Below the Surface – The History of life on Earth

If we could go back 1.5 to 4 billion years ago, we would find ourselves in a very different world than we live in today. Archaean Earth, as it is called, would have seemed like an ocean covered alien planet to us, with no vegetation and an atmosphere with virtually no oxygen. Regular volcanic eruptions would have left the sky dark with ash and torrential downpours lasted for years. The moon was much larger and was closer resulting in more violent tides and shorter days.

The Greenstone Belt is the best preserved example of a 350 million year sequence of Archaean Earth rocks. These ancient volcanic and sedimentary rocks are an exceptional record of Archaean Earth between 3 and 3.5 billion years ago.

The Barberton Makhonjwa Geotrail takes you on a journey to this ancient world. It is a 38 km self-drive exploration trail that follows the Bulembu Pass to Swaziland and it is thanks to a few locals with vision, that the unique history of earth can now be enjoyed by everyone and not just the scientists. Some of these geological wonders and rocks from this period are visible from the side of the road, making exploration as easy as it gets.

There are 11 sites along the trail, the first being only 1.4 km outside Barberton and it offers a view of the border of the Barberton Greenstone Belt. Each site is carefully built with rocks and paved and has easy to understand and colourful explanations and illustrations of the geological significance of the area, one site even offer a braille labels. The views from the various sites along this mountain range are quite simply exceptional!

Things to do and see

  • Viewpoints
  • Makhonjwa Mountain Range
  • 11 geological sites
  • Rock Formation
  • Barberton Greenstone Belt


Rainfall occurs mainly in the mid-summer months, with December and January seeing the highest levels.

Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 17˚C and 29˚C.

Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between 6˚C and 21˚C.


There are daily flights from Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town into the Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport in Mombela (Nelspruit). Car rental companies are available for easy access to the surrounding areas with Barberton only half an hour away along the R40. Road trips from Johannesburg to Barberton on the N12 and N4 will take just under 4 hours.

Contact details

Barberton Tourism Office

Tel: +27 (0)13 712 6490

Fax: +27 (0)86 720 6290


The Makhonjwa Geotrail is 38 kilometers (24 miles) long.

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