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Mapungubwe National Park

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Introduction

Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site is the ideal location for anyone interested in the park's wildlife and birds, to those in search of serenity, identity and the extraordinary history of this World Heritage Site...

Come and join these diverse pilgrims and share unforgetable moments sipping sundowners at the confluence of the legendary Limpopo and Shashe Rivers, watch the eagles soar over Botswana and Zimbabwe's skies, hear the echo of elephant trumpets, take a tree top walk or just relax and absorb the surroundings... Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site is rich in biodiversity, great scenic beauty and the cultural importance of the archaeological treasures of Mapungubwe.

Areas of Special Interest

The Lost City: Visit Mapungubwe Hill, where a far developed African civilisation prospered between 1200 and 1270 AD. The area was already inhabited by a growing Iron Age community from 900 AD and became rich through trade with faraway places like Egypt, India and China. This is the place where archeologists excavated the famous golden rhino and other evidence of a wealthy African kingdom.

Wildlife and Mystic Scenery: Sandstone formations, mopane woodlands and unique riverine forest and baobab trees form the astounding scenic backdrop for a rich variety of animal life. Elephant, giraffe, white rhino, eland, gemsbok and numerous other antelope species occur naturally in the area. Lucky visitors might spot predators like lions, leopards and hyenas. Birders can tick off 400 species, including kori bustard, tropical boubou and pel’s fishing owl.

The Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre : The Centre which is built near the main gate of the Mapungubwe National Park won the building of the year competition in 2009 and is home to the famous Golden Rhino. The Centre provides both day and over-night visitors the opportunity of a tour, showcasing the amazing landscape that the National Park has to offer.

Joining Nations: The Iron Age civilization of Mapungubwe was not limited by the Limpopo river and animals have always been able to wander around in the area of present-day South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. This is why South Africa signed a memorandum of understanding with Botswana and Zimbabwe on June 22nd setting out principles for the Limpopo-Shashe Transfrontier Conservation Area (TFCA).

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Accommodation

Please note:

  • Mapungubwe National Park is divided into an Eastern and Western section, separated by private lands in between which does not form part of the Park. Bookings at Tshugulu Lodge, Limpopo Forest Tented Camp, Mazhou Camping Site and Maloutswa Bird Hide requires one to drive outside the park in order to rejoin the Western section of the Park where the camps are located.
  • The Restaurant and Curio Shop selling basic necessities are located at the main gate.
  • The is no filling station or ATM available in the Park.
  • There is no cellphone reception in all the camps, only at the main gate.
  • Guests at any of the Park's camps must check in at the Main Gate Reception area.
  • Guests must allow an hour prior to the gate closing time to check in to allow for travelling time to the camps.

Camps

Leokwe Camp

This is Mapungubwe’s main camp, located in the eastern section of the Park, 11km from the Main Gate, in the spectacular sandstone hills. Close to the camp guests can enjoy the Treetop Hide and the Confluence View Site & Picnic Area. The camp itself has a swimming pool and sundeck, as well as a central braai area.

Limpopo Forest Tented Camp

This camp, situated in the Limpopo riverine forest which offers excellent birding, is located in the western section of the Park, approximately 40km from the Main Gate. The camp is close to the Maloutswa Pan hide.

Tshugulu Lodge

This luxury lodge sleeps 1 x 12 in the guest lodge with 6 x bedrooms, a bath, en-suite swimming pool and an exclusive eco-trail. The lodge is located in the Western section of the Park approximately 23km from the Main Gate along the R572 Pondrift Road.

Vhembe Wilderness Camp

In the eastern section of Mapungubwe National Park, 13 km from the Main Gate, Vhembe Wilderness Camp has been built on a small ridge within a valley, within walking distance of the Limpopo River and Mapungubwe Hill. Bookings can be made online.

  • This camp is not recommended for families with children.
  • The camp operates on solar power hence there is no electricical plug points available.
  • The camp is not fenced.
  • The road to this camp requires a 4x4 or high clearance vehicle.
  • There is no swimming pool available at this camp.

Mazhou Camping Site

The Mazhou Camping Site in Mapungubwe National Park is situated approximately 40km from the Main Gate, close to the Limpopo Forest Tented Camp in the Western Section of the Park. The camping site caters for ten caravans or tents, and each camping site is equipped with a powerpoint.

Guests intending to stay over at Mazhou Camping Site check in at the Mapungubwe Main Gate. A Pensioner Discount is available from Sunday to Thursday nights within the normal Pensioner Discount Periods.

