The northernmost part of Limpopo Province is a hot, green, undeveloped rural region with much in common with Zimbabwe. Its essential geographical features are the Limpopo River, the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe (and, further west, Botswana), and the alluring Soutpansberg mountain range, aligned east–west just to the north of the area’s main town, Makhado (Louis Trichardt), which is otherwise unremarkable and not worth a stopover.
Perhaps the most distinctive area is the Venda region, formerly an “independent” homeland under apartheid. Although economically impoverished, it remains rich in tradition, art and legend. East of the Venda lands is the northern tip of Kruger National Park, a less-visited but intriguing part of the park; there are two entry gates to the park here, at Punda Maria and Pafuri.
Both the Limpopo River and the Soutpansberg range lie in the path of the N1 highway, which crosses into Zimbabwe at Beitbridge. About 70km west of here, the Mapungubwe National Park encompasses a UNESCO World Heritage Iron-Age site which for archeology buffs is probably the area’s most enticing attraction.Read More
The Soutpansberg, an impressive range of hills, particularly when approached from the south, attracts sufficient rainfall to create a subtropical climate, and spectacularly lush farms along the southern slopes produce a range of exotic crops such as avocados and macadamia nuts. In other parts, the rocky kloofs and green hillsides offer unspoilt mountain retreats, shaded by up to 580 different species of tree, and the home of monkeys, small antelopes, warthogs and some raptors. The uniqueness of the area led to it being designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 2009, with a similar protection and development status as the Waterberg Biosphere Reserve.
The N1 highway bisects the range, passing through missable Makhado, situated in the southern shadow of the mountains, then climbing over a low pass and descending through a pair of tunnels on the northern side. Once over the escarpment, the highway runs north across mostly empty baobab plains to Musina and the Limpopo River.
- Mapungubwe National Park