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The Valley of the Olifants' totem tree, the baobab, is the world’s largest succulent. But that’s not all you'll see on this route. It's a place of giants, and elephants are also plentiful in this area. Meet a tree, ride an elephant and learn about the rain queen.
TThe 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, Moria, and if it's Easter time we find ourselves in a midst of millions of ZCC (Zion Christian Church) followers 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 Modjadjiskloof, 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 kingdom 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 and head back to Mpumalanga province and the pleasures of the Lowveld.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Limpopo Tourism Authority
Tel: +27 (0)15 290 2010
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 2 or 3 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 has many accommodation options. You could also stay at the Moholoholo Wildlife 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.