Did you know?
Large as they are, elephants can walk in complete silence – because of their padded feet.
The Valley of the Olifants route journey in the Limpopo province begins when we leave the provincial capital, Polokwane, not far south of the Tropic of Capricorn.
We take the R71 to Haenertsburg via Zion City, Morija, and if it's Easter time we find ourselves in a midst of millions of ZCC followers (Zion Christian Church) who have come to the mountain for days of prayer and celebrations.
But it's out of season, and the road to the quaint timber village of Haenertsburg is quiet. After tea and a wander through the shops, we visit the Big Baobab near Modjadjikloof, named after the famous Rain Queen who holds sway in this area. Modjadji is said to be descended from the royalty who ruled Monomotapa, the ancient Karanga kindom to the north in Zimbabwe.
The 'upside-down' tree, the baobab, is the world's largest succulent, consisting of 80% water. Pollinated by fruit bats and bush babies, the baobab can live 500 years or more. This could also be called the Baobab Tree Route – there are so many of these giants.
Now here we are in the pleasant sub-tropical town of Tzaneen, about to drive back through Magoebaskloof to lunch at one of the country lodges in the Agatha area.
Back on Route 71, we head for Phalaborwa, very close to the Kruger National Park. We pop into the park and visit the Elephant Museum at Letaba camp, before driving south to hunting country, and the town of Hoedspruit.
We finish our Valley of the Olifants route with a visit to a renowned cheetah breeding centre, see rehabilitated wildlife at Moholoholo, perhaps a session of elephant-back riding (since this is the Elephant Route), before heading into Mpumalanga Province and the pleasures of the Lowveld.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Limpopo Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)15 290 730
How to get here
You can drive to Polokwane from Johannesburg or Pretoria along the Great North Road. Or fly to Polokwane and hire a car there.
Best time to visit
Summer is very hot in this region. Spring, winter and autumn are extremely pleasant.
Your own vehicle will offer the most options.
Length of stay
Devote two or three days to this route. You could also use it as an interesting route to the Kruger National Park.
What to pack
Your camera should be top of the list, but take along a hat and sunscreen too.
Where to stay
There are some superb country guesthouse in the Agatha, Tzaneen and Magoebaskloof areas. The Kruger National Park, of course has many accommodation options. You could also stay at the Moholoholo Rehabilitation Centre, which has inexpensive but pleasant accommodation.
What to eat
In season (winter), a variety of venison is widely available, especially around the Hoedspruit area.