Limpopo…a place of many discoveries

The Preferred eco-tourism destination for South Africa

Limpopo is South Africa’s northernmost province and is truly a province of many delightful discoveries. Bordered by three African countries, it is also South Africa’s gateway to Africa. . The province shares provincial borders with Gauteng, Mpumalanga and North West provinces.

It is a province of beautiful and contrasting landscapes with a great diversity of both natural and man-made attractions, where you can feel the real heartbeat of Africa.  The province has a rich cultural heritage, an abundance of wildlife and astoundingly beautiful nature reserves and natural scenery. Its protected areas and nature reserves are considered to be amongst the best in Africa.

Preserving this natural heritage for future generations and making it possible for local and foreign tourists to share in this heritage, is a priority in Limpopo. Scenic attractions range from magnificent mountains, to nature reserves, lakes and rivers, tropical forests, semi-desert bush country, the famous Kruger National Park, and plenty more. With some of the best game-viewing opportunities in South Africa, the province boasts that it is the preferred eco-tourism destination in South Africa. The beautiful Magoebaskloof is a favourite with hikers.

Its diverse cultural heritage is derived from the Bapedi, Batswana, Vhavenda, Vatsonga and Ndebele indigenous people who settled here centuries ago, as well as Afrikaners who arrived with the Great Trek and various others who later settled here from Europe.

The province is named after the Limpopo River, which forms the province’s western and northern borders. The name is derived from the Northern Sotho language word diphororo tša meetse, meaning “strong gushing waterfalls”…found along the Limpopo River and in other parts of the province.

Tourism is one of the three pillars of the Limpopo economy along with mining and agribusiness. In 2008, the province accounted for 5% of all foreign tourist bed nights in South Africa, a number that has grown significantly since then. In order to develop it as a tourism destination, the provincial budget annually allocates a very large part for tourism.

For tourism and administrative purposes the province is divided into five regions, designated in accordance with the dominant cultural group residing there. Capricorn is the central region predominantly occupied by the Bapedi people; Waterberg is the largest region in the province with the majority of people being the Batswana; the Vhembe region in the far north is dominated by Vhavenda and Vatsonga people; the Mopani region towards the Kruger National Park is dominated by Vatsonga; and the Sekhukhuni region is dominated by Bapedi and Ndebele people.

The province is easily accessible by air to Polokwane International Airport outside the provincial capital. There are many smaller airports and airfields dotted around the province, some being located in game reserves. The province can also be easily reached by rail, as well as by road: along the N1 highway from Gauteng and Zimbabwe; the N11 from Botswana; the N4 and R37 from Mozambique and Mpumalanga; and the R40 and R37 from Swaziland.

Limpopo has a land area of 123,910 square kilometres and a population of 5.3 million. The province is covered by a network of tarred roads, including a tarred road inside the Kruger National Park. Internet is available in all areas and there are internet cafés in major towns. English and Afrikaans are the predominant languages of business here.

Tourism is one of the three pillars of the Limpopo economy along with mining and agribusiness. In 2008, the province accounted for 5% of all foreign tourist bed nights in South Africa, a number that has grown significantly since then. In order to develop it as a tourism destination, the provincial budget annually allocates a very large part for tourism.

For tourism and administrative purposes the province is divided into five regions, designated in accordance with the dominant cultural group residing there. Capricorn is the central region predominantly occupied by the Bapedi people; Waterberg is the largest region in the province with the majority of people being the Batswana; the Vhembe region in the far north is dominated by Vhavenda and Vatsonga people; the Mopani region towards the Kruger National Park is dominated by Vatsonga; and the Sekhukhuni region is dominated by Bapedi and Ndebele people.

The province is easily accessible by air to Polokwane International Airport outside the provincial capital. There are many smaller airports and airfields dotted around the province, some being located in game reserves. The province can also be easily reached by rail, as well as by road: along the N1 highway from Gauteng and Zimbabwe; the N11 from Botswana; the N4 and R37 from Mozambique and Mpumalanga; and the R40 and R37 from Swaziland.

