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Makapans Valley

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20km from Mokopane

-24.1487, 29.1633

 

+27 15 491 4314 goo.gl/9IPR4c

About

Makapans Valley is a sister site to the Cradle of Humankind at Sterkfontein. The latter is a UNESCO World Heritage Site because it has yielded some of the most important Australopithecus fossil specimens ever found - dating back more than 3.5 million years. These discoveries have thrown significant light on the origins and evolution of humankind.

Makapans Valley is some 300km from the Cradle of Humankind, near the town of Mokopane (previously Potgietersrus). It covers an area of 2 220ha. The valley has a wealth of archaeological caves with sediments and fossils containing traces of human occupation dating back some 3.3 million years. The hills, caves and excavation sites in the Makapans Valley may be explored only on a guided tour. This can be booked through the Mokopane Biodiversity Conservation Centre, National Zoological Gardens of South Africa.

The Makapansgat Limeworks is also known for its Australopithecus fossils. The neighbouring Cave of Hearths is one of only two deeply stratified Stone Age cave sites in southern Africa. It contains a long sequence from the Earlier, Middle and Later Stone Ages to the Iron Age. The cave is also famous as the site of the siege of Makapan in 1854. It was here that the local chief and several thousand members of his Kekana chiefdom took refuge after their revenge attack on separate parties of Voortrekkers, which led to a month-long siege during which time many died of starvation. They were trapped in the caves without access to food and water, and when Piet Potgieter peered down into the cave from above, he was shot.

 

Many animal fossils have been unearthed at Makapans Valley – including those of extinct sabre-toothed cats, giant porcupines and hyraxes. Fossilised pollen grains and indigenous crops have also been found in the valley. There is also evidence of primate fossils at Makapans Valley. You are still likely to spot baboons and vervet monkeys, and bushbabies at night. Thirty-five hominid specimens have been recovered from the limeworks, representing about 12 individuals. There have also been some interesting fauna finds in the area, leading scientists to conclude that Makapans Valley was once a tropical forest. 2,5 million artefacts have been removed from the numerous caves and are now housed at WITS University

The Arend Dieperink Museum in Mokopane is definitely worth a visit. It is housed in an elegant old stone building that was originally a school. The Arend Dieperink Museum showcases the history of the town, from the earliest apemen in Makapans Valley to the present day. The museum contains a comprehensive collection of Sotho and Voortrekker artefacts.

Waterberg

Limpopo

About

Rugged mountains, rolling bush and abundant wildlife characterise this area. The Waterberg is one of Limpopo’s most popular eco-tourism regions. Over the past decade it has come to rival Mpumalanga’s legendary Lowveld, with the added plus of being malaria-free.

The Waterberg offers a range of wildlife and safari experiences. These vary from Big 5 private reserves and game lodges to remote wilderness hideaways and self-catering bush camps. There are also national and provincial reserves.

The region is named after the Waterberg mountain range - ‘water mountains’ in Afrikaans - that stretches west to east for about 150km from Thabazimbi to the Mokopane. The mountains form the shoulder of the Palala Plateau – the bushveld of which rolls westwards all the way to Botswana.

True to their name, the Waterberg mountains include many rivers, streams, swamps and wetlands. The Limpopo River forms the western boundary of the region and the Mogalakwena River the eastern. The Waterberg has vast tracts of bushveld savannah punctuated with clusters of trees and tall savannah shrubs. The Springbok Flats are to the south. 

The Waterberg is more than three million years old – and there are numerous archaeological finds and San paintings that give us glimpses of its past.

Mining has long been essential to the Waterberg’s economy. An Iron Age mineshaft found in the Waterberg was carbon dated to 1 500 AD. Five hundred years later, mining is still taking place. The Waterberg is one of the richest mineral deposits in the world. It’s part of the Bushveld Igneous Complex - a unique geological complex of volcanic rocks formed some 600 million years ago. The complex extends over 50 000km² and is rich in platinum, iron ore, vanadium, tin, tungsten, chromium and coal.

The Waterberg region includes the towns of Bela-Bela, Modimolle, Mabatlane, Lephalale, Mookgophong and Thabazimbi. The largest town is Bela-Bela, a lively centre for surrounding farms and game reserves, and famed for its hot springs. The name Bela-Bela means ‘water that boils’ in Tswana.

The towns of Modimolle and Mookgophong are steeped in interesting Iron Age, Nguni and Voortrekker history. The quaint village of Matlabane is a meet-and-greet spot for many travellers to the area, and Lephalale is the centre for the region’s thriving hunting industry.

The heart of the Waterberg is the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, a 400 000ha protected wilderness area offering a mix of nature, culture and heritage. It was declared by UNESCO in 2001 on the basis of its mountainous habitat, magnificent red sandstone cliffs and evidence of human occupation dating back thousands of years. It was first inhabited by the San people, who left their legacy in the form of rock art and cave paintings.

The only savannah reserve of its kind in southern Africa, the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve includes private and provincial game reserves. It also has areas of cultural and archaeological significance. The region has a strong conservation ethos, and eco-tourism and sustainable practices underpin many lodges and reserves here.

The Waterberg offers an exciting mix of wildlife and wilderness experiences – from traditional game lodges to tailor-made adventures. You can go hiking, camping, 4x4 off-roading, horseback riding and birding. The Waterberg is famed for two significant birding sites. The Nylsvley Wetlands is home to over 400 species of waterbirds. The Marakele National Park is home to the largest Cape vulture colony in the world. The area also has conservation training programmes, wildlife rehabilitation centres and educational school camps.

Look out for

Marakele National Park - The name Marakele is Tswana for ‘place of sanctuary’ and this wild and remote reserve is just that. Marakele has craggy hills and deep wooded kloofs, with rare cycads, tree ferns and yellowwood trees. This is an unspoilt part of the Waterberg, home to all the large game species from rhino to elephant and the big cats. It is also home to the world’s biggest Cape vulture population – over 800 breeding pairs.

Nylsvley - The Nylsvley Conservancy is a favourite destination among South Africa’s birding community. It is part of the country’s largest flood plain. Stretching over 70km from Modimolle to Mokopane, Nylsvley is a world-renowned RAMSAR site. In the rainy summer months the grasslands of Nylsvley are transformed into lake that stretches for kilometres. It virtually becomes an international bird airport. The Waterberg Nylsvley Birding Route covers Nylsvley, the Waterberg mountains and Marakele National Park.

The Waterberg Meander - The Waterberg Meander is a self-drive route through the heart of the region that takes you to a series of interesting sites, community projects and tourist attractions. Visit local arts & crafts projects, explore the ancient hill of Melora, meet the Waterberg Red Beds, an unusual geological formation, check out the glorious mountain peaks known as the Seven Sister of the Waterberg, or visit a monument dedicated to explorer David Livingstone.

Bela-Bela’s hot springs - Long known for their healing properties, the hot mineral springs at Bela-Bela bubble out of the ground at about 2 200 litres per hour, at a temperature of around 53ºC. The water is rich in sodium chloride, calcium carbonate and other salts with natural healing properties. The Bela-Bela Aventura Resort is a popular spot for its water world activities. There are many health and pampering opportunities in and around Bela-Bela.

The annual Big Five Marathon - The 42km-long Big Five Marathon is known as the wildest of them all – they say it’s tougher than South Africa’s famous 88km-long Comrades Marathon. Held at Entabeni Game Reserve in the Waterberg mountains, this annual marathon attracts thousands of runners from around the world. Out here there are ravines and gorges, rivers and lakes, and stretches of unspoiled bushveld. There are no fences; just wide open spaces and a tough challenge for marathon runners.

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