The creation of the Mapungubwe National Park has been an objective of the South African National Parks for many years. It is based on the rich biodiversity of the area, its great scenic beauty and the cultural importance of the archaeological treasures of Mapungubwe, within the proposed park area. The park is currently still in a developmental phase, and has not been consolidated yet, with some facilities still being completed. Extensive rehabilitation work and further infrastructure development will be taking place over the next few years.
The Mapungubwe National Park was previously known as Vhembe Dongola National Park. It is situated 60km west of Musina and about 230km from Polokwane, the capital town of Limpopo Province.
The park comprises the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape and the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site. It is also located at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe Rivers. Declared a National Heritage Site in December 2001, the park was listed as a World Heritage Site in July 2003. The Mapungubwe National Park covers an area that is well over 28 000 hectares.
The Mapungubwe National Park is positioned on the international borders of Botswana, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It is envisaged that the park will eventually form part of a Trans-Frontier Conservation Area shared by the three countries. It is the only geological defined cultural landscape in the region that includes a full set of successive stages in the early history of this area. Its nomination completes an historical triangle from Mapungubwe to Great Zimbabwe and Khami that continues to influence African society today.
International contacts with Islamic traders on the east coast, who were part of a larger Indian Ocean network, led to African gold and elephant ivory, as well as animal hides and hippo ivory, being worked and exchanged for glass beads and ceramics that derived from as far a field as the Indo-Pacific region, including India, Indonesia and China.
The park represents an area with exceptional cultural and natural values.
Over the years, it has retained the following values:
- Exhibition of vital interchange of human values, between 900 and 1300 AD in southern Africa – on developments in technology, and town planning;
- Exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilisation which has disappeared from the Limpopo/Shashe area;
- An outstanding example of a type of architectural and technological ensemble and landscape which illustrates a significant stage in human history; and
- An outstanding example of a traditional human settlement and land-use which is representative of a culture that became vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change.
The Mapungubwe National Park landscape has outstanding botanical, ecological, geological and geomorphologic merit, with a range of vegetation types associated with the outcrop of cave sandstone, baobab trees, Karoo fossils and ancient rocks nearly three billion years old. It provides a sanctuary to endangered large mammals, such as the black and white rhinoceros, wild dog, and the continent’s flagship species, the African elephant. The famous Golden Rhino along with artefacts, glass beads and pottery was unearthed from Mapungubwe National Park and is evidence of the capabilities of the people of that time in both mining as well as art.
Areas of special interest:
- Mapungubwe Hill: visits to this very sensitive area can only be done with a guide. Enquire at reception;
- The Treetop Hide: always good for birds and sometimes game;
- The Confluence: see the three countries and where the Sashe and Limpopo rivers meet. Also see the ancient fossilized termite mounds to the south of the picnic area;
- The Tshugulu Eco Route: a 4×4 is strongly recommended. This route covers 45km (4-6 hours) through some spectacular terrain and habitat. There is also a state-of-art game hide on this route. Enquire at reception;
- Maloutswa Pan: very good for game in the dry season, and for birds in the wet season; and
- Day walks: a qualified guide will take you for a walk in the bush. Enquire at reception. Walks depend on availability of guide.