Limpopo has a land area of 123,910 square kilometres and a population of 5.3 million. The province is covered by a network of tarred roads, including a tarred road inside the Kruger National Park. Internet is available in all areas and there are internet cafés in major towns. English and Afrikaans are the predominant languages of business here.

The Five Regions

Capricorn Region

Named after the Tropic of Capricorn, which passes through the northern section of Limpopo, the Capricorn Region covers the area from the Ysterberg along the foothills of the Wolkberg Mountains, to the Tropic of Capricorn in the north. It is an ideal stopover between Gauteng and the northern areas of Limpopo and between the north-western areas of the country and the Kruger National Park. It is close to all three neighbouring countries.

The natural scenery of this region is diverse, ranging from grassy plains, to bushveld and mist-shrouded mountains. The region is home to mines, farms, forests, cultural villages, dams, art galleries, game reserves, and monuments. The major town in this region is Polokwane.

Mopani Region

The Mopani Region is located in the Lowveld. The Great Olifants River, which runs through the Kruger National Park, forms its southern border. The Kruger National Park has been incorporated into the Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Park, a transfrontier conservation area stretching over 35,000 square kilometres covering Mozambique, Zimbabwe and South Africa. This region offers vast expanses, diverse natural scenery and is a remarkably untouched corner of Africa.

This area is also destined to become part of the proposed Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, with a number of privately-owned and state-owned conservation areas bordering on the Kruger National Park having already removed their fences, now forming part of the Greater Kruger National Park. The entire area, and especially the Mopani Valley is rich in wildlife, but also has spectacular scenery of mountains, rivers and dams, a rich history and many cultural attractions. Major towns in this region are Tzaneen and Phalaborwa.

Sekhukhune Region

This region, with its fascinating history, owes its name to King Sekhukhune, a king of the Marota (commonly known as the Bapedi) in Sekhukhuneland during the 18th century. At the height of the Pedi people’s power under a ruler called Thulare between about 1790 and 1820, Sekhukhuneland included an area stretching from the site of present-day Rustenburg in the west to Mozambique in the east, and ranging as far south as the Vaal river at the southern border of Gauteng. The size of the Pedi region was substantially reduced following military campaigns by British forces in 1879, and later by the government of the Transvaal Boer republic.  The region is a rural area with its economy anchored in tourism, mining and agriculture. There are many natural, cultural and other attraction in this region. The main town of the region is Groblersdal.

Vhembe Region

The Vhembe Region, the northernmost part of the province, gets its name from the mountain range that stretches for some 130 km from west to east through the region. Here you will find endless expanses of undulating indigenous bush, with the most instantly recognisable example being the iconic baobab tree. The area is also home to plenty of wildlife, many bird species and exciting opportunities for visitors seeking adventure.

It is from this region that the border bridge at Beitbridge can be crossed into neighbouring Zimbabwe. The region is also home to the Vhavenda, of whom one of its most famous sons is South Africa’s current president, Cyril Ramaphosa. In the area where the Vhavenda live you can visit the kraal of the Paramount Chief with its intricate mountainside labyrinth of footpaths leading up to its main defence, a large cave above the kraal. There is also a nearby lake where young maidens were once offered to a spiritual being believed to live in those waters.

Furthermore, it is also the region where the ancient, now vanished African Kingdom of Mapungubwe, a World Heritage Site, is to be found, its ruins now within the Mapungubwe National Park. The kingdom was once the first part in a development that would culminate in the creation of the Kingdom of Zimbabwe in the 13th century. It had gold trading links to Rhapta and Kilwa Kisiwani on the African east coast, and it was here that Arabs and Indians came to trade beads and ceramics for the gold and ivory found here.

The kingdom had a thriving gold smelting business and produced jewellery and artefacts such as the famous Mapungubwe Gold Rhino, now housed as part of a Mapungubwe gold collection in a museum at the University of Pretoria. This region boasts some of the most varied and extensive natural, geological, archaeological and cultural systems in the world. Its fascinating history dates back many centuries to when the San roamed the veld, leaving behind a treasure trove of cave and mountainside rock paintings. In addition there are ample game viewing opportunities, hiking trails and other attractions. Louis Trichardt, Musina and Thohoyandou are major towns.

