Limpopo Province one of South Africa’s best-kept secrets. The Limpopo Province has much to offer, from hiking, nature reserves and historical sites. A diverse landscape from bushveld and savannah to sub-tropical forests, being well-known for the great baobab trees.
The Soutpansberg mountain range, which extends across a large part of the Northern province, is also rich in beauty, myths and legends, as well as archaeological sites and rock engravings.
Hunting capital of South Africa – with 63% of all hunting, the Limpopo Province is the premeir hunting destination in South Africa , supporting an abundant choice of species.
The area is known for the very large Southern Greater Kudu, Southern Impala, Common Waterbuck, Blue Wildebeest, Klipspringer, Limpopo Bushbuck and Eland. A great trophy is awaits hunters each season.
Garden of South Africa is the describtion given to Limpopo, given its rich fruit and vegetable production. The province produces 75% of the country’s mangoes, 65% of its papaya, 36% of its tea, 25% of its citrus, bananas, and litchis, 60% of its avocados, two thirds of its tomatoes, 285,000 tons of potatoes. Other products include coffee, nuts, guavas, sisal, cotton and tobacco, timber with more than 170 plantations.
Limpopo Tourism Regions
The Limpopo Province is divided into four regions
The Capricorn Region
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 Bushveld Region
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.
The Soutpansberg Region
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.
The Valley of the Olifants
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.
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.
Major attractions in the Limpopo area:
This 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.
Modjadji Cycad Nature Reserve
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.
Kruger National Park
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
There 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.
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.
Venda Myths and Legends
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.
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.
The Legendary Domba Dance
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.
This 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.
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.
Hiking in Letaba
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 recognized 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. Traveler’s favorites 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.
Art and Crafts
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.
Limpopo Province History
Let the Ancestors Speak: an archaeological excavation and re-evaluation of events prior and pertaining to the 1854 siege of Mugombane, Limpopo Province, South Africa
Amanda Beth Esterhuysen
During the 19th century, the present Makapan Valley World Heritage site was a place of repeated refuge from the conflicts arising from shifting authority, acquisition and loss of power, and competition over the control of resources in the northern regions of the Republic of South Africa.
During 1854 growing resistance amongst the northern AmaNdebele against the frontier of colonial expansion erupted in the murder of a number of trekboers who were encroaching on their territory. Historic Cave, one of the caves in the Valley, became written into the Afrikaner Nationalist narratives of the 20th century as the place where the Boers avenged the treacherous murder of their fellow trekkers, by suppressing the savage forces of chief Mugombane and his Kekana chiefdom.
The events surrounding the siege and the scale of the massacre became blurred in the playing out of these political agendas, while the Kekana oral histories remained silent on the matter. The excavation of Historic Cave, prompted by the contradictions in the historical narrative and the silence in the oral record, provided a means to detect the boundary between what happened and what was said to have happened.
The lime enriched deposits and dry conditions within the cave have
allowed for the exceptional preservation of plant, animal and human remain. This enduring evidence chronicled the activities and steps taken by the Kekana to survive. The spatial layout of the cave together with cultural remains echo the structure and hierarchy of the society trapped within it, which like many African societies of this time comprised a heterogeneous ‘royal’ core and other ‘foreign’ subordinate groups.
Evidence for divination reflects the final attempts to divine the cause of misfortune and protect the group against maleficent forces. However, it is argued that the social and religious forces that operated to keep the chiefdom together may have begun to loosen under the pressure of the siege, especially as the polluting forces of death became stronger and the group began to succumb. The remains of young and old people and the desiccated bodies of a child and a young woman speak of untold suffering and provide a glimpse of the horror within the cave.
From this it is reasoned that following the devastation of the siege the core of the chiefdom was challenged; the chief was ‘dealt with’ and the political power base shifted. The real reason for the ‘silence’ then lies at the point of rupture, at the stage when the surviving statesmen contrived a suitable account of ensuing events to give the new chief legitimacy and the lineage continuity.
The Siege of Leboho:
South African Republic Fortifications in Blouberg, Northern Transvaal
by J A Van Schalkwyk & S M Moifatswane
Dept of Anthropology
National Cultural History Museum.
As part of a recent anthropological study of the Hananwa living at Blouberg, Lebowa, in the northern Transvaal, their history was researched. From this was deduced that one of the more important events in their history was the siege of Leboho in 1894 by General Piet Joubert of the South African Republic (ZAR). This was such a traumatic experience for the Hanawa that even today, almost a hundred years afterward, this incident is to many of the tribal elders a major source of injustice.