The scenic and expansive landscape of Mapungubwe National Park has attracted countless visitors to this wildlife wonderland in the far north of South Africa. At 28,000 hectares, the park shares a border with Botswana and Zimbabwe and forms part of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area. The trickling waters of the Kolope, Limpopo and Shashe Rivers are a lifeline to the wildlife residents that include four members of the Big Five and countless bird species.
Mapungubwe’s unique sandstone formations, woodlands, riverine forest and baobab trees combine to give the park a fascinating look. The park protects the historical site of Mapungubwe Hill, the site of a community dating back to the Iron Age. Archaeologists also uncovered the famous golden rhino figurine from the site. The park has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003. It houses a museum where many of the artefacts uncovered in the park are on display.
The destination is most certainly worth it, but it is a bit of a journey to get to Mapungubwe National Park. It is around 530 kilometres north of Johannesburg where OR Tambo International Airport is situated. Visitors can either self-drive (at least six hours) or take a regional flight to Polokwane, about 200 kilometres from the park.
The different habitat types and landscapes of Mapungubwe National Park dotted with impressive baobabs, provide a thriving environment for a myriad of species. The park is a haven for lions and has been a Lion Conservation Unit since 2005. Leopards, elephants and rhinos are the other members of the Big Five present. Visitors can also spot predators like cheetah, wild dog, spotted hyena, brown hyena and caracal. A variety of antelope species including eland, kudu, bushbuck, waterbuck, impala, klipspringer, duiker and steenbok roam the park, while at least 17 bat species call the park home.
Avid birders can scan the sky for the more than 400 species that occur in the region. There is a high density of Verreaux's eagle with an abundance of cuckoo species. An interesting attraction of the park is the occurrence of species typical of the arid western regions of South Africa, like the Crimson-breasted shrike and black-faced waxbill.
Mapungubwe National Park is situated in a part of South Africa where the temperatures soar between November and February. The best time for game viewing is between May and September during the winter months. Animals congregate at available water sources and are easier to spot as the bush thins out considerably.
Game drives are at the top of the list activities in Mapungubwe National Park with guided morning walks bringing a different perspective to wildlife viewing. For a unique experience, safari-goers can book a bush braai to enjoy a scrumptious evening meal with glistening stars above and wildlife sounds all around. Those interested in the cultural history of the park, can have a closer look at the famous Golden Rhino during a museum tour or participate in a heritage tour with the opportunity to visit the elite graveyard at the top of Mapungubwe Hill.
There are a variety of overnight accommodation options available in Mapungubwe National Park that cater to all tastes and preferences. Visitors should, however, take note when making a booking that the park is divided into two sections - eastern and western section. Tshugulu Lodge, Limpopo Forest Tented Camp and Mazhou Camping Site are located in the western section. Leokwe Camp and Vhembe Wilderness Camp are located in the eastern section.