Limpopo, the northernmost province in South Africa, is known for its beauty, culture and the grand river that flows through it. Anyone who plans on traveling to South Africa should put Limpopo province at the top of their must-see list, and here are 15 reasons why.
This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
1. Kruger National Park
Established in 1898 and spanning 19,485 square kilometers (that’s almost the size of Israel), Kruger National Park is the largest and oldest national park in Africa. One of the many reasons it is so popular is because it’s a practically guaranteed that you’ll see the “Big Five”: elephants, rhinos, buffalos, lions and leopards. The best safari experiences in the world are said to be found here.
2. The Cave of Hearths
The Cave of Hearths is one of two places in the world that is home to a range of Stone Age artifacts and even older fossils. The cave, which is located in Makapan’s Valley just northeast Mokopane, consists of multiple layers, some of which are not accessible. But the ones that are make this cave a worthy stop on your travels. A human mandible found there represents one of the earliest known ancestors of Homo sapiens.
3. Lake Fundudzi & Thathe Vondo Forest
The Venda people have protected this sacred area for centuries, and it is said to be steeped in mystery. It is located in Venda, near the border of Zimbabwe, and was formed by a landslide. Take a journey with a guide to discover the myths and legends that were born here: One local legend says that a leper begged for food at one of the villages where the lake is now. When he was refused food, he cursed the village, which was suddenly covered by water. It is said that one can still see the people living at the bottom of the lake. Now, with new road construction, it is easier than ever to access.
Thulamela (“place of birth”) is regarded as one of the most important archaeological sites in South Africa. Lying west of Pafuri, Thulamela was once a stone-walled city ruled by African monarchs from 1200 to 1600 AD. Archaeologists have recently excavated the tombs of a king and queen. It is estimated that about 2,000 people lived here and evidence shows they were skilled goldsmiths and traded in gold.
5. Modjadji Nature Reserve
This is a reserve for plant and bird lovers. It remains in a pristine condition due to the strict protection by local tribes. Located north-east of Duiwelskloof, and close to Kruger National Park, it is home to over 170 species of birds. People often describe the Modjadji Reserve experience as being like “Alice in Wonderland” due to the giant plants. Many facilities can be found here including a visitor’s center, picnic area and kiosk.
6. Magoebaskloof Spring Festival
This enchanting festival takes place in September. You can visit the local gardens, picnic, go to a craft fair, or just take a leisurely stroll through the forests. A range of goodies are sold here, from crafts, textiles, glassware, curios, soaps to wooden and wrought-iron furniture. One of the most beloved highlights of the festival is the orchid exhibition. If you are visiting in the spring, this is a must-see.
7. Turfloop Nature Reserve
This privately owned and run reserve lies right in the heart of Mamabolo Village, only 7 km off the Polokwane-Tzaneen highway. Here you can go on a safari like no other. Giraffes, wildebeest, impalas and ostrich are easily spotted (without the crowds of Kruger), as is the southern bald ibis and numerous other birds who flock to the Turfloop Dam. The Mankweng Rock Art Site is also located here.
8. OppiKoppi Music Festival
Look out Lollapalooza, the OppiKoppi Music Festival can rival even the most popular music festivals in the States! Drawing over 15,000 music lovers from around the globe, OppiKoppi offers eclectic array of hip hop, dance, and rock acts on multiple stages. The festival takes place every August on the OppiKoppi farm in Northam. 2016 was its 22nd anniversary!
9. The Ndebele people
Their origins are something of a mystery, but they have been identified as a branch of the Nguni tribe. The Nguni can be divided into four categories: Central Nguni (Zulu-speaking), Southern Nguni (Xhosa-speaking), Swazi (from Swaziland and adjacent areas), and the Ndebele (of Limpopo Province and Mpumalanga). The Ndebele people have always been known for their artistry. The women adorn themselves in jewelry, clothing and ornaments that become more beautiful the higher their status in the tribe. Take a journey into the colorful world of art, history, and culture through the eyes of the Ndebele.
10. Makapan’s Caves
Makapan’s Caves are one of a kind. They are located in the Makapan Valley, near the Cave of Hearths. They played a role in the history of the Ndebele people and show evidence of wars dating back 150 years. They also offer clues to the origins of our hominid ancestors and the evolution of modern-day man. There’s an onsite museum which illustrates the history of the town, the caves, and the surrounding area.
11. Polokwane Game Reserve
No, nothing compares to mighty Kruger National Park, but this modest game reserve is also worthy of a mention. It’s only a three-hour drive from Joburg and its compact size allows you to see quite a bit in one afternoon. It’s a great introduction to wildlife watching, and a good starter park if you are suffering from jet lag.
12. Gentle giants
According to legend, the gods planted baobab trees upside down with their roots in the air. The baobab (Andansonia digitata) has the highest longevity of any African tree, and in Limpopo their average age is 300 to 500 years old. But there is one in the northeastern part of the province thought to be 3,000 years old, with a base circumference of 43m.
Mokopane offers a unique bushveld experience. There are ancient caves with exquisite San rock art, places to go on game drives and catch a glimpse of the “Big Five,” and displays of traditional dancing. Taste some typical South African fare here — either biltong (dried, cured meat) or mampoer (a potent bush alcohol commonly distilled from fruit).
14. Nylsvley Nature Reserve
A must-visit destination for bird-watchers, this 4000-hectare reserve is one of the top birding spots in Southern Africa, with at least 365 species (you can see a different one for every day of the year). The birds are attracted to the flood plain, which is South Africa’s largest. When a big flood occurs, over 104 water bird species come to visit. BirdLife South Africa has designated Nylsvley as one of its ‘Important Bird Areas.’
Limpopo is where Amarula Cream Liqueur is made, one of South Africa’s favorite beverages. Its fruity, caramel-y flavor comes from its main ingredient, the fruit of the indigenous marula tree (also known as the “marriage tree” or the “elephant tree”). Amarula is a relatively new addition to South Africa’s beverage scene, having made its debut in 1983. Head to the visitors centre 10km from Phalaborwa for a taste.
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