General Information

To view the accommodation prices, refer to Tariffs


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Activities

Museum Tour

The Centre which is built near the main gate of the Mapungubwe National Park won the building of the year competition in 2009 and is home to the famous Golden Rhino. The Centre provides both day and over-night visitors the opportunity of a tour, showcasing the amazing landscape that the National Park has to offer.
Gallery images of the Interpretation Centre

Visit the Confluence

Enjoy a view over the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo rivers where three countries meet.

Heritage Tours

As part of this tour, you will be given the opportunity to visit the elite graveyard at the top of Mapungubwe Hill, view a natural amphitheatre and the entire spectrum of the region, traverse the territory once walked upon by the ancestral Mapungubwe People - now roamed by four of the Big 5.

Game Drives

Our sunset drives and night drives gives you the opportunity to search for game outside normal gate opening times.

Morning Guided Walks

Morning guided walks, which allows for up to eight people, offers guests the chance to immerse themselves in the bush and experience the vast natural and cultural heritage of the Park.

Bush Braais

Experience an unforgettable game drive ends in a dinner in the bush overlooking a dam, surrounded by burning lanterns whilst listening to the sounds of the bushveld and distant animals calling. A minimum of four and maximum of 20 persons can be accommodated, with an age limit of six years. Bush braais must be booked and confirmed a week in advance.

Small Weddings and Special Events

An opportunity to turn your wedding or special event into a memorable bush experience. View the Weddings and Special Events brochure for more information.

Do the Tree Top Walk or a Game Drive

Take a walk among the riverine forest on a raised canopy walk that takes you to a hide over looking the Limpopo River.

***Tariffs are effective from 1 November 2014 - 31 October 2015***

Tours/Drives/Walks
Departure Time
Duration
Tariff per person

Heritage Tour

07:00, 10:00 & 15:00/16:00

2 hours

R200

Museum Tour
08:00 - 15:30
2 hours
R48
Heritage & Museum Tours Package
07:00, 10:00 & 15:00/16:00
2 hours
R230 per adult
R215 per child

Sunset Drive

16:00

3 hours

R235 per adult
R115 per child

Night Drive

19:30

2 hours

R235 per adult
R115 per child

Guided Walks
Time to be confirmed at the Park
3 hours
R360
Bush Braai
Time to be confirmed at the Park
3 hours
R550

* Please note that all activities can be booked by emailing Mapungubwe@sanparks.org or calling +27 (0)15 534 7923/4/5.



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History of the Park

Mapungubwe: Becoming a National Park

1920's

The Mapungubwe area became a focus of agricultural research in the 1920s through the efforts of a prominent botanist, Dr. I.B. Pole Evans. Pole Evans was instrumental in the creation of the Botanical Survey Advisory Committee which was tasked with coordinating botanical research throughout the Union of South Africa. One of the network of botanical and research stations set up by the Botanical Survey was situated in the Mapungubwe area. In 1918 the government, at the request of General Smuts, set aside a block of nine farms in this area as a preserve for wildlife and natural vegetation. A few years later this became known as the Dongola Botanical Reserve.

1940's

Pole Evans set about expanding the Dongola Botanical Reserve. By the early 1940s the reserve had grown to include 27 farms, including Greefswald, the property on which the Mapungubwe Hill is situated. Pole Evans lobbied to have the reserve proclaimed as a national park, with the support of Prime Minister Jan Smuts. In 1944 Minister of Lands, Andrew Conroy proposed the formation of the Dongola Wild Life Sanctuary which would include 124 farms, 86 of which were privately owned. This proposal was strongly opposed by the National Party, then the official opposition in parliament and the National Parks Board of Trustees. In one of the longest running debates in the history of the South African parliament, supporters argued that it was necessary to conserve the country's natural assets, that the land set aside for the proposed reserve was unsuitable for agricultural purposes and that the area had a rich archaeology which should be protected. Those opposed to the establishment of the reserve argued that it was unacceptable to alienate agricultural land for wildlife conservation, to expropriate private land or to evict people from land they had occupied for generations. The debate, which has become known as the "Battle of Dongola", resulted in the declaration of a much reduced area as the Dongola Wildlife Sanctuary, after members of the ruling United Party voted in favour of the proposal. The National Party won the elections in 1948, and the sanctuary was abolished in 1949. Expropriated farms were returned to their original farmers, farms owned by the state were allocated for resettlement and funds returned to donors.

