Did you know?
Modjadji village has been ruled by a series of Rain Queens since the 16th century, the only matriarchal tribe in southern Africa.
The Modjadji Cycad Reserve is set in the foothills of blue-green mountains above the village of Modjadji, near Tzaneen. The Modjadji Cycad Reserve is home to the biggest concentration of the rare endemic cycad, Encephalartos transvenosus, in the world. The Modjadji Cycad Reserve is also part of the realm of the legendary Rain Queen.
The 560ha Modjadji Cycad Reserve is a unique natural forest that remains unspoiled and very much like it was in prehistoric times when mammal-like reptiles roamed the area using these plants as their main food source. Some of the cycads here reach heights of 13m and bear cones that weigh in at a hefty 34kg, making them the giants of their species. The plants seed between December and February, the best time to view them.
Take a gentle hike through the reserve, which has a series of paths that lead up and down the mountain slopes. You may also spot game such as Blue wildebeest, waterbuck, nyala, impala and bushbuck, and some of the 170 bird species recorded here. There is a small museum at the cycad reserve, and a little shop selling refreshments and curios.
You can also take a guided tour of the village of Modjadji, that was settled in the 16th century by the original Rain Queen Modjadji. The legend goes that the Karanga tribe, a matriarchal tribe whose queen possessed special rain-making powers, fled here from Zimbabwe. Apparently the Rain Queen and her fellow travellers were enchanted by the cycad forests here as well as the beautiful Bolobedu mountains, and decided to start a new kingdom.
The newly formed tribe of the Bolobedu named their Rain Queens 'the Modjadji' and they have reigned ever since. Revered for her rain making powers, the Modjadji Rain Queen was said to have struck fear even in the heart of the mighty Zulu warrior, King Shaka.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)83 442 7429 or +27 (0)82 370 8567
How to get here
From Tzaneen take the R36 to Modjadjiskloof. Follow the signs to Modjadji village and to the cycad reserve
Best time to visit
The Modjadji cycads are at their showy best in the summer months, from December to February, when they boast spectacular orange seeds
Around the area
The Kruger National Park is an easy drive from Tzaneen. The Wolkberg Wilderness area is a great spot for swimming, hiking and picnicking
Tours to do
Treetop canopy tour in Magoebaskloof; abseiling, tubing in Letaba Gorge; picnic at Debengeni Falls; cultural tours in Modjadji village
What to pack
Sunscreen, hat, walking shoes and a camera. Insect repellent is also handy although this is not a malaria area.
Where to stay
There are many B&Bs, guesthouses, lodges and hotels in and around the nearby town of Tzaneen.
What to eat
Yum Yum restaurant and deli in Tzaneen is an excellent lunch stop, offering contemporary fusion cuisine in a pleasant setting