Named after the great Limpopo River that flows along its northern border, this province is rich in wildlife, spectacular scenery and a wealth of historical and cultural treasures. Known as the Great North, Limpopo province is home to ancient lands and pre-historic secrets. This is home to Modjadji, the fabled Rain Queen; The Stone Age and Iron age relics of Makapansgat Valley and the treasures of Mapungubwe that date back to time immemorial. Straddling the northern Kruger Park, Limpopo province boasts wildlife safaris, nature trails -untamed Africa at its finest. This is the land of wide-open bushveld, big-sky country, the ever-present thorn tree and the mystical baobab tree. The Limpopo province also offers up Africa’s wild Edens – from highveld grassland savannahs to subtropical forests to formidable mountain ranges. South Africa’s northernmost province, Limpopo, borders onto Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana thus making it the ideal entrance to Africa.
The Limpopo province celebrates a rich cultural heritage and at many archaeological sites the mysteries of the past and ancient peoples are still being unearthed. Historians reveal that the first black Africans moved across the Limpopo (into what became known as South Africa) before 300 AD. The Voortrekkers arrived in the early nineteenth century and this part of the world changed forever. Numerous battles between indigenous African people and the Voortrekkers ensued. During apartheid, portions of land were divided into homeland areas. However, today the Limpopo province is united in its aim to offer the best possible welcome for its visitors. Limpopo is renowned for its hot yet pleasant summers and dry winters. Its weather is characterised by almost year-round sunshine. It can get very hot in summer (October – March), with temperatures rising to 27ºC (80,6 ºF) and, sometimes, even touching the mid-30s Celsius (mid-90s Fahrenheit). South of Limpopo are the Soutpansberg mountains, South Africa’s northernmost mountain range and one of the most diverse habitats in the country.
There are 340 indigenous tree species here, an abundance of animal life and the world’s highest concentration of leopard. Ancient, gigantic baobabs (“upside-down trees”) guard vast expanses of mountains, bushveld, indigenous forests and cycads. The Limpopo Province is divided into four regions. The Capricorn region stretches from the Ysterberg, all along the foothills of the lush Wolkberg, to the tropic of Capricorn in the north. The region’s position makes it a perfect stopover between Gauteng and the northern areas of the province and between the country’s northwestern areas and the world-renowned Kruger National Park. It is also in close proximity to the neighbouring countries of Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Swaziland.The Waterberg Mountains stretch along more than 5 000 km2 of spectacular vistas and scenic valleys – the ideal destination for off the beaten track tourism. The area is steeped in history and some artefacts found here date back to Stone Age times. The area’s rich mosaic of culture and tradition is reflected by the different rural tribes such as the Bapedi, Tswana and Basotho, while the Voortrekkers also left their distinctive mark on the area. Across the northwest, and framing the northern border of the province, lies the Soutpansberg area. One of the main geographical features of this region is the Limpopo River, which forms South Africa’s northern border.
The western section of this region is framed by the rocky spine of the awe-inspiring Soutpansberg (salt pan mountain) range. It is in this region that visitors will find the former independent homelands of Lebowa and Venda where traditional African cultures thrive. In fact, this fertile valley has been home to cultures dating back to the Iron Age. Relics of the Stone Age San and their incredible rock art can still be viewed here today. Travelling east, visitors will discover the rich natural heritage of the Lowveld with its claim to fame – the world-famous Kruger National Park. As its name suggests, this region falls in the valley of the great Olifants River that meanders through the Kruger national Park, forming the southern border of the province. The Olifants Valley is teeming with a variety of wildlife. It is known for its spectacular scenery, mountains, rivers, dams, history and cultural and ethnic attractions. The Makapansgat Valley is directly linked to the history of the Cradle of Humankind, this is where, in February 1925, Professor Raymond Dart announced the discovery of the first ape-man. The caves at Makapansgat Valley have rendered fossils dating back 3,3 million years. Stone Age and Iron Age relics have also been located here. This area is destined to become a World Heritage Site.
