Copyright 2018 Traveling Circus
Limpopo wrote us a love letter years ago and called us to the wild, unexplored spaces… to the starry nights… to the warm-hearted faces. We fell in love with the pulse… the rhythm. We listened to the storytellers and connected to the tales told through African art. We are in love with the people, the cultural connections…. the way life unfolds and the path comes up to meet you.
We invite you to meet the music-makers, guides, conservationists, the wanderers, crafters, traditional healers, and the artists. The inspiring people who colour our travels, make our journeys more meaningful and give us memories that we can keep close to our hearts. Come closer, your wanderlust is a story of love, creating connections and rediscovering your own rhythm and song in the beauty of Limpopo. Come closer and #meetlimpopo
When we enter the hushed forest, he starts calling out the names of those elusive forest birds as we hear them: the high-pitched call of the Sombre Greenbul ‘Willy come out and play’; the scratchy sound on the forest floor of the Terrestrial Brownbul tossing leaf litter; the continuous call of the Brown Scrub Robin from low in the leafy trees. And now a soft hooting above us… a flash of red and green as the Narina Trogon responds to his calls. The one-wing-flicker over there is the Yellow-streaked Greenbul and the Black-fronted Bush-Shrike shows itself at last…
This is the experience of taking a walk with a Bird Guide – the knowledgeable person with super senses and local knowledge who can see what you don’t, hear what you cannot, and find what you really want to see. Hiring a good guide can make the difference between a rewarding and successful birding excursion, and one that is frustratingly disappointing. These are the dedicated people who spend their days out in the field, doing what they love, and taking pleasure from sharing it all with you and helping you to connect to the birds, the forest and the whole ecosystem we are a part of.
David Letsoalo was awarded BirdLife South Africa’s Eagle Award in 2007 for being the Top Local Bird Guide in South Africa, the only person to win this title. Together with incredible birding expertise, he has sharp eyes and ears essential for the sometimes frustrating forest birding experience. What makes a birding outing with David magical, however, is his infectious enthusiasm: he is interested in everything the group is seeing, be it a huge tree, a mushroom or a butterfly.
For David, birding is more than a job – it is a joy, a passion and an obsession. For fun, he walks for miles looking for nests or replenishing feeding sites and most enjoys testing himself on the Roberts CD’s bird quiz. His favourite bedtime reads are the Red Data Book and Roberts 7. David’s children have learnt to put up with their father’s lifestyle, even if it often takes him away from home. His daughters have found that the best way to spend time with him is to take up birding themselves!
Head into the forest with a living legend in the birding world.
KRUGER 2 CANYONS
We all know how connecting to the wild African bush shifts something in your soul… A visit to King’s Camp in the Timbavati was total luxury. We stayed at The Villa.. a luxurious mansion tucked into the curve of the river, complete with our own chef, butler, hostess, guide and tracker. But what made this visit so incredible, was our guide, Anna Tinker who has spent years taking safaris in wildlife hotspots around the country. We had her all to ourselves and to say that the experience was life-changing doesn’t do it justice. In fact, it is hard to capture the magic in words and images… Rhino walking along the riverbed just in front of the deck…. wild skies… leopard in languid mode out in the open… hyaenas… raptors… but the real magic happened when we climbed off the vehicle and walked… the bush comes alive when you experience it on foot. Elephant spoor slipping in the mud, scorpions’ wedge-like holes, the smells and textures of it all…
And then, stopping for a gnarled and dramatic Nyala tree… Rhino…just metres from us…a mother and tiny calf with the male keeping his distance. Sitting under this ancient tree, tears streaming down our faces… what a privilege. Still on a high, we stopped to listen to a strange bird song and heard another call… wild dog… a pack on a mission…. we followed the running dogs through the bush, dodging trees and gullies… an adrenalin rush like no other… as they worked intuitively together to bring down an impala and finished it within minutes. Only scraps were left for the Bateleur, vultures and eagles following in their wake. Hearts soaring and on a high…. two honey badgers shot past in front of us.