Waterberg Region

In the south-western part of the province lies the Waterberg Region. Major towns here are Mokopane, Bela Bela and Thabazimbi. The region includes the Waterberg wilderness area, a vast, mountainous and isolated area more than three million years old, situated in the magnificent Waterberg Mountain Range. This region is close to Tshwane (Pretoria) and Gaborone, Botswana.

Its main feature is the Waterberg (water mountain) after which it is named, a superb wilderness area. Here endless bushveld vistas compete with mountain gorges through which many mountain streams pass.

There is an abundance of rich indigenous plant species and animal life – including the ‘Big Five’. The region around Bela Bela is also known for its soothing, hot water mineral baths which can be accessed at one of many hot spring resorts.

Tourist Routes

Limpopo’s tourism authority has designed a number of unguided, self-drive tourist routes throughout the province to assist visitors with selecting and putting together their own itinerary for exciting travel that includes anything from adventure, to culture, history, hiking, shopping, game-viewing and more. More information about all the routes can be found on their website at http://www.golimpopo.com/.

The routes include the African Ivory Route covering more than 3.6-million hectares of national parks, nature reserves and game farms; the Pedi Living Culture Tourism Route where visitors can see and learn all about the history and culture of the Bapedi people; the Limpopo Valley Route and the Valley of the Olifants River Route, both offering myths, legends, beautiful scenery and wildlife; the Waterberg Biosphere Experience which will be of special interest to those fascinated by archaeology and history; or the Wildlife and Scenic Route where you can visit the Kapama Cheetah Breeding centre for a guided tour and lunch at the Nyani Cultural village where you can experience the Shangaan culture.

Alternatively you can do the  Cultural Adventure Tour of Limpopo which includes a visit to the Bakone Malapa open museum with its display of the living culture of the Bakone people, before proceeding  to Magoebaskloof via Moria, headquarters of the Zion Christian Church which is one of the biggest churches in Southern Africa with a membership of more than 5 million. In the Magoebaskloof you can visit Debengeni Waterfalls within the scenic and breath taking Magoebaskloof Pass believed by locals to be inhabited by water spirits. Over forty species of indigenous trees are found in the area which is matched only by the Garden Route for natural scenic beauty in South Africa.

Other Limpopo tourism routes include the Heritage Treasures of Limpopo; the Greater Mapungubwe Heritage Route; the Ribolla Open Africa Route; the Soutpansberg-Limpopo Birding Route; the Heritage Route; the Olifants Hiking Trail; the Outposts Trails; the Limpopo Gold & Safari Route; the Battle of Sekhukhune Route; or for those seeking something different, the Adventure, Shopping and Cultural Route with activities running over several days.

Parks & Reserves

Limpopo is home to a large number of fabulous game and nature reserves, parks and wilderness areas. Among these are the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park, a joint venture between South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique; the famous Kruger National Park; Marakele National Park; Mapungubwe National Park; and the Manyeleti Game Reserve. In addition there are no fewer than 13 nature reserves, numerous resorts and a large number of private game reserves including the world-renowned Timbavati Nature Reserve, home to the famous white lions.

Useful Contact Information

Limpopo Tourism Agency: Website www.golimpopo.com; Tel +27 (0) 15 293 3600; Polokwane Information Visitor Information Centre Tel +27 (0) 15 290 2010; Reservations +27 (0) 293 3611/2/3; Email  info@golimpopo.co.za.

 

Mopani Tourism & Parks Resource Centre: Tel +27(0)15 307 3582; Email valleyofolifants@golimpopo.com.

 

Vhembe Tourism & Parks Resource Centre: Tel +27 (0)15 516 3415/0040; Email vhembe@golimpopo.com.

 

Waterberg Tourism & Parks Resource Centre: Tel +27 (0)14 736 4328; Email waterberg@golimpopo.com.

 

Sekhukhune Tourism & Parks Resource Centre: Tel +27 (0) 13 262 3977; Email sekhukhune@golimpopo.com.

 

Capricorn Region: Tel +27 (0) 15 290 2010; Email info@golimpopo.com.