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Encircled by dense green forests and misty mountains, and a subtropical climate with plenty of sun, the town of Tzaneen in the Limpopo Province of South Africa is an enchanting paradise for adventure seekers and nature lovers.
Lush fruit plantations exist alongside forested areas with a backdrop of mountains, often shrouded in a silvery mist. Water is abundant in Tzaneen and the area is bursting with rivers, waterfalls and expansive dams.
The town is a mere 90-minute drive from the Kruger National Park on one of the most scenic roads in South Africa.
Tzaneen offers safari experiences, opportunities to interact with unique cultures, the chance to witness natural marvels and be touched by people that will forever remain emblazoned in the mind.
Top 8 reasons to visit Tzaneen
1. Tzaneen is a regular recipient of the cleanest town award. Take a walk through the shopping district and visit the gardens and the interesting museum. The town hosts regular events such as a rally, a country fair and festivals, expos and marathons through the year. The picturesque dam is located alongside the town.
2. Hike the Letaba Trail in the Hans Merensky Nature Reserve. Expect to see hippo and crocodile along the river banks. While at the reserve, bathe in the swimming pool, fed by a thermal spring that releases water at a piping hot 104° Celsius. The waters are said to relieve rheumatism.
3. Day visitors are welcome at the Baobab Tree Bar in Modjadjiskloof, a bar built inside the world’s largest living baobab tree. This ancient tree hollowed out naturally and the farm owners built a bar in the hollow, wide enough to comfortably seat 15 people. The record is 54 people, one would guess all highly intoxicated!
4. Experience 13 thrilling zipline slides over the spectacular Letaba River gorge, south of Tzaneen and offered by the Magoebaskloof Canopy Tour Company. The platforms overlook waterfalls, ancient cliffs, green thicket and a river far below.
5. Visit the Coach House Confectionary factory shop to stock up on the nougat, shortbread and brittle made from local produce and flavoured with macadamia nuts and almonds.
6. Competitive bass angling goes down at the Tzaneen Dam where landing of 6kg bass is not uncommon. Keep in mind that crocodiles and hippos inhabit the dam.
7. For a fun family outing, stop in at the Mangela Animal Touch Farm, Tea Garden & Curio Shop at the Tzaneen Country Lodge. Relax out in the open while the children get to interact with the animals. Try their tasty, homemade Mangela pancakes.
8. The Muti wa Vatsonga open air museum located in the Hans Merensky Nature Reserve gives visitors an insight into the local Tsonga culture. The museum is laid out in traditional village fashion and villagers showcase their ancient customs and dance and sing for audiences. Meals are offered in the village’s brightly painted huts.
International flights from major centres (Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg) arrive at Polokwane International Airport, 95km from Tzaneen. Tzaneen has its own airfield, 20km out of town and exclusively for chartered flights. Car rental agencies are located at the airports or in the town, otherwise order a vehicle online. Shuttle and tour companies operate between Tzaneen and Polokwane, however, it’s best to hire a vehicle.
Did you know?
The baobab tree is often referred to as the ‘upside down tree’ for its branches that resemble roots. The tree is an ecological microcosm, providing shelter, food and water to humans and animals. The fruit is edible and baboons savour the pods. The tree stores thousands of litres of water chewed by elephants during times of drought. Birds, mammals and reptiles make their home in the baobab.
In African folklore, the Modjadji Rain Queen holds rainmaking powers and is able to summon her ancestors, using a magical horn, to bring the rains. The last queen died over a decade ago and the region is soon to inaugurate its seventh queen who is only 10 years old.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.