And all this for two people who would have been happy with dung beetles and impala babies! But apart from the incredible bush experiences we had with our tuned-in and knowledgeable guide, this bush-time shifted something much deeper…. a connection to who we are in the quiet moments outside of busy-ness and who we yearn to be….. a touchstone…. a feeling I turn over in my mind like a love letter to my soul. Walking in single file behind an expert wilderness guide like Safariosophy, the bush suddenly becomes a place of wonder and danger. Your ears prick up like impala….hearing a footfall or a breaking branch with a new awareness.
SCULPTOR & MUSICIAN
Thomas Kubayi is a motivated man – he eats, sleeps and dreams the creative arts. Not only does he create beautiful wooden sculptures himself, some of which have found homes as far afield as America, Switzerland and France, but he has trained and supported more than 50 students. Inspired by his dreams for the future of the youth and traditional craftsmanship, he built and developed a school for the arts on the Ribola Art Route in Tshivuyuni village, near Elim in the Limpopo Province.
Named the Vhutsila Art Centre, the idea behind this school is to retain the knowledge base to create wooden sculptures, musical instruments, traditionally-built furniture and crafts. “To make a difference in people’s lives through art is what really inspires me.” Thomas is a talented artist who transforms wood into spectacular sculptures. He says, “If people have a vision, art can change their opinions” Thomas can tell you about the wood he has used and the tree that it came from. He most enjoys working with Wild Teak. “When I carve it, Teak has a certain sound for me,” he says, “it is like a drum, with deep echoes, while Leadwood’s sound is tight. It comes from your heart, you can’t explain it. When I create a sculpture, I am writing a song, not in music but using my hands.”
His love of beautifully-worked items extends to musical instruments too. Thomas’ face lights up when he explains and demonstrates how the marimba, flute, mbira and traditional violin are used at different celebrations to reflect the mood of the event. Thomas envisages that if the love for creating these instruments is restored, so will the playing of them. Thomas says “Vhutsila Art School help the youth to regain artistic talents and learn what has been forgotten.” This champion of the arts is determined to make miracles happen.
Learn how to listen to the stories of the wood.
With mist swirling around the car, I wind my way up through the endless hills of bright-leaved tea plantations to Merle Payne’s home and studio at the top of the world. Merle, who has driven down to meet me in her huge white ‘truck,’ is a tall, slim, fabulous and funky-looking 63 year-old whose vibrant, dynamic personality is immediately apparent. And, stepping into her home is like an extended metaphor. The stylish, fun interior is filled with red velvet sofas around an old trunk and an art-deco bar counter while her studio is a colour explosion in a room filled with light from wall-to-wall windows.
As she talks, Merle is whizzing around the studio, showing me her fabulous, funky and ‘must-have-one-before-I-die’ bags, skirts, cushions and wall hangings. One bag she shows me sports a space rocket inspired by the comics of the 50’s. A cushion design mimics the Southern Angolan technique of scratching a design into plastic piping and rubbing boot polish into the grooves. And while some of her designs have political messages like her beautiful ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ wall hanging, others are just fun like the colourful Nduna Mieliemeel designs.
But Merle’s beautiful bags, skirts and wall hangings have found homes all over Europe and America. “I have a beautiful wall panel in an ex-Vogue editor’s home in London, and skirts on the wall of a Los Angeles director.” Each item made is documented with my camera, so I can remember elements of what worked for me, and use them to solve problems that I encounter for making the next one. I am completely involved in every line that is embroidered and I always tell the ladies that they are my paintbrushes and paint! Good work thrills me, and inspires me to capture the beauty of our world in fabric and thread.” And anyone who owns a Merle Payne original would agree that she has succeeded.
Delight in the magic that is Merle Payne at her home-studio.
Connect with LOVE LIMPOPO to find out how.
Artist, Traditional Healer, Counsellor and Cultural Leader, David Murathi captures the real emotions and understanding of his context in his sculptures. His resonant voice and compassionate eyes see through the artifice and draw you closer. ‘I see you’, his heart whispers. David connects deeply to his culture…the traditions, the myths, the symbols of the ancients weaving their way through a modern community.
