Nelspruit (its official name is Mbombela) sits beside the ominously sounding Crocodile River and is a gateway for the famed national park of Kruger. The city, capital of the province of Mpumalanga (formerly known as Eastern Transvaal), has a population of 25,000, which is half the number that can fit in its Mbombela soccer stadium that was especially built for the 2010 World Cup finals. The stadium is now among Nelspruit event venues, for the city's wealth comes from agriculture and tourism.
Nelspruit is approximately 200 miles east of Johannesburg but only 60 miles west of the country of Mozambique and half that distance north of the country of Swaziland. The principal gateway to Nelspruit is the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP), which sees service from the larger South African cities, as well as from one city in each of Mozambique and Zambia.
There are no convention venues in Nelspruit; the nearest one – and what a one it is – being the Nombolo Mdhluli Conference Centre in the Kruger National Park, which is approximately 65 miles to the northeast. It includes Ndlopfu Hall, with space for 750 persons, and a lobby for 300, among other spaces.
Hotel venues in Nelspruit and nearby include the 104-room Mercure Nelspruit, which has five meeting rooms for up to 110 persons; the 94-room Protea Nelspruit, which has meeting space for 60 persons; the 64-room Orion Hotel Promenade, which was Nelspruit's original town hall; and the 18-room Sheppard Boutique Hotel, a luxurious spot in the suburbs of the city that can look after groups of up to 50 persons.
Nelspruit is small, so it is not difficult to get out into the African countryside and gather in such spots as the world-famous Jane Goodall Institute Chimp Eden, which is 10 miles to the south and can organize tours and catering; Lowveld National Botanical Gardens, which is on the northern edge of the city itself and covers 400 acres and has two rivers – the Nels and the aforementioned Crocodile, the Cascades Waterfall and conference space in its garden, for 20 persons, Visitors' Centre Conference Room, for 100, and Biodiversity Education and Empowerment Centre, for 120; Elephant Whispers, 40 miles north of Nelspruit in the town of Hazyview, where guests can get close to six rescued elephants on the banks of the Sabi River (and have dinners and other events at all times of the day and evening in its Hippo Hollow Country Park); and CrocRiver Enviro Park, which has separate ponds for crocodiles, turtles and fish, an auditorium and the Desert House. Another choice is Sudwala Caves, a few miles north of Nelspruit, where events can be held in lit caves, including its 25,000-square-foot Amphitheatre that can seat 500.
Restaurants in this small city run to the Orange, which has fantastic design around a small pool and on several levels and has a conference center for 50 persons, great views and two luxurious guest houses, Francolin Lodge and Loerie's Call; Kuzuri, which is adjacent to the Lowveld National Botanical Gardens and has a few of the Cascades Waterfall; and the Bushveld Lodge Lapa Restaurant & Pub, which is part of a caravan and tent park that has a large thatched dining room surrounded by countryside. Choices a little farther away are the Jatinga Country Lodge & Restaurant, which has fine dining, 17 guest rooms and can cater upscale dinners in the middle of the veld; and Magnolia Restaurant & Cocktail Lounge, which is beside the White River and has function space and an award-winning chef who has prepared meals for royalty, both real royalty and that from Hollywood.