Tuesday, 25 August 2009 02:59 administrator


Mapungubwe is one of South Africa’s newest National Parks. Declared a National Heritage Site in December 2001, the park was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in July 2003. It is situated in the Limpopo Province, 70 km west of Musina (the main border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe), and at the confluence of the mighty Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. Mapungubwe is positioned on the international borders of Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and it is envisaged that the park will eventually form part of a Trans-Frontier Park (or “Peace Park”) shared by the three countries.

The name Mapungubwe comes from a prominent hill in the park – meaning “hill of the jackal” in Sotho and “place of stone” in Venda. Until its demise at the end of the 13th century AD, Mapungubwe was the most important inland settlement and richest city in the sub-continent, and extended over an area of about 30 000 square kilometres on either side of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers.

Mapungubwe was the “capital”, and there were over 200 satellite towns under its control. It was South Africa’s first “Egoli” (“City of Gold”). Contacts with Islamic traders on the east coast, who were part of a larger Indian Ocean trading network, led to gold and elephant ivory, as well as animal hides and hippo ivory, being worked and exchanged for glass beads and ceramics that came from as far afield as India, Indonesia and China. The site was discovered in 1932 but hidden from public attention until only recently. The findings were kept quiet at the time since they provided evidence contrary to the racist ideology of the apartheid state. Mapungubwe was home to a highly sophisticated African civilisation that flourished before colonisation, and was home to the ancestors of the Shona people of Zimbabwe. It is also the earliest known site in southern Africa where evidence indicates the existence of a class-based society - Mapungubwe's leaders were separated from the rest of the inhabitants, and lived in a court atop Mapungubwe Hill. Artefacts made of gold and other materials, as well as human remains, were discovered at the site. The most spectacular of the gold discoveries is a little gold rhinoceros, made of gold foil and tacked with minute pins around a wooden core. Other artefacts made in similar fashion include a golden sceptre and golden bowl, found in the same grave on Mapungubwe Hill.

Mapungubwe's fortune only lasted until about 1300, after which time climate changes, resulting in the area becoming colder and drier, led to migrations north to the site of Great Zimbabwe. Besides the rich cultural heritage of Mapungubwe, it is situated in a spectacularly beautiful part of the country, alongside Kipling’s “great grey green greasy Limpopo River”. Most of Africa’s big game occur – including Elephant, Black and White Rhinoceros, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard, African Wild Dog and Hippopotamus. There is also a tremendous diversity of terrain and plant life, ranging from lush riverine forest to savanna plains criss-crossed by river courses to sandstone koppies (hills) - utterly unlike anywhere else in southern Africa. Some of the biggest trees in the world occur here – including the legendary Baobabs and massive Nyalaberries (Mashatu trees).

We’re desperately keen to take people to see this awesome part of the country. A visit to Mapungubwe could be linked to the superb Mashatu Private Game Reserve, across the Limpopo River in the Tuli Block region of North East Botswana. The largest elephant herd (around 1 500) on private property in the world occurs in the Tuli Block region. See



UNESCO protects certain sites around the world for their natural or cultural significance. South Africa currently has SEVEN sites - Mapungubwe, plus the following six :

# Robben Island - South Africa's "Alcatraz"!

# The Cradle of Humankind - where we ALL had our origins!

# The Vredefort Dome - site of a massive meteorite "crash" into the Earth millions of years ago.

# The uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park - our highest mountain range, rich with San (Bushman) rock art.

# The iSimangaliso / Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park - one of the most important wetlands systems in the world - and home to "The Big Five" and other classic African game.

# The Cape Floral Kingdom - the world's tiniest, but most diverse, plant kingdom.

Last Updated on Sunday, 05 February 2012 09:36