MAGICAL SOUTPANSBERG-VENDA

DISCOVER THE MYSTERY OF THIS INCREDIBLE REGION 

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Once you head off down the back roads of Venda, you will find that there’s so much to discover. Along a road guarded by hulking arboreal sentinels, is the king of Baobabs. The 3500-year-old Sagole tree near Tshipise is thought to be one of the largest in South Africa. Its massive girth comfortably housed one of the largest breeding colonies of Mottled Spinetails in the country until they moved into a nearby cave.

Following the baobab-lined roads, you will come to Thate Vonde Sacred Forest where the ancestors are protected by a white lion who resides there alongside the bird Ndadzi whose eyes flash like lightning as it flies on wings of thunder. 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 the Dombo dance to honour the mythical python associated with fertility.

Visitors are asked to turn their backs on the lake and only look at it from between their legs

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These myths and legends are the common thread running through any visit to the Soutpansberg mountains, but the region is one of spectacular scenery as well as the cultural richness and hosts over 540 bird species, making it a very rewarding birding destination. The mighty Limpopo River creates a geographical embrace around the most northerly boundaries of Botswana and Zimbabwe while the Soutpansberg mountains provide a dramatic backdrop to this Land of Legend where the deep and ancient rhythms of Africa will capture your heart.

Travelling along the back-roads, you will have great opportunities to see unique treasures like the only known patch of Brachystegia Woodland in South Africa where one can see Southern Hyliota. The Baobab country to the north supports projects like the Baobab Guardians who make the BaoCare products sustainable.

But apart from the scenery, Limpopo is a culturally-rich area where history, ancient customs and rituals collide for a fascinating experience and a highlight is the Ribola Art where you can meet the sculptors, the potters, musicians and craftspeople of the country’s far north. The ancient rhythms of the land and the stories passed down through the generations, are brought to life in the hands of these artists. The Ribola Art Route gives you the unique opportunity to connect to famous artists, craftspeople and musicians through authentic tours and hands-on experiences, which will leave you immeasurably changed by the ‘Art-beat of Limpopo. The Ribola Art Route is set in the breathtaking rural Soutpansberg scenery with its rolling hills and huts nestled in the folds, and it’s up to you whether you pack a picnic and head off for a whirlwind day trip or stay at one of the many lodges for a lazy weekend of exploring this fascinating area.

Connect to famous artists on The Ribola Art Route

While some are enjoying a day of cultural connection and new experiences, the birders in the family could spend the day with conservationist, researcher and local Bird Guide, Samson Mulaudzi. Samson can help you to find the likes of Bat Hawk, African Finfoot, African Broadbill, Blue-spotted Wood Dove and other specials in the Soutpansberg-Venda area. You can also take a sunrise or sunset cruise on the Albassini Dam at Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge where Samson will take you upstream to the spot where hippos gather before they go ashore to forage and where you can see once-in-a-lifetime specials like the African Skimmer.

Head into the sprawling Louis Trichardt town or to the hustle and bustle of modern-day Elim in the furthest reaches of Limpopo where it’s hard to picture the rugged wilderness it was in the 1880’s when the town was an outpost in the untamed north for hunters, traders in ivory and fortune seekers. Set against a backdrop of holy lakes, sacred forests and soaring mountains, white adventurers had moved into the land of legends where Shangaan and Venda chiefs ruled their kingdoms with absolute authority. It was in this wild world that George Liengme established the first hospital north of Pretoria at Elim in 1899, now a national monument and world-renowned medical institution.

ancient rhythms of Africa will capture your heart

Following the winding road up to the far northern reaches of the country, you will find Mapungubwe National Reserve, where Kipling’s ‘great, grey-green, greasy Limpopo River’ runs past wooden walkways, high in the embrace of giant Fever and Ana trees, meandering along the river banks below. At the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers lies a series of walkways to lookout points over these mighty rivers where a vast stillness prevails. But hundreds of years ago, its geographic position made it a prime site for trade with India, China and Egypt. Mapungubwe is one of the eight UNESCO World Heritage sites in South Africa and one of the Peace Park Foundation’s Transfrontier Conservation Areas, joining together once more these wild areas of Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Accommodation

Igababa cabin

If you fancy a romantic bubble-bath under the stars, with only the low call of owls to disturb you, Igababa Cabin is just the place

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Stargaze Hammock Camp

Stargaze hammock camp

Tucked into the Soutpansberg Mountains above Makhado in northern Limpopo, lies the Morning Sun Nature Reserve.  Think lush vegetation, dramatic rock faces with Verreaux Eagles

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Fundudzi Camp

Fundudzi camp

Nestled at the foot of the Luaname Mountains, Fundudzi is an atmospheric hutted camp in the heart of traditional Venda territory. Just above the village

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H12 Leshiba

H12 Leshiba is one of the most unique lodges in Africa and is a bucket-list destination within reach of most South African travellers in terms

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Makgabeng Farm Lodge

Makgabeng farm lodge

Makgabeng farm lodge lies south of the Blouberg and west of the Soutpansberg.  Rising 200 metres above the bushveld surrounds, the Makgabeng Plateau is a

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Nahakwe Lodge

Nahakwe lodge

Nahakwe Lodge is right on the doorstep of the Ribola Art Route in Limpopo, making it a perfect place from which to experience the pulse and

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