on Earth are found. This region has emerged as an internationally renowned study terrain of the early history of Earth and the basket of natural attractions offers many lessons to mankind. Above all, Mountainlands is a vast open-air museum to the combination of natural treasures of more than 3.5 billion years of Earth’s history, little researched archaeological sites dating from the early Stone Age and a unique plant and animal diversity.
For more than a hundred years this unique area was the domain of lone pioneers, and has remained unspoiled by large-scale cultivation. Lushly vegetated and well-watered, these beautiful hills are threaded through with narrow mule paths, the legacy of those single-minded old gold-hunters and transport riders. Today the unique game reserve secures this area for generations to come. Mountainlands is one of the most beautiful wilderness reserves, and is uniquely accessible by air or road from all major centres. Breath taking landscapes, undulating grasslands, dramatic cliffs and gorges, pristine savanna, bushveld, riverine and montane forests, all intersected by gin-clear perennial streams, are yours to discover as the old explorers did in this magnificent eastern corner of South Africa.
Situated at latitude 25°40′ and longitude 30°57′, the climate is sub-tropical and frost-free, mild in winter and warm in summer with average daily temperatures of 24°C during January and 16°C during July. This is a summer rainfall area (November to March) with an average rainfall of 756 mm per year.
The terrain varies between low-lying bushveld, mountains, scenic valleys and rolling grasslands. The majority of vegetation belongs to the Sour Lowveld Bushveld of the Savannah Biome. This is mostly tree savannah, with dense riverine fringes along drainage lines and open grassy areas on the ridges and valleys. This vegetation merges into the North Eastern Mountain Grassland of the Grassland Biome at higher elevations. There are numerous perennial streams that have carved deep ravines with high cliffs and breath taking waterfalls and pools. All of the streams originate on the reserve, which forms a pollution free and protected catchment area with an abundance of water. The elevation ranges from 540m to 1640m above sea level.