1960's

In 1967 another proposal to protect the area was initiated and the Vhembe Nature Reserve, comprising three farms, including Greefswald, was established as a Transvaal provincial reserve.

1990's

In 1993 De Beers Consolidated Mines, which had established the Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve on land that adjoins Greefswald, called for the area to be declared a national park. In 1995 the South African National Parks Board and the Limpopo provincial government signed an agreement committing themselves to the establishment of the new national park. The Vhembe Dongola National Park was proclaimed on 9 April 1998.

2000's

The Vhembe Dongola National Park was renamed Mapungubwe National Park and opened officially on Heritage Day, 24 September 2004.

Today

In the 21st century Mapungubwe has been embraced as a site of significance by South Africans and the international community. The Mapungubwe National Park was declared in 1998. The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape (MCL) was declared as a National Heritage Site in 2001 and it was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2003.

The MCL was inscribed on the World Heritage List in 2003 because it is believed to be of outstanding universal value for the following reasons:

  • The MCL contains evidence for an important interchange of human values that led to far-reaching cultural and social changes in southern Africa between AD 900 and 1300.
  • The remains in the MCL are a remarkably complete testimony to the growth and subsequent decline of the Mapungubwe State which at its height was the largest kingdom on the African subcontinent.
  • The establishment of Mapungubwe as a powerful state trading through the East African ports with Arabia and India was a significant stage in the history of the African sub-continent.
  • The remains in the MCL graphically illustrate the impact of climate change and record the growth, and then decline, of the Kingdom of Mapungubwe as a clear record of a culture that became vulnerable to irreversible change.

The remains of this famous kingdom,when viewed against the present day fauna and flora, and the geo-morphological formations of the Limpopo/Shashe confluence, create an impressive cultural landscape of universal significance.


Mapungubwe: An Archaeological Site

The Discovery

In December 1932, Ernst van Graan, his son Jerry and three other men searched the farm Greefswald, where both Mapungubwe and K2 are located, for a sacred hill rumoured to hold the treasure of kings. Arriving eventually at the steep-sided and seemingly unscaleable hill, a local man, known only as Mowena, reluctantly pointed the way to a narrow path well concealed in a cleft in the rock. Reaching the top of the hill, the men found remnants of stone walls and large quantities of potsherds, some iron tools and copper and glass beads scattered on the ground. They returned the next day with spades and soon unearthed ancient graves, three which were different and probably belonged to royalty. The first, probably a woman, was buried in sitting position facing west. She wore gold bangles around her ankles and there were gold and glass beads in the grave. The second grave was a tall middle-aged man, also sitting up and facing west. He wore a necklace of gold beads and cowrie shells and some objects covered in gold foil, one resembling a crocodile. In the third grave, probably also from a man, a golden bowl, scepter and a golden rhino were found. This rhino has become a ymbol for Mapungubwe. The men split the gold between them but one, Jerry van Graan, realising the possible significance of the find, sent a few small pieces of gold together with a letter to his former professor, Leo Fouche at the University of Pretoria. Professor Fouche immediately mounted an expedition to recover and secure the newly found treasures and the surrounding environment for archaeological research. Excavations in the 1930s unearthed 23 graves on top of Mapungubwe Hill. Three were different and probably belong to high royalty.

The Excavations

In June 1933 the government purchased the farm Greefswald, gave the University of Pretoria the right to excavate for a period of five years and constituted an Archaeological Committee at the university to take charge of the excavations. Exploratory excavations in 1933 were followed by large-scale excavations between 1934 and 1940. Unfortunately the lack of proper recording procedures during this time means that valuable evidence may have been lost. Work on the site was halted during World War II and limited, but more systematic excavations were undertaken in the 1950s and 1960s. After 1970 widespread excavations were undertaken at K2 and Mapungubwe. These were aimed at establishing a firm database by testing, correcting and supplementing the earlier research, coming to an understanding of the Iron Age settlement sequence and reconstructing the way of life of the sites' inhabitants. This information is available in a range of specialist reports, academic publications and guide-books. In the late 1990s, after the area was designated as a National Park, extensive rehabilitation and stabilisation work was undertaken to secure the archaeological sites. Research over the past decade has focused on the material held in the University of Pretoria's Mapungubwe Collection, gathered over the 60-year period of excavations. The Mapungubwe Museum, established by the University of Pretoria in 2000, serves as a centre for the conservation and display of the collection, disseminating information about Mapungubwe in all its diversity.

