South African Holidays in Limpopo
Capital: Polokwane (formerly Pietersburg)
Provincial population: 5,7 million
Area: 123 910 km2
Percentage of total area of South Africa: 10,2%
Percentage of GDP produced in Limpopo: 3,7%
Principal economic sectors: Mining (copper, coal, diamonds, platinum) forestry, agriculture (fruit citrus and animal husbandry), tourism
The Limpopo region is named after the great river forming the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe. It is less known and less travelled by many of South Africa's visitors. Limpopo is both a frontier province and a gateway into Africa. It is situated below southern Zimbabwe and is disected by the famous "Great North Road".
The province also houses one of southern Africa's great and ancient biospheres, the truly magnificent Waterberg massif. There are a few lodges dotted in the wilderness of the Waterberg, offering unique and rare opportunities to see and explore this little-known region. The Waterberg has the advantage of being within a two to three hour drive of the Gauteng hub.
The Limpopo Province offers a wealth of wildlife options, as approximately half the Kruger National Park falls within its borders, and the northern regions house what has become known as "The Ivory Route". The Ivory Route commemorates the great herds of elephant that once wandered between Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and the legendary game hunters who also once roamed here. These days South Africa is at the forefront of conservation efforts, with many remarkable scientific programmes that monitor and study endangered animals to prevent poaching and re-stocking areas with game.
Culturally, Limpopo has a great richness of African art and offers a number of highly distinctive opportunities to interact with African communities. The Venda people who originate from here possess one of the great community traditions of art, as a result, many fine artists have emerged from this region. Another distinctive community is the Ndebele.
They too have a highly distinctive art form, decorating their homes in exquisite geometric designs. The Ndebele women also have remarkable regalia consisting of heavy and intricately beaded anklets and bracelets. African beadwork is of such importance in traditional cultures that it forms a specific discipline within the academic study of traditional African art and craft production.
Limpopo also has superb landscapes and bushveld terrain that epitomises "classic Africa". The characteristic Limpopo scene consists of a vista including the area's signature tree, the baobab, which is not found further south. Although less developed than other parts of South Africa, Limpopo Province has an immense appeal to the adventurous who have ample time to explore.
The Waterberg is a wild area three to four hours drive north of Johannesburg. Situated on a high-lying plateau, it has a unique flora and a wide variety of game.
One of the major advantages is that it is malaria-free. Several farms in the Waterberg area have banded together to create a large conservancy.
Accommodation ranges from simple self-catering camps to luxurious lodges. As well as the standard game drives, you can participate in walking safaris or
a horseback safari. In addition to the game, there are interesting craft shops in the small towns as well as museums. It was in the Waterberg that Eugene Marais, an insightful naturalist working way ahead of his time, studied baboons and termites and laid the foundation of his two masterpieces, The Soul of the White Ant and The Soul of the Ape. The nearest city - and airport - is Polokwane, which was previously known as Pietersburg.
The Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park is South Africa's premier game-viewing destination. It is an enormous reserve of 2 million hectares - roughly the same size as Walesor the state of Massachusetts. It is part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, one of the largest wilderness conservation areas of the world that traverses South Africa, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It consists of a number of reserves that have been combined into one by removing all the fences, allowing animals to return to their ancient migratory routes.
The park is home to the "Big Five" as well as 150 other species of mammals, and a staggering 507 bird species. It also covers several vegetation zones. Although the southern part of the park has extensive and comfortable visitor facilities, the northern part is somewhat more remote with fewer facilities, making it a great place for slightly more adventurous travellers. Visitors may drive around in their own cars, do a guided game drive, guided night drive, as no private vehicles are allowed at night, and for the really adventurous, a guided wilderness walking safari.
This ancient kingdom is rich in archaeological sites and home to the majestic baobab trees. Modjaji the Rain Queen of the Lobedu people, guards the sacred
grove of cycads. Deep in the forests of Venda, a sacred lake holds unfathomable secrets. Young girls dance snake-like, to the beat of sacred drums and large forests jealously guard their precious trees, and the sacred graves within them.
Traditional African cultures thrive in this fertile valley that dates back to the Iron Age. The western section of the region is framed by the rocky spine of the aweinspiring Soutpansberg (Salt Pan Mountain). The range spans over 30kms in width in some areas and features a fertile, well-watered plateau receiving high rainfall and supporting a wide range of crops and cultivated lands. The area also boasts many historical sites, from the relics of the Stone Age San and their inimitable rock artwork, to the marks left by the ancestors of the Venda, and the tracks of the Voortrekker wagons that carried European migrants into an unknown land.