A woman, her skin a shining yellowwood, bows her head respectfully and offers a pot of traditional beer to an unseen husband or uncle. Another bends into the rhythm of the Domba Dance, becoming the ribs of the python as her carved feet carry her forward. David’s sculptures beckon you to their side to tell their story, to pass on the secrets, to enrich your understanding of the deep and ancient cultural rhythms of Venda.
David also has an incredible talent for translating carved people into funky, functional art including towel rails, hooks, mirrors and carved benches which are used in local lodges and have been sold in Australia and around the world. David’s home-gallery, high on the hilltops is a treasure-trove of beautiful works of art reflecting the cultural richness and traditions of the area.
Samson Mulaudzi, growing up in the rural village of Tshivhazwaulu, Vuwani in Venda, Limpopo Province, was scorned by his friends for his bad aim with a catapult. He relates that, when he was young, the village boys used to hunt, shooting birds for meat with a catapult during their spare time when out herding goats and cattle after school hours. The young Samson often went hungry! However, his skill with birds improved when he picked up a pair of binoculars instead and he has developed his talents by conserving birds ever since.
Samson’s interest in birds was piqued when he worked at Lajuma while still at school. Lajuma owner, Ian Geiger’s fascination for birds and animals rubbed off on Samson, so when he started working at Ottoshoek in the Western Soutpansberg, he spent a lot of time teaching himself the names and characteristics of the birds of the area. His employers, Gail and Alistair Maytham of Igababa Cabin helped him to develop this interest and sent him on a beginner’s birding course, organized by the Soutpansberg Limpopo Birding Route. His enthusiasm led him to being selected for training at Wakkerstroom Centre in September 2005 through Birdlife South Africa. He completed this course with flying colours and his career as a bird guide really took off. Thanks to Sarah Venter, of the Soutpansberg Limpopo Birding Route and the continued support of the Maythams, Samson was employed by Clare and Michel Girardin at Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge as their bird guide in late 2006 but became an independent Bird Guide a few years later where he was further trained by the late Ben de Boer.
Samson has been involved with the Camera Nest Monitoring project for several years. His research involves going out into the forest to locate nests and then to monitor them from the laying of eggs to the hatching and fledging of chicks. His data and photographs have contributed to a paper presented at the 2016 Flock in Kruger and an article in the African Birdlife Magazine in 2017. He is involved in the The Birds in Trees Programme and the Mottled Spinetail Programme and won an Owl Award from BirdLife South Africa for his contribution to avian conservation and education.
Remember when you were a young child and you celebrated the rain by jumping into puddles, whirling around with your mouth open catching raindrops and scraping up the oozing soil to form creatures from clay? As I sit with Florah Randela, I recall the giddy joy in the art of creation and the satisfaction of making something with my own hands. The trees throw shade onto the grass mats where we sit, knee to knee as Florah lets me bury my fingers into the wet clay collected from the nearby river. Her whole body leans into the task of skillfully kneading, pinching, stroking and turning the raw material into a rounded bowl. My hands follow hers … clumsy to start with but faster as I feel the form emerge. Florah’s mischievous eyes dance and laugh while we work and learn together and I realise that this collaboration of creation crosses all barriers of language and culture.
Florah Randela is a craftswoman at Mukondeni Village at the heart of the Ribola Art Route. Here, the Matriarch, Sarah Munyai, taught the women of the area to create clay pots in the age-old way and fire them in a furnace dug into the ground and covered with slow-burning grasses. These practical and decorative pots, platters, vases and fire-pots are decorated with traditional patterns and symbols using ochre and graphite collected from the Luonde mountains.
At this pottery village, the roads are lined with these creations in clay – an undulating river of pots following the route past the hutted homesteads. Giant vases lean protectively towards the tiny round water pots made by the children of the community and fish swim from bowl to bowl in an eternal race against the hardening clay. Although you can also find these pots at Mukondeni Factory, the feeling of village life here, adds to the magic of the experience… women walking past with buckets of water on their heads or working with harvested corn cobs… chickens laying eggs in the deepest pots and dogs lazing in the sunbeams. So even if you just want to buy some pots and not take the time to learn how it is done, you will have a wonderful experience.
