Limpopo is South Africa’s fifth-largest and northernmost province, bordering Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. A place of beautiful and contrasting landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and an abundance of wildlife, it has become a favourite destination for many leisure and adventure travellers. The province is named after the Limpopo River, South Africa’s second longest river.
Here are the best things to do in Limpopo
Under 2 hours away from Johannesburg, Bela-Bela is a popular weekend getaway for city-dwellers looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The town was previously known as Warmbaths, due to the hot mineral springs in the area, which are believed to have therapeutic properties. Visitors can enjoy a relaxing soak in the hot springs, which can be found at the Forever Resort, along with pools, saunas, and other facilities.
The Modjadji Cycad Forest is a unique, ancient forest, in the Tzaneen area, known for its cycads. It boasts the world's highest concentration of a specific rare endemic cycad plant, which are among the oldest and largest on Earth. They were once the main food of the pre-historic mammal-like reptiles which roamed the area.
Tied to the Modjadji Cycad Forest is the legend of the Rain Queen. The Rain Queen is a hereditary title held by the female leader of the Modjadji people, and is so named as she is believed to have the power to control the rain . The cycads are considered sacred to the Modjadji people and are believed to have been planted by the Rain Queen herself.
Magoebaskloof is a beautiful mountainous area known for its lush forests, scenic waterfalls, and abundant birdlife. One of the most popular attractions here is the Magoebaskloof Canopy Tour, which allows visitors to soar through the forest on a zipline. Another popular attraction is the Debengeni Waterfall, which is nestled in a picturesque valley. Magoebaskloof also has a range of hiking trails that allow visitors to explore the area's stunning landscapes.
Legend Golf and Safari Resort has a rather unique golf course which counts golf legends Justin Rose, Vijay Singh and Retief Goosen as some of its prominent designers. The world-renowned extreme 19th hole is set on Hanglip Mountain and is accessible only by helicopter. The ball is hit on to a green in the shape of Africa, approximately 400 metres below. Golfing and other celebrities from across the world have come to play this hole and many aficionados have called it the most difficult hole in the world.
Makapansgat is a historic archaeological site near the town of Mokopane. Part of the Fossil Hominid Sites of South Africa UNESCO World Heritage site, it consists of a complex of limestone caves and rock shelters dating back over 3 million years. The caves contain a wealth of archaeological and paleontological evidence, including stone tools, animal bones, and fossils of early hominins.
Baobab trees are some of the most iconic trees on the African continent. They are known for their unique trunks, large size and longevity. Baobab trees can grow up to 30 meters tall and their trunks can reach a diameter of up to 10 meters. Some baobabs have been estimated to be more than 2,000 years old. Their branches resemble roots, therefore they are sometimes called "upside-down trees."
Limpopo is home to the largest baobab trees in the world. The 800-year old Sagole Big Tree in Masisi, near the border of Zimbabwe, is recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest known living baobab in the world. The 1100-year old Sunland Baobab in Modjadjiskloof was even bigger. However, a large portion of the tree died in 2016. The Glencoe Baobab near Hoedspruit is South Africa’s second largest tree.
There are many game reserves in Limpopo, including three national parks and several private game reserves, of which I have listed some here.
Mapungubwe National Park is named after the ancient Kingdom of Mapungubwe, a pre-colonial civilization that once thrived in the area. They left behind an abundance of archaeological treasures dating back to the Iron Age, including the famous golden rhino which can be seen at the Mapungubwe UNESCO World Heritage Site, located in the park. Wildlife includes elephants, lions, leopards, hyenas, and many species of plains game and birds.
The largest game reserve in South Africa, the world-renowned Kruger National Park is the size of a small country, spanning both Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces. It is known for its incredible wildlife sightings and beautiful natural landscapes. Here you can see the Big Seven, which includes the Big Five, cheetah and wild dogs as well as many other species of wildlife and birds. Visitors can explore the park on a guided safari tour or take a self-drive through the park’s many winding roads and trails.
Marakele National Park is set in a stunning mountain landscape, with scenic drives that offer panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. The park is divided into two sections - a normal game section and a wild Big Five section. The latter is fenced off and accessed via an electronic gate after passing through a tunnel. The Big Five and other species of animals and birds, including endangered Cape vultures, can be found in the park.
Welgevonden (meaning “well-found”) Game Reserve is a malaria-free private game reserve adjoining Marakele National Park in the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve. It is spectacularly beautiful with rugged mountain terrain, interspersed with winding rivers, deep valleys and gorges, and grassy plains. Over 50 mammals including the Big Five and over 300 bird species can be found here. Self-driving is not allowed. However, one can stay at the reserve’s many safari lodges.
Also in the Waterberg biosphere, is the private malaria-free Lapalala Reserve. However, it does not have as many lodges as Welgevonden so you have most of the unspoilt wilderness almost all to yourself. The Lapalala reserve was founded in 1981 by conservationists Clive Walker and the late Dale Parker, who gradually built it up from the initial 5000-hectare purchase to the magnificent 44 500-hectare reserve it is today. The reserve runs successful breeding programs with endangered roan antelope and disease-free Cape Buffalo. It is also home to the renowned Lapalala Wilderness School which has made outstanding contributions to environmental education in South Africa.
One of the closest game reserves to Johannesburg, the Greater Mabula Game Reserve spans 12 000 hectares. The reserve is home to the Big Five however the lions are kept in a separate predator section. Guided bush walks, quad biking and horse-back safaris are conducted in the non-predator section. You can even do a hot air balloon safari!
The five-star Letamo Lodge in Qwabi Private Game Reserve is one of South Africa's newest lodges, having just opened in December 2022. The Big 5 reserve itself is new too, and is currently home to the two Newmark Lodges only, with a third lodge scheduled to open next year. The Big Five, as well as cheetahs can be seen here with no risk of overcrowding at sightings. Children of all ages are welcome at Letamo Lodge, which has a kids' club, a padel court and a wellness spa. Babohi Lodge accommodates adults only.
Kapama River Lodge (Hoedspruit)
Tintswalo Family Camp (Welgevonden Game Reserve)
Tintswalo at Lapalala (Waterberg)
Mhondoro Game Lodge(Welgevonden Game Reserve)
Garangani 360 (a self-catering bush villa) (Entabeni)
Safari Plains (Bela-Bela)
Mabula Game Lodge (Bela-Bela)
Zebras Crossing Very Private Game Lodge(Modimolle)
Clifftop Exclusive Safari Hideaway(Welgevonden Game Reserve)
Zwahili Private Game Lodge(Modimolle)
Zebula Golf Estate and Spa(Bela-Bela)
Legend Golf and Safari Resort(Entabeni)
Have you been there ? What are your favourite things to do in Limpopo?
Things you must do in South Africa
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