The Glass Elevator in Graskop Gorge reaches one year

  • Thursday, 26 October 2017
  • Linda Chivell

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Live the view, Feel the Forest

In just over a year since it opened, the Graskop Gorge Lift Co has significantly contributed to tourism in Mpumalanga.

With its amazing natural beauty, the province has always been a popular destination for both domestic and international tourists but it was crying out for something new to re-ignite interest in its many established tourism products.

Enter Graskop Gorge Lift Co, which opened in December 2017. It is the biggest investment in tourism infrastructure in Mpumalanga in recent years and has in no small way played its parts in making the province a preferred adventure destination.Graskop Gorge Lift 1

With its glass-fronted viewing lift that travels 51m down the face of the Graskop Gorge, and its breathtakingly beautiful 600m forest trail that has allowed thousands of people to explore the previously hard-to-reach indigenous Afromontane forest, the development attracted lots of interest over a short span of time.

The figures speak for themselves. From January to December 2018, 128 000 people visited the site and 63 411 paid to go down the lift and into the forest below. On April 28 alone, a staggering 978 purchased lift tickets. In December 2018, 19 280 people paid the entrance fee to the centre and enjoyed the viewing decks with their unforgettable views, the curios and crafts and the Lift Café restaurant and bar, which is perched on the edge of the gorge.

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The developers have ensured that the forest is not degraded in any way, despite the many visitors. The trail through the forest is on an elevated boardwalk, with suspension bridges over the river, which prevents precious plants from being trampled.

Interpretation boards teach visitors about the importance of the forest biome and introduce the fauna and flora that thrive in the misty environment. “We are committed to making the beauty of our province assessable to more people in a sustainable and responsible manner,” says Oupa Pilane, one of the directors.

Situated on the Panorama Route and in close proximity to God’s Window, the Lisbon, Berlin and Mac Mac waterfalls, the Blyde River Canyon, Bourke's Luck Potholes and the Three Rondawels and on route to the Kruger National Park – the Graskop Gorge Lift Co gives get another reason to visit the Place of the Rising Sun!

#Graskop #PanoramaRoute #Travel #Tourism #GlassLift #LiveTheView#FeelTheForest

The 51-Metre Glass Elevator in Graskop Gorge is safely underway

The Graskop Gorge tourism node is underway and is set to be completed by December 2017. The project, which aims to bring in a 51m glass elevator that will transport people up and down the gorge, will also bring much-needed ease of access to the gorge.

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While the project that is worth in excess of R40 million is predominantly privately funded, the National Empowerment Fund has a stake in the project.

The project which began earlier this year will also bring a restaurant and bar that will have magnificent views for patrons, but also positive spin-offs for local businesses who will also benefit from the development of the elevator.

The development is being done by the Graskop Gorge Lift Company.

Situated one kilometre out of Graskop, at the Graskop Gorge, on the R533 towards Hazyview, the Panorama Route development is a first for Africa.

The team that has been tasked with bringing the development to life has reported however some challenges with the terrain they need to work on.

Earthbound Timber Designs has been charged with building the walkways and doing the decking both on the plateau where the retail offering and restaurant will be located, and at the bottom of the gorge, where environmental trails will encourage visitors to learn more about the escarpment’s afro-montane forest.

Although the central attraction will be a glass elevator that will transport people 51 metres up and down the gorge, it was essential that a staircase also be available as an alternative means of entering and exiting the gorge.

Earthbound Timber’s Vincent Cant says replacing the old staircase that had fallen into disrepair tested their ingenuity.

“It involved 125 linear metres and a drop of roughly 70 metres with an average of between 40 and 60 degrees,” he says. While the work was challenging, he adds that the weather was kind to them and the local workforce professional.

“We have worked on similar projects but not ones as intense as this,” says Vincent. 

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By mid-July, the wooden walkway on the Northern side of the Gorge, where the Big Swing operates, had been completed and work on the staircase was finished. The stairway descends from the head of the gorge to the base of the waterfall.

“Work on the main, elevated broad-walk at the bottom of the gorge has subsequently commenced. This will be 500m long and will include two suspension bridge crossings,” says developer Campbell Scott.

“The walkways will allow visitors to explore the unique forest environment, waterfall and stream and will be enhanced by a number of interpretation displays which will give context to this unique ecosystem.”

Lift installers move mountains!

Work is also underway on the lift shaft. A specialised mobile crane is being used by Quality Steel for the shaft assembly, which should be completed in mid-August. Thereafter, Otis Elevator Company will begin the lift installation.

In June, the lift base was constructed. This involved around 160 tons of concrete being poured down a specially-created pipe system that ran down the cliff face.

The lift shaft weighs 88 tons and is 60m in length, with a total travel distance of 51m, which is around 16 storeys. It is being assembled in 2.5m sections, which are bolted one on top of the other.

The glass elevator will offer a 360-degree view of the gorge, waterfall, trees, birds and sky. The centre will incorporate a restaurant, bar and shops at the top of the gorge, a children’s play area and lookout points.

A much-needed tourism boost for the Kruger Lowveld.

Source: IOL Travel




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