The Reburials

Between 1933 and 1998 the remains of about 147 individuals were excavated from the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape. These included individuals buried on Mapungubwe Hill and in the K2 area. These human remains were excavated from their graves and placed in the collections of the University of Pretoria, the University of the Witwatersrand and Ditsong Museum where they were used for research purposes. Individuals and organisations representing the descendants of the people of Mapungubwe, including the Vhangona Cultural Movement, the Lemba Cultural Association, the San Council, the Tshivula Royal Family, the Ga-Machete Royal Family and the Leshiba Royal Family came together after 1994 to request government to facilitate the process of repatriation and reburial of these human remains. The National Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism was tasked with facilitating this process. After extensive consultation, the human remains were symbolically released to representatives of the descendants on 29 October 2007. The remains were reburied on 20 November, following a cleansing ceremony.


Mapungubwe: A Cultural Landscape

Dinosaurs

Two of the earliest plant-eating dinosaurs, Plateosauravus (Euskelosaurus) and Massospondylus, are known to have lived in the area now known as the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape (MCL). Plateosauravus, the oldest South African dinosaur, lived about 210 million years ago and is believed to have grown to be about 10 metres long. Massospondylus, the most common South African dinosaur, lived about 195 million years ago and is believed to have grown to between three and six metres long. These two species are similar in many ways. They both had long tapered necks and tails and elongated cylindrical bodies and they both walked on all fours, standing upright on their hind legs in order to reach the succulent young fronds of cycads and seed ferns. Like many other dinosaurs, these used their hands to manipulate objects like branches or to prop or pull themselves up against objects.

Early hunter-gatherers 300,000 and 2,000 years ago

The first inhabitants of the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape (MCL) who arrived about 300,000 years ago were people of the Earlier Stone Age (ESA). They walked upright but their brains were not as well developed as ours. Many ESA stone tools have been found at open-air sites such as Hackthorne and Keratic Koppie. The tools include handaxes, picks, cleavers and scrapers that were made from local rocks such as quartz, chert, chalcedony and occasionally dolerite. Between 250,000 and 130,000 years ago the heavy tools of the ESA were replaced by lighter and more technologically advanced Middle Stone Age (MSA) tools. At Kudu Koppie and Parma Farm these tools, made by physically modern people, include parallel-sided blades and triangular points which were hafted to make hunting spears. There is evidence from a rock shelter at Balerno that by 11,000 years ago, small groups of people of the Later Stone Age (LSA), ancestors of the San (Bushmen), had begun to live in the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape. Tools associated with this and other LSA sites such as Thudwa Shelter at Little Muck, include carefully prepared blades and scrapers made from fine grained rocks, such as quartz or chalcedony. The tools are generally smaller than those of the MSA. Towards the end of the LSA, about 3,000 years ago, people in the MCL began painting images of animals and people on the walls of rock shelters to record their beliefs and rituals. MSA and LSA tools accumulated on the floor of rock shelters, together with bones of animals they ate and decayed plant matter that built up in layers when people returned to these places repeatedly. Analysis of the remains shows that the LSA inhabitants lived mainly off small animals such as small antelope, tortoises, hares and fish caught by hunting and snaring.

Changing populations 100 to 900 AD

Hunter-gatherers living in the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape were probably surprised around the first century AD when LSA herders and early framers entered the area By AD 450, an even more dramatic change had taken place, as Early Iron-Age farmers moved into the area, bringing with them farmers with them domesticated cattle, sheep and goats, crops such as sorghum and millet, and skills such as iron- and copper-working and pottery-making. How did these three groups interact with each other? What effect did the influx of newcomers have on the people already living there? And what effect did the newcomers have on the landscape? Excavations in rock shelters in the MCL show that hunter-gatherers did not move away during the first millennium AD, and were in fact more active. This is reflected in larger numbers of stone tools, bone tools, ostrich eggshell and Achatina shell beads and ochre, as well as new items such as glass beads and pottery. The increased activity is believed to be the result of interaction with farmers who took over land and resources previously available to hunter-gatherers in the region. The hunter-gatherers therefore stayed for longer periods in rock shelters and other places less favoured by the farmers and created new economic networks, taking agricultural produce, pottery, metal and glass beads in exchange for hides and wild meat. Hunter-gatherers continued to make rock paintings during this period to emphasise their ownership of rock shelters and their powers of rain-making.