One of the most remarkable icons in Limpopo, Mapungubwe is situated at the confluence of the Sashi and Limpopo Rivers. The great ruins at Mapungubwe, in the Limpopo River Valley, show remains of the first and greatest ever South African kingdom to have flourished. Mapungubwe shows remains of human occupation in and around 850 AD (two and a half centuries before Great Zimbabwe). The most significant find at Mapungubwe was a gold rhinoceros and gold bowl dating back to around 1200AD. The artefacts at Mapungubwe illustrate a flourishing trade and advanced social systems of African kingdoms in the 13th century. In the Lobedu Mountains near Duiwelskloof and situated next to the home of the fabled rain queen, lies the Modjadji Cycad Reserve – boasting some of the oldest and largest cycad specimens on earth. Spot the big five from your luxury safari vehicle, or go tracking on foot in the most famous game park in the world.
The northern Kruger offers excellent game-viewing and world-class accommodation. A number of community lodges are also springing up, adding to the authentic African experience. The Ivory Route are 54 provincial reserves, 10 of which are being developed into a series of camps that follow in the footsteps of historical characters.Dubbed the African Ivory Route, these reserves form an arc that follows the peripheral borders of the province along Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, and includes the northern part of the Kruger National Park. Bela-Bela is known as Warmbaths for a few decades, because of the hot mineral spring at its centre. This part of the world offers cheap accommodation and fun for the whole family. Bela-Bela is a gateway to the southern Waterberg and/or Thabazimbi. Visit the sacred burial ground of the royal Venda clan, and place of birth and creation in Venda mythology. It is said to be protected by a python god, who had to be placated annually with gifts of beer and,¦.. virgins. Tha Vondo Forest contains the Holy Forest within which lies Mount Thate, home of the Venda’s ancestral spirits and burial site of the royals. Dzata Ruins were built in around 1700, and once the flourishing capital of the Venda empire. Dzata was occupied for only about 60 years and was last ruled by the great Thohoyandou who forged the Venda nation from clans already living in the Soutpansberg. Known by some as the python dance, the Domba dance is an essential ritual in the initiation rites for young Venda females. The dance imitates the movement of a huge snake as the young initiates move around the fire singing ancient songs. Lapalala Wilderness is a 25 000 hectare wilderness in the Waterberg contains rare roan and sable antelope, white and black rhino and a plethora of animals and birds.
Lapalala is a sanctuary for endangered animals. Haernertsburg is known as the Land of the Silver Mist, this gorgeous village in the misty Magoebaskloof mountains near the town of Tzaneen is famous for its cherries, azaleas and abundant flora and birdlife. The perfect spot for the ultimate weekend getaway. Nylsvlei is a 160km nature reserve enclosing one of the most important, and beautiful, wetlands in South Africa. Offering 150 species of bird including some of the rarest species on the planet. A wonderful campsite offers the basic amenities and the walking trails and picnic sites are a treat. Due to its spectacular scenery and deep forests, hiking in the Letaba region is popular with visitors. The two-day Debegeni and three-day Dokolewa trails are a must. Day-walks are also on offer.
The Waterberg is recognised as one of the best places to take part in horse-back safaris. There are a number of well-established outfits that will cater to all your needs. A combination of a tented safari camp combined with a horse-trail safari is certainly an option for regular riders. The Lapalala Wilderness Area is a sanctuary for wild and endangered animals and birds. The world’s only dedicated Rhino Museum can be found here – and is dedicated to the achievements with these animals by founder, Clive Walker. Limpopo Province offers sleepy small-town South Africa at its best. Why not journey from one town to the next – sampling the hospitality along the way. Traveller’s favourites are Haenertsberg, Elim, Vaalwater and the entire Magoebaskloof region. Limpopo province offers top-class accommodation, across the board. From colonial-type hotels to tented camps to five star safari lodges, the hospitality industry standards are absolutely world-class. The Gazankulu and Venda regions are known for their fantastic arts and crafts. Clay pots, basketwork, painting, tapestries and fabrics are all up for grabs at pretty reasonable prices. There are a number of famous artists (sculptors) that come from the Venda region namely: Noria Mabasa and Jackson Thugwane.