Travelling along the dusty roads of Mapungubwe National Park, you’re overwhelmed by a feeling of solitude and peace of mind. Time in this park is a treat for body and soul. By Michel Zwaan

As soon as you enter the gate to Mapungubwe National Park – a World Heritage Site – a magnificent view of koppies, crags and crevices unfolds. Driving through Mapungubwe is synonymous with the joy of being alone in an area that has hardly changed in thousands of years. Here the endless nothingness, old baobab trees and the hues of brilliant dawn colours speak to the avid photographer’s imagination.

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Pictures by Michel Zwaan

Although Mapungubwe doesn’t have the enormous wildlife population of the Kruger National Park, the variety is more than enough to keep you busy and enjoy sightings aplenty… From the funny antics of the ‘clowns of the bush’, the blue wildebeest, to the low rumbling of groups of elephants. Driving along the Limpopo and Shashe rivers is an absolute must for elephant sightings, but do take note: these gentle giants have right of way.

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Did you know?

  • South Africa’s first kingdom was established here just prior to 1,300 AD.
  • Mapungubwe is South Africa’s northernmost national park and was declared a World Heritage Siteby UNESCO in 2003.
  • Aside from extremely large baobab trees, or ‘upside down’ trees, the park is also known for at least 24 acacia and 8 commiphora species.
  • The park is home to more than 400 bird species.
  • The famous golden rhino was found in 1932 and excavated by the University of Pretoria. According to experts, the Mapungubwe people left the area some 700 years ago due to climate change.

A birdlife spectacular is a daily occurrence – have your binoculars ready and try to spot Verreaux’s eagle or white-fronted bee-eater. Also take a stroll on the Tree-top Walk where we found more than 15 different species of birds within 10 minutes. Among our best sightings were the colourful little bee-eater, the noisy yellow-billed hornbill and the impressive martial eagle.

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Martial eagle

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Little bee-eater

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Southern yellow-billed hornbill

We enjoyed a scenic breakfast at the picnic spot at the Confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers – the setting is picturesque and tranquil. Make sure to brave the steep walk to the lookout point for incredible views of two of South Africa’s neighbouring countries, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

For 4×4 enthusiasts, various self-drive routes offer magnificent views and surprising sightings. Mapungubwe did not at all disappoint and will soon be seeing us again!

Other activities

  • Set off on various guided walking trails (three hours at R360 per person) accompanied by a knowledgeable ranger and experience the bush on foot.
  • The highly informative Heritage Tour includes a visit to the top of Mapungubwe Hill. Your guide will share insights into the archeological discoveries and what the artefacts have revealed about the Kingdom of Mapungubwe. Tours depart at 07:00, 10:00 & 15:00/16:00, two hours at R215 per person.
  • Why not rent a safari vehicle – if you’re not the owner of a 4×4 – and drive on the wild side with the Tshugulu 4×4 Eco Trail or Kanniedood Loop? It’s bound to be a memorable adventure.

How to get there

Mapungubwe can easily be accessed through the Kruger National Park via Pafuri Gate (210km) or Punda Maria Gate (270km).

Click here for more useful information before visiting Mapungubwe.

Additional source: SANParks