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Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site

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This page displays all information relevant to this park/camp, except the following:

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.

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

Guests at any of the park's camps must check in at the main gate reception area.

Camp

Leokwe Camp

This is Mapungubwe’s main camp, located in the eastern section of the Park 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. 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.

Vhembe Wilderness Camp

In the eastern section of Mapungubwe National Park, 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.

Mazhou Camping Site

The Mazhou Camping Site in Mapungubwe National Park is situated close to the Limpopo Forest Tented Camp in the Western Section of the Park caters for 10 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

The Park can be contacted on:

Tel: 015 534 2014
Fax: 015 534 0102
E-mail

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Activities

Visit the Confluence

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

There is a picnic site with ablution facilities at the Confluence with shaded picnic spots with tables and taps. You can also hire a skottel braai and stock up on cooldrinks at the tuck shop.

Vhembe Wilderness Trails Camp

The Vhembe Wilderness Trails Camp is about 14km from the main gate. The camp is situated on the eastern side of the park on the sandstone rocks not 5 km away from the mighty Limpopo River. The units are made of canvas and wooded plank on the sides, wooden floors and thatch roofs with netted windows. There are 4 cabins at the camp that can accommodate 8 people per night. The trail camp units are as follows:

 
Accommodation
Activities
Tariffs

Cabin only (book directly with the camp)

- One bedroom with 2 single beds, a fan, en-suit showers and toilets.
- Communal kitchen with a dinning area, fridge, gas stove, braai area and fan.

 

R345 for two

Wilderness trails cabin

- One bedroom with two single beds, a fan, en-suite showers and toilets.
- A communal kitchen with a dinning area, fridge, gas stove, braai area and fan.

Night drives
Morning walks or
Heritage tours

R1 817 for two
R907.50/person


Heritage Tours:

As part of this tour, you will be given the opportunity to visit the elite graveyard at the top of Mpaungubwe 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.

**Please note: Meals optional @ R220 per person. These include food, drinks and snacks (No alcohol). Visitors are encouraged to bring their own food.**

Do the Tree Top Walk

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 2008 to 31 October 2009***

Tours/Drives/Walks
Departure Time
Duration
Tariff per person

Heritage Tour

07:00 & 10:00

2-3 hours

R115

Morning Walk

Negotiable

2-3 hours

R245

Morning Drive

05:30

2-3 hours

R140

Sunset Drive

16:00

2-3 hours

R140

Night Drive

19:30

2-3 hours

R140


* Guided Walks are also available. Please contact the park for more information on this activity.

* Please note that all activities can be booked by e-mailing Mapungubwe National Park or calling +27 (0)15 534 2014 They are subject to the availability of qualified staff and vehicles, and thus, they may not be always available.

Follow the Route of Lost Kingdoms

The Route of Lost Kingdoms stretches from inside the gates of the Kruger National Park at the ancient stone wall site of Thulamela, follows a trail of myths and legends to the Mapungubwe World Heritage site and onwards to the small town of Alldays. The route gives tourists the opportunity to explore this undiscovered region in the north of South Africa, bordering Botswana and Zimbabwe.

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History of the Park

Kings & Riches

What makes Mapungubwe a World Heritage Site and a place of pilgrimage for Africans is the amazing history of Mapungubwe Hill and its surroundings. The people that inhabited this area between 900 and 1270 AD were cattle and crop farmers who extensively participated in the Indian Ocean trade with Egypt, India and China. Their wealth and the physical division between the sacred leader and the commoners were a first for Southern Africa – the disbanding of the kingdom still puzzles scientists.

Rocking Art

Mapungubwe also speaks of earlier times of human habitation. The San and their forebears roamed the area for the last 5.000 years. They left over 150 (documented) rock art sites in the Limpopo/Shashe confluence area, a rich library of painted and engraved images that provide insight into the world and beliefs of these hunter-gatherers. Depiction of kudus is very typical for the rock art shelters in this area.

Park in Progress

From the rediscovery of Mapungubwe in 1932 to the Battle of Dongola – the recent history that ultimately led to the proclamation of the park is intriguing. The battle for example was a public and parliamentary debate which in 1947 culminated in a protected area of 92.000 hectares. A year later the Nationalist Party won the elections and disbanded the park. With the proclamation of Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site history is now full circle.

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Park Map

Click on the map to view enlarged.

