Mbombela, formerly known and still often referred to as Nelspruit, is in the Mpumalanga province. Mbombela is a major stopover point for tourists travelling to Kruger National Park and to Mozambique. Other tourism attractions nearby include Sudwala Caves, and God's Window in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, a lookout point which provides a panoramic view over the famous Drakensberg Escarpment.
In 2020, the city was home to 110,000 people.
Mbombela was founded as Nelspruit in 1895 by three brothers of the Nel family who grazed their cattle around the site in the winter months. During the Boer War, Nelspruit served briefly as the seat of government for the South African Republic, an independent Boer republic.
The settlement was a key stopover for the Eastern Railway built by the Netherlands-South African Railway Company in the late 19th century which ran from the newly discovered Witwatersrand goldfields to Delagoa Bay in Portuguese East Africa (modern-day Maputo, Mozambique). The discovery of gold in Mpumalanga, such as at Pilgrim's Rest and Barberton, encouraged further development.
Mbombela is the nearest major South African city to Mozambique's capital, Maputo, and as such Mbombela receives significant tourism from Mozambican locals.
Mbombela has mild winters and hot summers. Summers are hot and somewhat humid complete with high precipitation. Winters in the city are dry, with relatively warm temperatures during the day and chilly temperatures at night.
- 1 Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP IATA) (25 km (16 mi) north east of Mbombela). Flights from O.R. Tambo Johannesburg (JNB IATA), Cape Town (CPT IATA) and Durban (DUR IATA). The airport is well developed, with ATMs, cafes, souvenir shops and several car rental desks.
- Take the N4 highway from Pretoria. Have cash at hand for the toll gates. From Johannesburg to Mbombela is 359 km.
- The distance from Mbabane, Eswatini, is 183 km; from Polokwane, 302 km; and from the Mozambique border at Komatipoort is 109 km.
ShosholozaMeyl operates regular trains west to Johannesburg via Middelburg, Witbank and Pretoria, and east to Komatipoort on the border with Mozambique. From Komatipoort you can take a Mozambiquan train east to Maputo. The train departs Mbombela Thursday and Sunday at 8:40PM and you get to Johannesburg the next day at 6:20AM. The train departs Johannesburg every Wednesday and Friday at 6:10PM and you get to Mbombela the next day at 4AM.
- 2 Mbombela railway station (Corner of Andrew St and Henshall St).
- There are City to City and Citiliner buses going to/from Pretoria R200 and Johannesburg R200 at 10:30AM and 10:40AM. The bus ride to Pretoria takes (6 hours), and (7 hours) to Johannesburg.
- There is a City to City bus from Mbombela going to Maputo Mozambique every day at 12:40PM for R200 the trip takes (3½ hours).
- There are minibus taxis going to/from Eswatini (Swaziland).
Travel around Mbombela by car and get an eyeful of the beautiful scenery and meandering mountain passes. The area is still quite wild and while you are driving around at your leisure, you may view small game and even some vervet monkeys and baboons.
- Hover Dynamics Mpumalanga, Nelspruit Airport Hanger No. J1-A, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Offers helicopter tours, rides and trips in the Mbombela and Mpumalanga area, including Kruger Park and other game reserves.
There are few attractions in Mbombela itself, but the surrounding towns and area can make for an interesting drive.
- 1 Lowveld National Botanical Gardens. It has a tropical atmosphere. It's on the road to White River before you get to the casino. Has several loop walks, bridges and waterfalls with several interpretive signs. There is a cost of admission, and like in many part of South Africa a tip for the car minders. It can feel quiet and isolated, and there is no real security to speak of. Set in 154 hectares of land along the eastern bank of the Crocodile River, it hosts around 500 species of plant species indigenous to the area.
- 1 Mafunyane Waterpark (located adjacent to Riverside Mall and Emnotweni Casino), ☏ . W-Su 10:00-17:00. Water slides and pools to play in. R130, R80 if height under 1.2 m.
- 2 Emnotweni Casino, Government Blvd, ☏ . Daily 08:00-21:30. Try your luck at gaming, or there are the Movies at Emnotweni, stores, and restaurants on the premises, too.
- Several cultural and agricultural shows are hosted annually, including:
- The Lowveld Show
- The Lowveld Agri Show
- The Innibos Arts Festival
- The Nelspruit Motor Show
- The Colour Run
There are three large shopping malls in Mbombela, and like most of South Africa they are security patrolled. However, they are not open in the evenings.
- Riverside Mall (from the N4, turn into Daan Pienaar/White River Road (R40) towards White River; follow this road for about 5km and the mall will be on your right), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. M-Sa 9AM-6PM, F until 7PM, Su and holidays until 3PM. A large regional shopping mall.
- Spar Supermarket (son park). 8AM-8PM.
- Pick N Pay, Sitruscres. 8AM-8PM.
- Shoprite Supermarket, Samora Machel drive. 8AM-8PM.
- Ilanga Mall, Samora Machel Drive. 9AM-6PM. Has a Game store and a Pick n Pay.
- 1 Adega, Terentaar Shopping Center, cnr N4 Highway and Ou Kaapschhoop Rd, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Spicy Portuguese cuisine. Try the 1 kg prawns.
Mbombela can be used as base for visitors touring the Kruger National Park and the nearby sights, like the Blyde River Canyon. There is a range of accommodation available here, but there is also a similar range near some of the Kruger gates like at Crocodile Gate and at Phalaborwa, which may be more suited to touring the park.
- Chantelle Younes, 27 Venn Street, ☏ .
- Crocodile Country Inn (on the N4, 20 km west of Mbombela), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. From R680pps.
- 1 Crocodile Nest Bed and Breakfast, N4 (12 km west of Mbombela on the N4), ☏ . Accommodation lies within the huge, peaceful garden with acres of lawn creating wide open space. Large parking area and good security. All rooms, rondavels, regular bedrooms and cabins have bathrooms en suite, as well as heaters and fans. Several are equipped with tea/coffee facilities, fridge, television and microwave. From R280pppn.
- Funky Monkey Backpackers, 102 Van Wijk street, ☏ . Also has private rooms. dorm bed R150 per person.
- Nelspruit Backpackers Hostel, Andries Pretorlus Street, ☏ . Camping, single/double rooms. dorm bed R150 per person.
- Old Vic Travelers Inn & Backpackers, 12 Impla Street. Also has private single/double rooms. Has a swimming pool. dorm bed R160 per person.
It is not safe to walk around Mbombela after dark. There are lots of traffic lights in Mbombela, and vendors and beggars will approach your car when you are stopped. Keep your car doors locked at all times, and consider whether you may find dinner at your accommodation more pleasant than driving a distance through Mbombela after dark.
- Visit the Kruger National Park
- Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve protects the Blyde River Canyon, including sections of the Ohrigstad and Blyde Rivers and the geological formations around Bourke's Luck Potholes, where the Treur River tumbles into the Blyde below.
- Take the N4 to Mozambique. Even only for sightseeing. You can enter Krugerpark at the southern gates.
- Visit the train tunnel at Machadadorp. Check before if safe to walk through tunnel.