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LLimpopo historical tours expose a fascinating world of riverside citadels at Mapungubwe and Thulamela consisting of amazing architecture, craftmanship and global trade.
A thousand years ago there was a hilltop kingdom by the side of a roaring river where a queen ruled over her people. Hunters would embark on elephant expeditions into the surrounding valleys and return after many days, bearing tusks and perhaps the bodies of the unfortunates trampled by the behemoths.
Inside the city, built on a hill, goldsmiths would patiently fashion out necklaces and trinkets. Some of this treasure would be traded upriver with people from other far-off lands like Egypt and China for cloth, beads and pottery.
A few 100km downriver, a few 100 years later, another riverside citadel was built, consisting of curved rock homes inside a walled complex. The master builders of this little kingdom were so good, their huge rock bricks so well-cut, that there was no need for mortar to hold the structures up.
This thriving riverside collection of kingdoms was presided over by a magnificent ‘upside-down' tree that still gives edible fruit, rope from its bark and expansive shelter from the hot midday sun.
This tree − and the elephants that fed off it − became the totems for all the humans who lived around it.
Of course, we're on a Limpopo historical tour to the kingdoms of Mapungubwe in the west and Thulamela in the east. And the tree? The baobab. This incredibly fascinating Limpopo historical route can take you back further in time − perhaps a couple of million years − to the days of early humankind. As you travel the Limpopo local route from Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site through Musina, to the northern reaches of the Kruger National Park to the Thulamela site, it's easy to cast your mind back and reconstruct life here about 5 centuries ago, when many civilisations met and traded on these waters.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Tel: +27 (0)15 290 2010
Mapungubwe National Park
Tel: +27 (0)15 534 7923/4
How to get here
Drive the Great North Road towards Limpopo from Johannesburg or Pretoria.
Best time to visit
Summers can be very hot in this part of the world. The most pleasant time to visit is in spring, winter or autumn.
Things to do
This region is rich in wildlife; in mystical places like the sacred Lake Fundudzi and the sacred forest of Thathe Vondo; and in unexpected parks like the Musina Baobab Reserve.
Tours to do
Take the tour to the top of Mapungubwe Hill, which will frame your understanding of this area.
Use your own vehicle.
Length of stay
Stay in the area for about a week to truly uncover the magic of the place and explore at a leisurely pace.
Where to stay
There are many options in Mapungubwe National Park, as well as game lodges nearby.
What to pack
Comfortable clothes and shoes, sunscreen, hat and camera.
What to eat
If you're feeling brave, try one of the local specialties of this region − mopani worms.
Ask about Venda cloth. This brightly striped material is made into traditional skirts and tops but looks good on ottomans and cushions too. It’s sold at bargain prices in Makhado.