Connect to the creative art of clay-pot making.
We love seeing places through the eyes of those who love Limpopo. Craft Brewmaster at Zwakala Brewery, Luca Tooley invites us to come closer… Zwakala… and see through his eyes…’Magoebaskloof is a very special place, and I was so lucky to grow up here. The area is an adventurer’s delight with trout fishing, hiking, river swimming & horse-riding. It also has a very welcoming local feel that I think visitors really enjoy and come back for. The Matlapitz River is a hidden gem up in the Wolkberg Mountain. Our pure mountain water feeds the soul. The water that we brew with is of such high quality & it really comes out in the flavour of the beer.
I think the beer speaks for itself, as our beers are crisp and refreshing with two awards already. The brewery’s location is unique and the guys love the adventure to get there. We also have a great following for our Gin & Tonic on Tap – which makes the non-beer drinkers quite happy. I come from a big vivacious family & we live by the motto “the more the merrier”
South Africans are passionate about their country, their braais, and … their beer! Craft beer reconnects the consumer to beer that is slow-brewed, locally-owned & full of flavor. Craft Beer is also about telling your story in a fun way. Some of our beers have been inspired by parties (The Weekend Special) , others by local hero’s (The Upside Down Baobab Weiss) – and I think people appreciate those small details when tasting the beer. I’m incredibly passionate about the craft beer scene – there is still so much to explore and so much room for our growth in the coming year. I love that we are so diverse & that there is so much opportunity in this Province. I’m also passionate about the house music that our local guys are producing. Our next step is to get more artists involved at the brewery. My love of beer and Limpopo inspire me!’
Come closer, find the Limpopo vibes at Zwakala Brewery.
Contact LOVE LIMPOPO to book a Brewery Tour.
Amorous Maswanganye has a big smile to match his generous heart. This talented young artist captures in wood, the cultural issues erupting from the space where modern and traditional South Africa meet. A social commentator in corkwood and paint….quirky and whimsical, playful and hopeful. Amorous, a youthful observer of life in all its tumult and turbulence, beauty and bafflement, carries the stories of teenage pregnancy and youthful crimes into the wood. A colourful, quirky vessel for his message, his characters have a voice, a personality, a presence. The Businessman in suit, tie and village-made Shangaan tyre-sandals waits for a taxi alongside a lady in full traditional Tsonga dress and takkies talking loudly into her cell phone and Rabbit-man, chasing money in the city of gold. Amorous, through his innocent eyes, has become a voice for his generation and a commentator on the world that shaped them.
World-renowned Sculptor, Johannes Maswanganyi, Amorous’ father, has exhibited locally and overseas and his painted corkwood sculptures tell a rich story of traditions, myths and modern politics. This inspiring home-gallery in Noblehoek, near Giyani is well worth the drive. Experience the ‘Art-beat through the Ribola artists, crafters and musicians. You are invited to come and feel this rhythm at the heart of Limpopo – to forget the racket of daily life and join in the ancient rhythms of the African soul.
See life through new eyes.
BIG-5 TRAILS GUIDE
KRUGER 2 CANYONS
Walking safaris are the ultimate safari experience, says Joris Bertens, Managing Director of AHA Sefapane Lodges and Safaris and highly experienced Trails Guide. “On foot, you are much more a part of nature. You can walk in freedom, without the protection of the vehicle. You can touch and smell the soil and leaves and sometimes get close up to wild animals… not so close to endanger the animal or ourselves but to be able to see them in their natural environment doing what they normally do. It is not about the distance walked but the details in nature. Even in a couple of hundred metres, there is so much to see… tracks, insects, birds and trees as well as animals.”
