The founding father of Buysdorp, a tiny community in the Soutpansberg area of Limpopo province, was the renegade Huguenot, Coenraad de Buys. He was over 2m tall, had a presence to match and was a thorn in the side of authority wherever he and his family of followers wandered.

Did you know?

The De Buys offspring became Limpopo guides for the newly arrived Voortrekkers in later decades.

Tucked under a protective fold of the Soutpansberg in northern Limpopo province is Buysdorp, a little settlement with a big history.

The founding father of this quiet, industrious farming community between Makhado and Mapungubwe was a larger-than-life historical character called Coenraad de Buys.

People used to talk of this renegade Huguenot from the Western Cape province throughout the South African hinterland and up into the bushveld area near the Zimbabwe border line.

Coenraad de Buys, at a majestic height of more than 2m, was described by 19th Century explorer Henry Lichtenstein as ‘the living figure of a Hercules, the terror of his enemies, the hope and support of his friends’.

As a young man in the 1780s, De Buys left his family home in Swellendam and crossed the Bushman’s River in the Zuurveld, and over the years took wives from the Xhosa, Khoi and ‘Bastaard’ (mixed) communities. He befriended the Xhosa chief, Ngqika, and turned his fellow Boer farmers against the Dutch authorities.

When he left the patronage of Ngqika to venture into the interior, De Buys had gathered about him a motley host that consisted of English army deserters, a missionary, runaway slaves, Hottentots, two single Dutch mothers, Xhosa women, children of mixed blood and a ‘Mohammedan Hindu’.

His restless wanderings finally led him and his rainbow people up to the Soutpansberg, where he was the first white hunter to venture up as far as Mapungubwe on the Limpopo River.

After the death of a beloved wife, De Buys simply disappeared into the bush.

Modern-day Buysdorp has a general dealer, a school, a cemetery and a church. The people of Buysdorp live in a collection of domestic properties that stretch up into the foothills of the Soutpansberg, in a setting of aloes and giant euphorbias.

According to the local headmistress, the children learn about De Buys from their grandparents at home.

‘Here at school, they learn about Nelson Mandela,’ she said.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Leshiba Wilderness
Tel: +27 (0)11 483 1841
Cell: +27(0) 82 881 1237

How to get here

Buysdorp lies 55km west of Makhado (formerly Louis Trichardt) on the R522 to Alldays.

Best time to visit

Come to this area any time of year, but in the peak of summer the temperatures may be at uncomfortable levels.

Around the area

Leshiba Wilderness, Mapungubwe National Park, Alldays town, Makhado – but the main feature around here is the magnificent Soutpansberg range.

Tours to do

The Soutpansberg-Limpopo Birding route. See the Vhembe section of the Limpopo Tourism website.

Get around

Unless you’re on a guided tour up to Mapungubwe, the best way to get around is to drive yourself.

What will it cost

Your walk around Buysdorp is free. The people are friendly. If you’d like to, leave a gift or donate to the local school fund.

Length of stay

A tour around Buysdorp (park somewhere and walk around) should take no longer than an hour. If you’re staying at Leshiba Wilderness, request a morning’s drive to Buysdorp.

What to pack

You’re in the Soutpansberg, so pack a light raincoat for unexpected showers.

Where to stay

The excellent Leshiba Wilderness is a mountain lodge near Buysdorp. There is also the Mapungubwe National Park, about 130km from Buysdorp.

What to eat

Wherever you find a good butchery in Limpopo, try the biltong.

What's happening

See both the Limpopo Tourism and Soutpansberg Tourism websites (listed) for events in the area during your visit.

Best buys

Arts and crafts along the Ribolla Open Africa Route in the Elim area, about 50km east of Makhado.