Mapungubwe National Park

The treasure we know today as the Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site has a troubled recent history. In 1918 already the corner of our country where the borders of South Africa, Botswana (then the British protectorate of Bechuanaland) and Zimbabwe (then still the British colony of South Rhodesia) met was set aside as a botanical reserve due to the area’s unique plant communities. It soon became known as the Dongola Botanical Reserve. In March 1947, with its size much reduced to placate the local farming community, the South African government proclaimed the Dongola Game Reserve at the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers. A change in government the following year however resulted in the fledgling conservation area being deproclaimed in its entirety almost immediately. A tiny portion of it, surrounding the Mapungubwe Hill, became a provincial nature reserve, Vhembe, in 1967. Then, in 1995, with South Africa now a multiracial democracy and Botswana and Zimbabwe independent countries in their own right, and after many years of a strict military presence on the border, this arid corner of our country was once again afforded the highest level of protection as the Vhembe-Dongola National Park. In September 2004, the park was opened to visitors and renamed the Mapungubwe National Park, in recognition of the fact that this area and its rich cultural heritage centred on Mapungubwe Hill was inscribed as a World Heritage Site the year before.

 

Mapungubwe’s human history dates back to hundreds of years before the colonial period however and is extremely fascinating. Visits to the interpretive centre near the gate and the archeological site on Mapunguwe Hill are not to be missed. Read more about it here.

Today, Mapungubwe covers 28,000 hectares and consists of two distinct parts, with private farming land isolating the two sections. Both sections adjoin the Limpopo River; the eastern portion is rugged and hilly – with beautiful baobab trees – while the western section is flat and dominated by a very different community of plants. Mapungubwe’s an arid place, with average annual rainfall below 400mm and summer temperatures that easily soar above 40°C.

Poacher’s Corner is an especially beautiful stretch of road through the riverine forest on the southern bank of the Limpopo.

Near Poacher’s Corner is Zebra Pan, itself a delightful place to park your vehicle and gawk at the constant stream of wildlife

The Maloutswa Pan and Hide in the west of the Park is yet another great spot to spend a few peaceful hours waiting for the birds and animals to come quench their thirst within easy reach of your lens.

Set atop a hill several lookout decks have been constructed from which to view the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers where the borders of the three countries meet. Near the car park there are also a few picnic tables and braai (barbeque) stands which are very popular with visitors to Mapungubwe.

The Treetop Walk on the bank of the Limpopo River is another place visitors to Mapungubwe National Park should not miss.

Mapunbuwe is home to a rich variety of wildlife, with records indicating a tally of 34 fish species, as many as 36 kinds of frogs, up to 75 species of reptiles, 460+ species of birds and 94 species of mammals, including the famed “Big 5“.

The South African National Parks provides an assortment of self-catering accommodation options in Mapunguwe National Park, ranging from camping sites at Mazhou in the riverine forest along the Limpopo River to the top-of-the-range Tshugulu Lodge. Guided drives and walks, including visits to the Mapungubwe archeological site, can be booked at reception, while there are several gravel roads available for exploration in your own vehicle (even more if you have a 4×4). Simple meals and firewood is available from the interpretive centre, but the nearest available fuel, and other services, to the Park is in the towns of Alldays or Musina, both about 70km from the gate.

Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site lies right at South Africa’s northernmost corner, roughly 470km north of our capital Pretoria.

Location of Mapungubwe National Park (Google Maps)

 

22 thoughts on “Mapungubwe National Park

  1. naturebackin

    What a great overview of the park – the arid landscapes and rock formations and incredible baobabs, the Limpopo with so much water, and your (and Joubert’s) impressive photos of animals and birds. Too many favourites to pick any in particular out. This park and Marakele have long been on our list to visit but we have not made it there yet. (We had a trip booked but had to cancel it when the Covid pandemic emerged … )

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. de Wets Wild Post author

      I still remember how excited I was to hear of your plans to visit Marakele and Mapungubwe, Carol, and then later feeling so disappointed that those plans had to be cancelled. I was really looking forward to reading about your perspectives and opinions of two places that are very close to our hearts.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. wetanddustyroads

    Sjoe, dis regtig ‘n baie mooi park … en so ver weg van alles (nes ons daarvan hou). En wat ‘n verskeidenheid van diere, blommetjies en mooi natuur tonele. Julle het sulke mooi foto’s hier geneem en ons bekend gestel aan baie verskillende fauna en flora. Dankie, dit was lekker om saam met julle hier te kuier!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. anne leueen

    I am glad it has been given protection as it appears to be a wonderful place with so much plant and animal diversity. Fabulous photos! Joubert shows us his skill with birds in flight again with the vulture. All the photos are lovely.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply

Please don't leave without sharing your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.