Alan Murphy
Australia AU

Alan is a travel writer and author of over 20 Lonely Planet guidebooks, including the guides to Southern Africa and Zambia & Malawi.

Category: Alan Murphy's Column

This week Alan discovers a new Limpopo Safari route through the mysterious Waterberg region in South Africa that is rich in wildlife, landscapes and ancient civilisations.

I love this stunning route! I stumbled upon it on my recent trip to South Africa. It comprises Limpopo Province, a huge region bordering Kruger National Park; and a slice of Northwest Province, a much smaller region between Botswana and Gauteng. The safari begins in Mapungubwe National Park, and encompasses a once powerful trading kingdom, a lookout point across three countries and a stunning rocky, arid landscape.

Exploring history, borders and wildlife in Mapungubwe
Mapungubwe National Park is really special. A UNESCO World Heritage site it incorporates South Africa’s most important Iron Age Site. Archaeologists have found all manner of jewellery and ornaments dating back to the 13th-century in the park. The most impressive find is a gold-plated rhinoceros. Now that’s not something you see everyday - a golden rhino...

The park itself is a work in progress with a big slice in the middle still in private hands. Stubborn farmers...But perhaps the highlight for me was an absolute jaw-dropping lookout point where you can see far into Zimbabwe and Botswana (the park borders both)...and rock dassies sun themselves on the rocks at your feet.

The prolific wildlife is also a thrill, especially the giant eland, giraffes, duiker, rhino and meercats which are in abundance.

A Bird’s Eye View of Marakele
From Mapungubwe head south on your safari through the remote and stark Waterberg region - an internationally recognised and protected biosphere - and into Marakele National Park. This is full of the Big 5, and plenty of smaller wildlife treats - it’s also very beautiful. The best place to see it all is from the vulture-viewing point. And yes, there are plenty of vultures up here...Cape vultures actually, endangered, and one of the largest colonies in Africa.

From here you can easily duck down to Pilanesberg National Park in Northwest Province. We simply love this park - an extinct volcano crater, it is verdant in flora and bursting with fauna. And...what a treat, you may be lucky enough to spot wild dogs! Pilanesberg is more popular than the other two parks due to its proximity to Jo’burg as well as Sun City. What’s Sun City? Don’t ask - it’s horrible. A gambling and Africana-kitsch utopia. Yuck...

This route is right off the beaten track - especially the Limpopo Province leg: Mapungubwe-Marakele. Added to this plethora of South African beauty is the possibility of including private reserves in the Waterberg into your itinerary. There’s a stack of ’em and they usually offer great wildlife viewing opportunities.

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