Limpopo DestinationsBela Bela, Waterberg
Just under two hours' drive due north of Johannesburg is Bela-Bela - place of the warm baths.
Which, indeed, used to be its name. Warmbaths. Back before we became a democracy in South Africa when it was more often called Warmbad, in Afrikaans. Loosely translated from the Tswana, Bela-Bela means pretty much the same thing – 'water that boils on its own' or 'the pot that boils'. The hot springs reach 53 degrees Celsius, and claim multiple minerals and beneficial curative properties. You will find them in the Forever Resorts downtown where a series of swimming pools and water slides confine the water.
Lying in the heart of the Waterberg, surrounded by nature reserves and bushveld-type countryside, Bela-Bela continues to derive most of its economic benefit from the springs with a range of wellness centres, and spas. The myriad conservancies, wilderness areas and game farms combine to form the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve – a beautiful part of the Limpopo province.
There are numerous reasons Bela-Bela is as popular as it is (avoid the town during peak season if your idea of a holiday is peace and solitude). It is only an hour from Pretoria, it is great for family holidays – children-friendly venues abound – and its mild climate means that you are almost guaranteed of sunshine.
Add the allure of the Big 5 to this line-up (many of the game farms in the area include elephant, buffalo, rhino, lion and leopard) and you can understand why it would be a winning combination, particularly as it is also a malaria-free region.
Bela-Bela is well equipped for visitors with restaurants, coffee shops, its own Waterfront, random and interesting roadside stalls on the R101 and nearby nature reserves that include the Nylsvley Nature Reserve, one of the best places for spotting birds in the country.