Did you know?
Baobabs, which are common on this route, have flowers that are pollinated by bats.
The Rixile Culture to Kruger Route is a meander between the Kruger National Park, Phalaborwa and Giyani in Limpopo province. Essentially, it links wildlife to parts of South Africa’s most intriguing ancient history.
Phalaborwa, which is the only town with a gate into the Kruger National Park, is usually glossed over in tourism brochures, simply because it is mostly a mining town.
But its famous open-cast mine, 2km wide, is an attraction in its own right. This is where a series of volcanic eruptions two billion years ago brought minerals to the surface, including phosphates, mica, gold, copper zirconium and vermiculite.
Here and at the Masorini heritage site within the Kruger National Park, the ancestors of the Ba-Phalaborwa people first worked with iron and copper 1 200 years ago. Smelting iron was seen as a mystical process, with many rituals and taboos.
The other famous attraction around Phalaborwa is the Hans Merensky Golf Estate, very close to the national park boundary. So close, in fact, that wild animals like impala and giraffe regularly wander across the fairways, and water hazards truly demand respect: sometimes they contain crocodiles.
Further towards rural Giyani, the land is ruled by three signature trees – baobabs, marulas and mopanes. The baobabs are giants of the earth, and are odd in many ways – they also known as the 'upside-down tree', are regarded as giant succulents, and can attain their enormous girth over thousands of years.
Their fruits have a tart, refreshing taste, but it is the fruits of the marula tree that are really revered in this region.
Marulas are distantly related to the mango family, and their small, yellow fruits are coveted by humans and elephants. They are used to make South Africa’s famous Amarula liqueur. But marula jelly and jam are also delicious.
Marulas are tall, spreading trees, quite unlike the scrubby mopane trees. But the latter are home to another indigenous food source – mopane worms. Prepared well, they are delicious.