Limpopo is known as the Gateway to the North. It offers a combination of experiences that includes wildlife, history, fascinating cultures and some wonderful natural attractions.
Wildlife is a big tourist attraction in this part of the world. One of the major highlights of this province is a visit to the Kruger National Park, just a few hours drive from the capital of Polokwane.
It’s a good place to start – as you’ll likely end up there at some point. Although it overshadows the other game reserves in the province, they’re not to be overlooked.
Plan some time for trips to the Timbavati Private Game Reserve, the Waterberg Biosphere, the Klaserie Private Nature Reserve, the Polokwane Game Reserve and the Mapungubwe National Park. This will expose you to a very wide variety of animal and bird life.
Of these, the Mapungubwe National Park deserves special mention. It offers a truly wild and wonderful bush experience in a rugged part of the world. It’s unlikely you’ll come across the volume of tourists found in the Kruger Park. It contains the Mapungubwe World Heritage site, where you can view the remains of an ancient and once influential Iron Age African kingdom.
Polokwane, the capital, is not the prettiest place in the world by a long shot – but there are a few recommended attractions in town. Seek out the Bakone Malapa Open-Air Museum and the Polokwane Museum. There’s even some nightlife to be enjoyed, with a modern casino on the outskirts of the city. The historic Makapans Valley is about 20 kilometres out of town.
And now it’s time to drink in the natural splendour of one of the most beautiful parts of South Africa. The towns of Haernertsburg, Tzaneen and Hoedspruit are set in lush green valleys and boast lots of rustic charm.
The Magoebaskloof Pass is gives access to all of these towns and offers incredible views. It’s worth visiting in its own right. Take maximum advantage of the scenery by going on a canopy tour where you’ll swing above the treetops. The Debengeni Falls are another highlight in the area.
While you’re here you can combine natural beauty with local mythology by visiting the Modjadji cycad forest with its fables and legends of the Modjadji Rain Queen.
Myth, legend and local folklore are also all to be found in the Vhembe District, in the north-east of the country. Home to the Venda people, here you’ll find rugged landscapes and cultural attractions such as the sacred Vondo Forest and Lake Fundudzi. The Ribolla Art Route (also known informally as the Venda Art Route) is a good option for any traveller. It allows you to spend time meeting local artists and buying authentic artworks. It really is most worthwhile.
The Waterberg is a great place for a weekend getaway. It’s known for good game viewing and exquisite bird life as well as reasonably priced accommodation. For family holidays the hot springs and resorts of Bela Bela (previously known as Warmbaths) offer a friendly, unpretentious environment.
Birdwatchers will enjoy the Nylsvley Nature Reserve near Mookgophong. The reserve has been declared an official Ramsar Wetlands site and has more than 400 different species of birds. If you’re mainly visiting for the wildlife, the Mokolo Dam Nature Reserve, the Hans Merensky Nature Reserve, the Soutpansberg Conservancy, and the Wolkberg Wilderness Area are all big on nature and nature-based activities.
Adventure seekers love Limpopo for its wild, rugged beauty and are spoilt for choice when it comes to testing their skills against the elements. Choose from a number of driving and hiking trails, including the Soutpansberg Trail, the Vhembe Trail and the Mateke Njala Trail. For a route with a difference, the African Ivory Route is rewarding – but it’s also gruelling and only possible with a 4x4 vehicle.
As Limpopo covers vast areas and roads often aren’t very good, it’s wise to plan your route carefully, depending on the variety of experiences you want to incorporate in your itinerary.