“I prefer walking in the bush and a lot of my guests like to go with me. Every walk is a memorable experience. It is nice to get close to large animals, like elephants, especially if they don’t know you are there. And the odd lion encounter is exciting… but it is just as exciting to come across a Ground Hornbill or to see rare antelope like bushbuck and eland. Every day in the bush is a great day with something to surprise you. The great majority of the Kruger National Park is in Limpopo, but there are so many beautiful reserves like the mountain reserves in Venda, the Soutpansberg and around Magoebaskloof. Nature has got no limits in Limpopo. We join across borders in Reserves with Mozambique and Zimbabwe… we are a very unique province. I really encourage our visitors to come and explore nature and not just for 2 days. Spend your entire holiday in Limpopo to get the most out of it. Enjoy adventure-tourism, great cuisine and great hospitality with our many eco-tourism lodges.”
Connect with the wilderness on foot.
‘Stop.. listen… Can you hear that Narina Trogon? Hoop-hoop Hoop-hoop hoop-hoop’ Paul is a great imitator of birds, Samango monkeys and Baboons. He makes every birding outing a sensory journey of sound, sights and touch. Paul Nkhumane became interested in birds when his father, a Ranger in a Private Game Reserve in the Waterberg, took him and his siblings around on game drives with him. This started a love of nature and birding specifically. He started off by spotting the small, common birds like the Blue Waxbill and Black-faced Waxbill which he recorded in a book so he could find out more about them. Paul was inspired to go into the field of Nature Conservation but when Ben de Boer of the Limpopo Birding Routes interviewed candidates for training as a Bird Guide, Paul was one of the two selected to attend the training workshop in 2008.
Paul’s hot-spots include the indigenous forests of the Magoebaskloof area, Woodbush Forest and Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge – spectacular habitats where forest specials can be found. Paul doesn’t only look at the colourful forest birds though, he enjoys showing guests mushrooms, Samango monkeys, ferns, bushbuck and butterflies in these beautiful forests. He says that birding with an experienced guide can be very productive because the guides know their ‘back-yard’ and work hard to find the special birds and Paul enjoys the challenge of working with different ‘wish lists’. He is a passionate, dynamic young man who loves seeing others excited about the birds he shows them but he also guides the slackpacking trails at Kurisa Moya and village experience at Ga-Malahlela Village, as well as teaching guests the art of fly-fishing or finishing off the day in a spectacular way on the sunset 4×4 drive on top of the world at Kurisa Moya.
Experience the best Limpopo has to offer with Paul Nkhumane, including birding in Woodbush.
Connect with LOVE LIMPOPO to make a booking!
Limpopo draws you closer to her wild heart, beckoned by the storytellers, whispering the tales of old. As we sit on the edge of the sacred Lake Fundudzi, cultural guide, Nelson Maphaha tells us the story of the revered Python God who beats his rocky drums to the singing of young women, swaying to the rhythm of the Domba Dance. Lake Fundudzi lies at the heart of this enchanted forest and, according to Venda folklore, Roluvimba, who created the world sometimes returns to bathe in Lake Fundudzi. Visitors are asked to turn their backs on the lake and only look at it from between their legs. To this day, young Venda virgins still perform this Dombo dance to honour the mythical python associated with fertility.
With Nelson standing on these very stones, the legend unfolds before us. Countless years ago, a landslide blocked the Mutale River that feeds the valley. Water levels rose and swallowed the village in an eternal embrace. Many believe it was a curse on those who refused hospitality to a passing leper. For a split second, the muffled cries of the villagers can be heard coming from beneath the calm, mirrored surface of the lake. Bending closer to scoop up the sacred waters of Fundudzi, we see only our own reflections until the spell is broken by a sudden breeze.
Nelson Maphaha takes guided tours to Lake Fundudzi, Thathe Vondo Forest and the Makwarani dancers at the heart of Venda. This is an incredible, immersive experience of cultural food and dance hidden in the valley under a spreading tree. These tours are filled with the magic and mystery that infuse the landscapes of the area.
Take immersive, authentic tours from the African Ivory Routes Fundudzi Camp.
Connect with LOVE LIMPOPO to make a booking!