The history of Hoedspruit
You probably haven’t heard of Hoedspruit, in spite of the fact that it’s very much the Big Five Safari capital of South Africa. But that’s OK because this lovely little lowveld town is a well-kept secret, even though its steadily growing in reputation as the gateway to the Greater Kruger region!
It’s a small town with a big heart and has a history that goes back hundreds of years to when the MaPulana people made the area their home. The highest peak in the magnificent Drakensberg Escarpment that towers over Hoedspruit and its surrounds is named Mariepskop, after the legendary MaPulana chief, Maripe Mashile.
Towards the middle of the 19th Century, a different tribe moved into the area – the Afrikaner farmers, or Boere. Enter Dawid Johannes Joubert – the first official owner of the farm known as Hoedspruit, which means “hat creek”.
The farm was registered on the 5th of May 1848 and was so-called because of an incident following a heavy storm when the young farmer lost his hat in the flooded Zandspruit river. The name stuck, even though Dawid lost his life in 1860 to a leopard.
Border disputes with the Portuguese in neighboring Mozambique meant that the fledgling South Africa – or Republic of Transvaal as it was then known – under President Paul Kruger, rushed to have the land in the area surveyed and the border correctly demarcated.
This saw the farm Hoedspruit carved up into much smaller portions by surveyors brought into the area from the UK and mainland Europe, who named these smaller portions after places they were familiar with. This is why you will see road signs to places like Essex, Guernsey, Liverpool, Berlin and Madrid as you explore the Hoedspruit area.
By the end of the 1800s and turn of the 20th Century, the area was growing rapidly, thanks to the discovery of vast deposits of minerals and major mines springing up in Gravelotte and what is now the Phalaborwa area.
Transport routes were opened up by one Abel Erasmus, who helped move ore from the mines to the port of Lourenco Marques (now known as Maputo) with trains of wagons pulled by Erasmus’s legendary teams of oxen. Today, the pass through the Drakensberg is named after this local hero, permanently enshrining his name in the local history books.
Eventually South Africa’s rail system extended to Hoedspruit with the formation of the Selati Line in the early 1900s, which eventually opened up the region to tourism through its route to Skukuza in the Kruger National Park.
And so, this small, unassuming little town began to attract visitors from all over South Africa and the world – something that it continues to do to this day.
It may not be world-famous (yet) but Hoedspruit is special nonetheless, with its warm, welcoming vibe and wonderfully relaxed atmosphere making it the perfect base from which to explore the amazing area that surrounds it.
The Drakensberg Escarpment is home to one of the world’s largest green canyons – the Blyde River Canyon. Part of the UNESCO Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve, the Blyde River Canyon is simply breathtaking, both from above where visitors can marvel at the incredible views down into the Lowveld, and from below, on the Blyde Dam, where daily scheduled boat trips give guests a completely different perspective.
The top rim of the escarpment forms the world-renowned Panorama Route, while below, just 40 minutes from Hoedspruit, the Kruger National Park‘s Orpen Gate offers direct access into one of the world’s most legendary game reserves.
Between Hoedspruit and the Kruger Park are a myriad private game and nature reserves, most of which are open to the Kruger Park, making this the absolute capital of the Greater Kruger region and one of Southern Africa’s prime game viewing hot spots.
Most of the farms surrounding modern Hoedspruit are either citrus farms or game reserves, so you are guaranteed an appreciation of nature and a real passion for the environment wherever you go. The road that leads from the mountains is dotted with roadside fruit stalls, nurseries and local attractions.
As you head into town, some 40km from the base of the Drakensberg Escarpment, you are greeted with a wide road (inherited from the days when you needed space to turn a span of oxen) and a collection of shops and restaurants, from the tourism centric Kamogelo Center to the aptly named Hat and Creek bistro.
There are also curio shops and roadside stalls, galleries and coffee shops aplenty, from the Stoned Olive to the Fig and Bean.
Two shopping centers are home to major supermarkets (Spar and Pick n Pay) as well as an eclectic collection of shops, banks and healthcare providers.
Finally, in the heart of our little town, just minutes from our major shopping centres and world-class restaurants and eateries, lies Hoedspruit Wildlife Estate – home to Moya Safari Lodge & Villa.
So, as you sit on your private deck overlooking our open, wilderness area, where you’re likely to see wonderful plains game like giraffe, kudu, nyala and impala, you can marvel that you are in the bush in a town that has made that bush its own. A real wildlife haven and one of South Africa’s best hidden gems!