Middle Iron Age farmers and traders AD 900 to 1000

By about AD 900, Zhizo people had moved into the area, establishing settlements in the MCL, eastern Botswana and south-west Zimbabwe. At least 25 Zhizo settlements have been identified in the MCL. In most cases these settlements are set back from the Limpopo and other rivers, in areas where crops could be cultivated without threat of destruction by floods or marauding elephants. Schroda is the largest of the Zhizo settlements in the MCL and is generally referred to as the Zhizo capital. Located on a rocky plateau close to the Limpopo River, Schroda was home to between 300 and 500 people. Zhizo presence in the MCL diminished after about a hundred years, and while some settlements remained, the chiefdom moved westwards into Botswana. The area was soon dominated by a new group, the Leopard's Kopje people.

Zhizo farmers and hunter-gatherers

Hunter-gatherers were no longer able to move freely around the landscape to gather wild plant foods and to hunt easy prey. The differences in the belief systems and social organisation of farmers and hunter-gatherers made it difficult for them to inter-marry, and the perceived benefits of the goods and services that each group had to offer probably also changed over time. Zhizo farmers may have valued the services of the 'first people' who were considered to have power over nature and the supernatural in terms of rain-control, as well as local knowledge of plants and herbal remedies. Hunter-gatherers would have valued the metal tools, cultivated grains and glass beads that they received from the Iron Age farmers.

Leopard's Kopje people, AD 1000 to 1220

People making Leopard's Kopje pottery began to live in the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape about a thousand years ago. The largest settlement was at the site now known as K2, but there were many smaller villages in and around the Limpopo floodplain. The name 'K2' was given to the site by archaeologist Guy Gardner who was trained in Egypt where the word 'Kom' means a mound or midden, a heap of discarded food remains, artefacts, etc disc, built up by people living in the same place over many generations. K1 is a smaller mound to the east of K2. The Leopard's Kopje farmers cultivated crops on the flat lands between the hills where they could take full advantage of the seasonal flooding of the Limpopo River and its tributaries. They made a substantial impact on the natural landscape, clearing land for the cultivation of crops, dumping refuse and burning old houses and kraals. Even today, a thousand years later, middens and kraals are still easily identifiable because very little vegetation grows on them. Animal bones excavated from these settlements show that the people ate meat from sheep, goats and cattle, supplemented with game and fish from the river. Seeds preserved from cultivated crops include sorghum, millet, beans and cowpeas. . Metal artefacts included arrowheads, spearheads, hoe blades, beads, bangles and wire. Small quantities of iron and copper ore and slag show that metal working took place in and around the settlement. Almost a hundred graves were found at K2. Information about them can be found in Cairn Three.

Mapungubwe: AD 1220 to AD 1300

Between AD 1220 and AD 1300, Leopard's Kopje people settled on and around Mapungubwe Hill. This site is renowned as the centre of southern Africa's first indigenous kingdom. The kingdom flourished as the result of trade with the Indian Ocean network. The emergence of a class-based society is reflected in the separation of an elite class with a sacred leader who lived on top of the hill, and commoners who lived on the plains below. At the height of its importance, between AD 1220 and AD 1300, the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape sustained a population of at least 9,000 people. Mapungubwe is arguably best known for the gold artefacts found in graves on the hill in the 1930s. Three of these graves contained gold beads and other items confirming the high status of the individuals who lived and were buried on the hilltop.

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Park Map

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Tariffs

Daily Conservation Fees for 1 November 2014 to 31 October 2015

South African Citizens and Residents (with ID): R38 per adult, per day
R19 per child, per day
SADC Nationals (with passport): R76 per adult, per day
R38 per child, per day
Standard Conservation Fee (Foreign Visitors): R152 per adult, per day
R76 per child, per day


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Vital Information

Internal Road Network

Approximately 35km of roads are suitable for normal sedan vehicles. A further 100 km is accessible to all terrain (4x4) vehicles. Fill up your fuel tank at Alldays/ Musina as you cannot buy petrol at the park. All the roads within the Park is gravel. Bookings at Tshugulu Lodge, Limpopo Forest Tented Camp, Mazhou Camping Site and Maloutswa Bird Hide requires one to drive outside the park in order to rejoin the Western section of the Park where the camps are located.

Vehicle Restrictions

No caravans are allowed in the eastern section of the park due to roads conditions. We have a caravan park at Mazhou camping site on the western section of the park.

Fuel Stations: Petrol/ Diesel

There is no fuel station inside the park. The closest filling stations are in Musina 70km and All days 65km from the main gate.

Day Visitors

Entry is via the SANParks Wild Card system, or payment at the gate. Cut off time for day visitors’ entry is two hours before the gate closing time. No open bakkies with people at the back will be allowed in to the Park.

