Well, the next destination was Mapungubwe National Park a ‘World Heritage Site’ located in the Northern part of South Africa where the border joins Botswana and Zimbabwe. Before 900 AD the area was home to a civilisation and the first kingdom was established at Mapungubwe Hill between 1200 and 1290 AD. But this is the subject of another story where I will concentrate on the history of the area. For the first two nights we stayed in the Leokwe rest camp in the eastern part of the park, the units were beautifully furnished and comfortable with all amenities provided. Our last night was in the Limpopo Forest Tented Camp which was also an eye-opener. Comfortable and fully fitted with a bonus in that the animals could roam through the camp at night.
We self-catered and used the restaurant at the interpretive centre, the staff are amazing and go out of the way to assist. Menus are simple and meals do take time to prepare as it is a small kitchen, a bonus is that if you have supper there you can drive back to your chalet or tent at night and possibly see some game.
Wildlife viewing is good, the first two days saw us seeing a mix of normal buck, zebra, warthogs as well as some good bird sightings. Topography changes as you turn a corner, there are riverine forests, sandstone hills as well as the cultural landscapes. All of this packed into an area of around 28000 hectares.
Around 1932 a farmer and his son discovered Mapungubwe, once again that’s my next story, in 1996 the area was known as the Vhembe national Park and in 2003 it was proclaimed a World Heritage Site, in 2004 it was renamed Mapungubwe National Park.
We really explored the full extent of the park each day to enjoy nature as well as history.
Sedimentary sandstone formations deliver awesome pictures and backgrounds with amazing rock faces dotted with wild fig trees and the mystical Baobabs that abound the main park, it’s visceral, raw and wild as well as mystical. Mapungubwe really touches your soul. The roads are well marked and 4×4 areas are designated, hide and picnic spots are a treat, the changes in topography never cease to amaze, things change as you turn a corner.
The various viewing lookouts offer amazing views of the Limpopo and its confluence with the Shashe River. The treetop boardwalk is in itself an amazing experience. As with all parks in South Africa, conservation, poaching and illegal grazing remain a challenge, yet statistics show that more and more people are visiting the park. We were pleased to see that the camps were full during our stay. Word has it that additional rock art and archaeological sites will open giving more reason to visit the park. Our game viewing experience in the Limpopo Forest area was impressive with 3 sightings of Elephant, our Lion sighting was limited to fresh spoor on our last day. Best times to visit are March to May for game viewing and November to March for birders. Numerous accommodation options abound. Reservations via SANParks central reservations or mobile centres. Last bit of advice is to bring everything that you think you will need as shops are not close and the restaurant has limited stock. Bring an open mind and a desire to take plenty of pictures in an amazing setting.