The Mopani district of Limpopo offers travellers dramatic mountains, vast wilderness reserves, ancient rivers and the country's oldest baobab tree.The Valley of the Olifants tourism region takes you through the heart of Mopani, from the subtropical town of Tzaneen, to the bushveld centres of Phalaborwa and Hoedpsruit, adjoining the Kruger National Park.

Did you know?

Mopani district is home to the world famous Amarula Liqueur, made from the fruit of the amarula tree

Discover the many delights of Mopani district by exploring the Valley of the Olifants tourism region. While Mopani district takes its name from a small edible worm called the mopani, the Valley of the Olifants tourism region is named after the Olifants (elephants) River, which cuts its way through steep mountains and then flows through the Kruger National Park.

Mopani's beautiful Valley of the Olifants tourism region is bounded by the towns of Phalaborwa, Hoedspruit and Tzaneen, and includes sections of the majestic Northern Drakensberg, parts of the Kruger National Park and an eastern chunk of the Blyde River Canyon. There are vast tracts of bushveld, great sideways thrusts of mountains, dramatic cliffs, proverbially mighty rivers − this is definitely photographers' territory.

Apart from sheer panoramic beauty, Mopani district is also rich in culture and history. The village of Modjadji, nearby Tzaneen, is the realm of the ancient Rain Queen, famed for her rain-making powers, and the Balobedu people who settled here in the late 16th century. Modjadji is also home to a unique slope of rare cycad species (Encephalartos trasnvenosus), unique to this area. Take a stroll through the Modjadji Cycad Reserve to see these majestic plants that date back to the time of the dinosaur.

Nearby Modjadji village is Sunland Baobab, a giant baobab estimated to be some 4 000 years old. Inside the tree is a small English pub where you can get a beer or a soft drink and find out why the baobab tree is a source of great legend and the symbol of Limpopo province.

Mopani district includes the towns of Giyani, Phalaborwa and Hoedspruit, all of which are centres for surrounding wilderness areas, game reserves and conservation and wildlife projects. The Hans Merensky Golf Course near Phalaborwa, adjoins the Kruger National Park, and golfers often wait for the game to clear the course before they tee off.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Limpopo Tourism and Parks Board
Tel:+27 (0)15 290 7300

South African National Parks
Tel:+27 (0)12 428 9111

Sefapane Lodge, Phalaborwa
Tel:+27 (0)15 780 6700

Kings Walden Garden Manor, Tzaneen
Tel:+27 (0)15 307 3262

Tshukudu Lodge, Hoedspruit
Tel:+27 (0)15 793 2476

Yum Yum restaurant and deli, Tzaneen
Tel:+27 (0)83 444 9138

How to get here

There are daily flights from Johannesburg to Hoedpsruit and Phalaborwa. By road, from Johannesburg, take the N1 to Polokwane. Shortly before Polokwane take the R71 to Tzaneen which is a further 90km

Best time to visit

Mopani has a subtropical climate and can get very hot in summer. The best time to visit is spring or autumn, although game viewing is excellent in the winter months

Around the area

Take care when driving in and around Mopani, especially at night when cattle and game may stray across the road

Tours to do

Tour the Amarula Lapa and see how the famous Amarula Liqueur is made; take a day drive into the Kruger National Park; go on a guided tour of Modjadji and the famous rare cycads; see endangered species at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre; encounter orphaned animals at Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre.

What to pack

Hats, sunscreen, walking shoes, cameras and binoculars

Where to stay

Sefapane Lodge in Phalaborwa is just a minute from the Kruger National Park and offers thatched chalets in a pleasant bushveld setting with a bar in the pool. Kings Walden Garden Manor outside Tzaneen has incredible mountain views and glorious gardens. Tshukudu Lodge near Hoedspruit is a family-friendly spot set in a conservancy that rehabilitates orphaned and injured wildlife

What to eat

Yum Yum restaurant in Tzaneen offers excellent contemporary fusion cuisine in a delightful bistro setting. The Cotton Club Cafe, near Hoedpsruit, overlooks the Blyde River Canyon and has wholesome country fare. Mad Dogz Cafe on the R527 Hoedspruit road, is an Afro-chic bistro with an arts & craft centre

What's happening

The Tzaneen Airshow in July; the Hoedspruit Airshow and Game Festival in July; Magoebaskloof Spring Fair in September; the Sustainable Living Festival in August; the Amarula Festival in February

Related articles