Official hours

Gate, Camps and Facilities 1 September - 31 March 1 April - 31 August
Gate and Reception opening time (travel only allowed from camps) 06:00 06:30
Gate and Reception closing time (travel only allowed from camps) 18:30 18:00

Facilities Opening time Closing time
Restaurant 08:00 20:00
Curio Shop 08:00 16:00
Museum 08:00 16:00
Confluence Shop 08:00 18:00

Please note:

  • Check-in time is from 14:00 and check-out time is before 10:00.
  • In order to allow for check-in and suitable travelling time to the camps, please arrive at the Mapungubwe Main Gate an hour before gate closing time.
  • Late travelling to the camps is only allowed for guest participating in the afternoon activities and those who had dinner at the restaurant (please ensure proof of payment can be produced upon request by the park official enroute to the camp).

Climate

The climate is semi-arid with mean annual rainfall ranging from 350mm - 400mm. Rainfall is highly variable and usually falls during the summer months. Extended periods of below average rainfall occur. In summer temperatures sometimes rise to 45°C. The winters are mild.

Summer can be hot, but bearable and enjoyable if planned correctly. Early summer mornings and afternoons are the most rewarding in the park, for birds, trees and game. Winters are mild. There is on average 10 rainy days per year.

Hints & Tips

  • Mapungubwe National Park is an area with large and dangerous game animals and unguided walking is not permitted. Guests, who would like to arrange activities such as walks, drives and visits to cultural attractions, can do so directly with Mapungubwe.
  • As outdoor lighting in camps is limited, a torch/headlamp is required when walking outside at night.
  • Guests should take precautions against malaria when visiting Mapungubwe.
  • All Mapungubwe’s camps are accessible by normal sedan vehicles, but it is advisable to have a 4x4 or high clearance vehicle to ensure an enjoyable drive inside the park. There are also a number of eco-trails for which a 4x4 is required.
  • The closest shops and fuel supplies to Mapungubwe are in Alldays and Musina, both about 70 km’s from the Park. However, the Restaurant, Curio Shop and Mini Confluence Shop sell basic food supplies.
  • The are no debit card facilities available in the Park. Payments can only be made via cash or credit card. Cheques are not accepted.

What visitors need to take:

  • Mapungubwe has a Restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as a Curio Shop/Mini Confluence Shop selling basic food supplies. The units are self catering and fully equipped.
  • Sunscreen, hat, binoculars, field guides, liquids for drinking.
  • Fill up your fuel tank at Alldays/ Musina.

Conservation

The significance of the Mapungubwe National Park and the areas surrounding it is enhanced by the potential role of the area as a sanctuary for viable populations of some of the most threatened large mammals on earth, such as the black rhinoceros, wild dog, cheetah, brown hyena and elephant. It also is one of the last protected areas of the Limpopo riverine forest.

Scientific Services

The area has tremendous potential for research, both cultural and biological. Currently there is an Elephant Project and numerous cultural research projects.

Projects

Poverty Relief projects worth R48 million was completed during 2002-2004. These projects provided work to more than 1 000 people. A next round of projects is planned for 2005-2007. With this funding the park intend to built an Interpretive Centre and rehabilitate numerous aspects of the park.

Contact Information

  • Email: Mapungubwe National Park
  • Reception numbers: (015) 534 7923/24
  • Hospitality Manager: Tintswalo Mhlongo; tintswalo.mhlongo@sanparks.org; (015) 534 7923/24
  • Park Manager and Interpretation Centre: (015) 534 7925
  • Tele-fax: (015) 534 7926
  • Duty Manager & Emergency Numbers: 076 846 1593 /071 505 7070

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Cultural Heritage

South African National Parks (SANParks) has established itself as a reputable nature based tourism destination within the global tourism market.

Limitations of past apartheid and conservation laws have, in the past, inhibited SANParks’ ability to explore and promote a variety of community linked tourism opportunities as well as an exploration of associated park based cultural assets. In order “to deliver a people-centred conservation and tourism mandate for SANParks, all National Parks have effectively embarked on a mission to develop and promote culture-based tourism products. The strategy aims to tap into and support the development of those cultural dimensions that enable more depth of interaction with, and understanding of, local people in and around National Parks, the regions and their unique cultural identities.

Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site

Mapungubwe and its recent declaration as a World Heritage Site has helped to highlight the significance of cultural heritage within SANParks.The inextricable links between people, biodiversity conservation and cultural heritage have become more evident through Mapungubwe. A number of initiatives have now come up within SANParks to enable a more dedicated focus on cultural heritage and community participation.

The Mapungubwe National Park provides unparalleled opportunities for the development of cultural resources as a sustainable component in the overall park development and management.

As contemporary South Africa increasingly takes interest in, and its inspiration from, the Kingdom of Mapungubwe, there are opportunities for building a national constituency across the country amongst particularly the youth. Significantly, the story of Mapungubwe and its importance in the overall history of the sub-continent has been incorporated into the national schools’ curricula. This means that the site itself is increasingly becoming a focus for educational tours, with many primary and secondary schools as well as students from tertiary institutions visiting the park.

The formation of the park at a time when issues of landownership and restitution has come to the fore throughout southern Africa also provides an opportune moment for the park authorities to implement models of outreach to local communities. The park now regularly hosts communities from Botswana and Zimbabwe who, for almost more than 100 years were cut off from ancestral land of which their ancestors once were an integral part. In this way the park is reaching out to a broader Southern-African community – an initiative that, it is hoped, will eventually culminate in the formation of a Transfrontier Conservation Area. Transfrontier Conservation Areas signifciantly promote regional integration, greater biodiversity, environmental tourism and economic growth.


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Birding in Mapungubwe

Because of its new status, the park is relatively unexplored bird wise and with its proximity to Botswana and Zimbabwe , all sorts of species could turn up.

Along the Limpopo specials for South Africa such as Meve’s (Longtailed) Starling, Tropical Boubou and the reclusive Pel’s Fishing Owl should be searched for. There is a high density of Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle in this craggy landscape and other raptors are also prominent.

Particularly enticing is an abundance of cuckoo species in summer with up to eleven different species being found, including the rarer Common and Thickbilled Cuckoos.

 A list of over 400 species for the area is purported and will be posted on this site once available electronically.

An interesting attraction of the park is the occurrence of species typical of the arid western regions of the country (e.g. Southern Pied Babbler, Crimson-breasted Shrike and Black-faced (Black-cheeked) Waxbill) occur alongside species associated with the moister Lowveld habitat of the Kruger National Park .

At Leokwe Camp Verreaux’s (Black) Eagle nest on the cliff face above the reception block.

The most prominent bird is probably the Cinnamon-breasted (Rock) Bunting, but other species associated with bush and rocky environments are common too. Blue Waxbill and Black-backed Puffback are also particularly common.

The Limpopo Tree-top Boardwalk and hide is a magnificent facility allowing the visitor into the trees alongside the birds or looking down on those that forage on the ground and lower strata. Meyer’s Parrot, White-crested Helmetshrike, Meve’s (Longtailed) Starling and some flycatcher species will be seen. Both Tropical and Southern Boubou occur.

Birding from the hide in the riverbed will vary depending on water levels in the river and can be very rewarding. Pel’s Fishing Owl are around, so hope for some luck. White-fronted Bee-eater breeds in the river banks and are very prominent. African Fish Eagle will make their presence known too.

The Confluence is a great place to scan for passing raptors, while several other species will be easy to locate here.

At the Limpopo Forest Tented Camp the environment is very similar in appearance and atmosphere to the Pafuri Picnic Site in Northern Kruger.

And the cacophony of birds calling in the morning suggests it will be as productive.

Yellow-bellied Greenbul, Meve’s (Long-tailed) Starlings, Black-backed Puffback and Tropical Boubou should be seen, and Southern Pied Babbler and Natal Spurfowl (Francolin) are very vocal as are Orange-breasted and Grey-headed Bush-shrikes and Grey-backed Camaroptera (Bleating Warbler).

At night one should hear several species of owl including Barn, African and White-faced Scops, Verreaux’s (Giant) Eagle and Pearl-spotted. Pel’s are also not infrequently seen in the area.

The Maloutswa Hide is a good place to sit to watch mammals and birds of all descriptions come and go. To get there from the Tented Camp is a short drive, first through riverine woodland, then through arid thornveld, before one passes across a plain of reclaimed and rehabilitating farmland.

This human intervention has created a different habitat type and is rewarding from a birding perspective. Kori Bustards are prominent while Chestnut-backed Sparrowlark and Wattled Starling are nomadic, but may be abundant. Temminck’s Courser and Ground Hornbill may also be seen in this habitat, as will a number of swallows.