Map

Satellite map

 

Map

 

Map

 

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Tariffs

Members of SANParks’ loyalty programme WILD do not pay conservation fees provided that proof of Identity and their WILD card are shown on arrival.

Daily Conservation Fee for 1 November 2008 to 31 August 2009

South African Citizens and Residents (with ID):

R19 per person, per day

SADC Nationals (with passport):

R38 per person, per day
R19 per child, per day

Standard Conservation Fee (Foreign Visitors):

R76 per adult, per day
R38 per child, per day

 

Tariffs for 1 November 2008 to 31 August 2009

Unit type
No. of units
Rate
Base
Max. beds
Add. Adult
Add. Child
Leokwe Camp

8

R655

1–2

2 single beds and 1 double sleeper couch

n/a

R108

6

R655

1-4

2 single beds and 1 double sleeper couch

n/a

R108

Cottage CO2/4Z (accessible to the mobility challenged)

2

R655

1-4

2 single beds and 1 double sleeper couch

n/a

R108

Family Cottage FF4

2

R1 040

1-4

4 singles beds

n/a

n/a

Limpopo Forest Camp

Forest Tent FT2

7

R620

1-2

2 single beds

n/a

n/a

Forest Tent FT2Z (unit accessible to the mobility challenged)

1

R620

1-2

2 single beds

n/a

n/a

Mazhou Camping Site

10

R130

1-2

6 people per site

R42

R21

Tshugulu Lodge

1

R1 925

1-4

3 double beds and 6 single beds

R370

R185

Vhembe Wilderness Cabins

Wilderness Cabin (communal kitchen)

4

R1 815

1-2

2 single beds

n/a

n/a

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General Information

Internal Road Network:

Approximately 35 km 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.

Vehicle Restrictions:

No caravans are allowed in the park, due to the nature of the roads.

Fuel Stations: Petrol/ Diesel

Vehicle fuel is available in all parks (or is available on the park periphery):

  • South African legislation stipulates that fuel stations are only allowed to accept legitimate petrol / fuel / garage cards or cash as a form of payment for any fuel purchase.
  • Unfortunately no credit cards will be accepted as payment for fuel at any fuel stations.

Day visitors:

Entry is via the SANParks Wild Card system, or payment at the gate.

Official hours:

Reception:

From 08:00 in the morning to 16:00 in the afternoon.
Tel: +27 (0) 15 534 0102

Gate opening and closing times

From 06:00 to 18:00

Check-in / check-out

Check-in is from 12:00 to 18:00 and check-out is before 10:00.

Climate:

The climate is semi-arid with mean annual rainfall ranging from 350 – 400 mm. 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.
  • Guests should take precautions against malaria when visiting Mapungubwe.
  • All Mapungubwe’s camps are accessible by normal sedan vehicles, as are many of the roads 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.

What visitors need to take:

  • There are no shops at Mapungubwe. The units are self catering and fully equipped. Take all food, drinks and firewood. The Vhembe Trails Camp is catered, but take your own drinks.
  • 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

For enquiries:
E-mail Mapungubwe National Park
Tel: +27 (0) 15 534 0102

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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 (one of the local farmers reportedly has one nesting in the yard of his house). 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 (limpopobirding.com) for more birding info on the park and the surrounding area.

(Compiled by Chris Patton)

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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 31 m.

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People with disabilities

Wheelchair Access

Public Toilets

There are accessible public toilets at the Main Gate, at Leokwe Camp Reception and at the Confluence.

Accommodation

One of the Limpopo forest tents and two of the Leokwe Cottages are adapted for the mobility impaired. All these units have roll-in showers.

Hides and Lookouts

  • The Limpopo Tree Top Boardwalk and Hide is fully accessible and provides a wonderful opportunity for people with mobility difficulties to move through the treetops and look out over the Limpopo River.
  • The pathway to the confluence viewing platforms has been made from compacted earth. It is quite steep in parts and the earth has eroded in patches to create soft sand hazards, but with assistance in getting there, the viewing platforms are fully accessible.
  • The Maloutswa Hide is along a long sandy pathway. Although there is an access ramp, this hide would only classify as partially accessible as assistance will be required by most to negotiate the soft sand.
  • The park’s other hides have not been visited by the writer

Other Facilities

  • The main gate and the Leokwe Reception Complex are both ramped.

(Please see additional information on Wheelchair Accessibility)

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