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The Mapungubwe National Park situated on South Africa’s northern border incorporates the Mapungubwe Hill UNESCO world heritage site, a place of legend and a stronghold of the Leya tribe, the first indigenous kingdom in the country living here sometime between 900 and 1300CE.
Mapungubwe is part of a wider trans-frontier conservation area that links it with Botswana's Tuli block and Zimbabwe's northern Tuli safari national parks.
There are many interpretations of the meaning of Mapungubwe and the most likely is the ‘place of the jackal’. Great archaeological treasures have been discovered here and the entire region is considered of significant cultural importance. Being a national park, game is abundant and safaris are offered by the various lodges located within the park.
Top 6 reasons to visit Mapungubwe National Park
1. Take a guided walk through the park during the day and an exciting sunset game drive when the animals are at their most active. Mapungubwe hosts 4 of the Big 5.
2. Spend time at the Mapungubwe Interpretive Centre to view the many artefacts recovered from the area, including the golden rhino that sparked the world’s interest of Mapungubwe. Tours are offered by staff and there is an onsite restaurant. Open in the evening.
3. Be guided through the lost city heritage site to visit the ancient gravesite and discover the folklore surrounding Mapungubwe Hill. There are fine views of the entire areas from high up on the hill.
4. There is a lovely shaded boardwalk erected through a riverine forest to reach an elevated hide overlooking the Limpopo River for possible sightings of crocodiles, elephants, fish eagles and hippos.
5. Limpopo is renowned for its hot springs, travel to Tshipise to enjoy a day relaxing in the warm and therapeutic thermal waters. The onsite resort offers all forms of family fun activities.
6. For those wanting to learn more of the Venda culture, visit a local village to gain an appreciation of their traditions, beliefs and tribal customs, to hear fascinating stories of past legends and to learn of the rite of passage from child to adult.
Polokwane International Airport is the nearest international airport to Mapungubwe, 215km away. Flights arrive from OR Tambo in Johannesburg. The airport has car rental agencies, as does Polokwane city and Musina. Tour operators in the main towns offer shuttle services. Mapungubwe National Park Shuttle Services is a private company that offer transportation in anything from a limousine to standard coach travel.
Did you know?
In the days of Apartheid, the area surrounding Mapungubwe was included in an independent state – otherwise known as a Bantustan or homeland – called Venda. One of the leaders was so unpopular that prisoners in the town of Thohoyandou staged a mass breakout, marched to his office to present their complaints, and all returned to the prison!
Certain Venda tribes bury their rulers in hallowed ground; this could be a cave or a secret mountain crevice. The Mbedzi clan always bury their ruler in a shallow grave, then later exhume the body and throw the bones into a sacred river pool.