Crimson-breasted Shrike are resident in the area by the hide’s parking area. Red-billed Buffalo Weaver and Meve’s (Long-tailed) Starlings will be among the most evident of species seen from the hide, but anything is possible. Leopard and Bushpig are regular evening visitors.

The Limpopo Floodplain in flood is a paradise for aquatic birds when in flood. Grey-crowned cranes, up to 7 stork species and several wader, heron, crake and duck species will be seen in these wet times.

Rarities are always on the cards. It is reported that Boulder Chat has been seen and when one looks at the habitat (particularly around Leokwe) and considers the proximity to the Matobos and other known locations, it would appear a distinct possibility.

There are many stands of Lala Palms (although the elephants do hammer them) and Collared Palm Thrush has been recorded.

Other specials that one should look out for include Great White Pelican, White-backed Night Heron, Bat Hawk, Augur Buz za rd, African Hobby, Dickinson’s Kestrel, Green Sandpiper, Three-banded Courser, Blue-spotted Wood Dove, Grey-headed Parrot, Senegal Coucal, Pennant-winged Nightjar, Blue-cheeked Bee-eater, Broad-billed and Racket-tailed Roller, African Golden Oriole, Olive-tree Warbler and who knows what else.

View Limpopo Birding Route (www.limpopobirding.com) for more birding info on the park and the surrounding area.

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Mammals

Most of the large game species occur in the park. There is a lot of movement of game between the three countries, and game numbers fluctuate.

Current species include:

Eland (common)

Kudu (common)

Blue Wildebeest (common)

Zebra (common)

Waterbuck (common)

Impala (common)

Bushbuck (common)

Klipspringer (common)

Duiker (common)

Steenbok (common)

Red Hartebeest (rare)

Gemsbok (common)

Giraffe (common)

Bush pig (common)

Warthog (common)

Baboon (common)

Elephant (common)

White rhino (rare)

Lion (rare)

Leopard (common)

Cheetah (rare)

Hyena, spotted and brown (rare)

Wild dog (rare)

Aardvark (common)


There are numerous smaller game species, including badgers, sivets, porcupine, caracal, vervet monkey, and a host of smaller species. The Kongoni Loop (4x4 vehicles only) and Maloutswa Pan hide can be rewarding.

There is a varied reptile fauna. Pythons and Black mambas are common.

Insect and other arthropod life is diverse. From November to March the beautiful Mopane Moth can be seen flying around. The large larves of these moths are a valuable food source in the northern parts of the country. At least nine scorpion species has been identified in the park.

A number of well preserved fossils, including flowering plants as well as whole-bodied insects, were recovered from the fine-grained mudstones. Other interesting fossil finds are dinosaur footprints and fossilized termite mounds.


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Vegetation

The numerous habitat types have resulted in high species diversity.

There are at least 24 Acacia species and 8 Commiphora species, amongst other. Other vegetation of the area is a typically short fairly dense growth of shrubby Mopane trees, generally associated with a number of other trees and shrubs and a somewhat sparse and tufted grassveld. The riparian fringe of the Limpopo is of prime importance from the point of view of conservation. It is a dense vegetation community with a closed canopy which occurs in the rich alluvial deposits along the river.

The most striking trees in this community fever trees, Ana trees, Leadwoods, Fig trees and acacias. Extensive patches of this vegetation have been cleared for cultivation elsewhere along the length of the Limpopo River. The Limpopo floodplain has allowed some trees to grow to massive sizes. Nyala berries and Ana trees can get particularly big.

There are also some very large baobabs in the park, with one specimen having a circumference of 31m.


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People with disabilities

Wheelchair Access

Accommodation

Leokwe Rest Camp

Cottage (CO2/4Z)

The unit is accessible to the mobility challenged. The airconditioned cottage features one bedroom with two single beds, a double sleeper couch (not suitable for adults) and a bathroom with shower. Also included is an open-plan kitchen, DSTV (limited channels), braai facilities and a ceiling fan.

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Limpopo Forest Tented Camp:

Forest Tent (FT2Z)

The unit is accessible to the mobility challenged. The tent features two single beds and a bathroom with shower. Also included is a kitchen, braai facilities and a ceiling fan.

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Please note:

Accommodation images may differ from the actual units as refurbishment of various accommodation types occur on an on-going basis.

Accessible Activities & Facilities

  • There are accessible ablutions at Mazhou Campsite and accessible toilets at the park entrance, the confluence and the Interpretation Centre.
  • Accessible features of the park include: a tree-top boardwalk, the three country confluence lookout points and the Interpretation Centre.

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