Limpopo has long been South Africa’s Cinderella province, not even mentioned in some guidebooks. But in more recent times it has taken its rightful place as a sought-after tourist destination with big game, brilliant birding, untamed bush landscapes, a marvellous ancient African kingdom, places of myth and legend, and as the northern gateway to Kruger National Park.
Kruger National Park
This is the most famous of South Africa’s game reserves. Old Africa hands claim that the northern part of the park, in Limpopo, is its wildest and most diverse.
This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, one of South Africa’s top conservation areas, is malaria-free Big Five country. Stay at the very affordable Marakele National Park or opt for the privately owned Welgewonden Game Reserve, and spot game, hundreds of birds, trees and plants, on guided game drives, horse rides or walks.
Marakele National Park
You’ll find the highest peaks of the Waterberg in this catchment area of five rivers. Marakele is a very wild, dramatic park with rich vegetation, deep valleys, open grasslands and woodlands. The Big Five are all here.
Mapungubwe National Park
Once upon a time, between 1200AD and 1270AD, in this remote north-western corner of Limpopo, a wealthy and thriving Iron Age kingdom traded as far afield as India, China and Egypt.
This mountainous area, designated part of the Vhembe Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO because of its unique, rich biodiversity, is a natural wilderness with approximately 580 species of trees, great birdlife (including raptors) and some small mammals.
Once a lush tropical paradise and still brimming with biodiversity, this beautiful valley is also home to many ancient caves, not only full of animal and plant fossils, but also with hominid fossils that date back 3.3-million years and link to Gauteng’s Cradle of Humankind. Anyone who has the remotest interest in the story of humankind should make a stop here. © Johan Paquay
Modjadji Cycad Reserve
Home to some of the oldest and biggest cycads on Earth, the reserve offers walks, game and a variety of bird species.
The African Ivory Route
This legendary old route of ivory hunters and gold traders that curves in a giant horseshoe for some 2 000km along the eastern, northern and western boundaries of the province is strictly for the adventure traveller. Navigate the often extremely rugged terrain in your hired 4x4, hike, or take a guided trip. There’s plenty of accommodation, awesome scenery, excellent big game, abundant birdlife, and splendid isolation.
Baleni Camp on the African Ivory Route, image © Transfrontier Parks Destinations