Travel | 13 Aug 2014 | By Sun International
Things to Do and See in Limpopo Province
Limpopo, South Africa's northern-most province, is a region of contrasts: pristine bushveld, majestic mountains, indigenous forests, and patchworks of farmland are spread across a harsh wilderness. Besides the mosaic of scenic landscapes, Limpopo also has a fascinating cultural heritage and an abundance of wildlife.
Situated in Polokwane, Limpopo's capital city, there's no better base from which to explore the province than the Meropa Casino and Entertainment World. This Moroccan-styled Sun International destination boasts a huge array of activities for the whole family, including WildThingZ, an incredible multi-species enclosure (the first of its kind in Africa). When you've had your fill of pampered spoils at the House of Asante Spa, head out to explore all that Limpopo has to offer:
1. Go for a game drive
The Polokwane Game Reserve is home to over 50 game species, including the rare white rhino, sable antelope, and giraffe. The park has over 300 bird species, and enthusiastic birders come here to see the tinkling cisticola, northern black korhaan, and breeding raptors like the African hawk-eagle. Plant enthusiasts will discover 110 different grasses, approximately 280 flowering plants and 68 tree species.
Nature's Way Adventure Safaris offer guided game drives into the Polokwane Game Reserve, which include a champagne breakfast in the bush. If you'd rather ditch the 4x4 for a saddle, Nature's Way has a number of guided horse trails on offer, including a full moon horse safari and romantic candlelit dinner.
2. Play a round of golf
The Polokwane Golf Club, founded in 1863, is rated among the top courses in South Africa. US Open Champion, Retief Goosen learned to play here, and springbok golfers Ray Earle and Callie Swart both hail from the club. Play your best on generous fairways and bent grass greens while enjoying the scenery. Over the years, this golf course and its stunning clubhouse, the Halfway House, have evolved into a destination of sporty relaxation.
3. Visit a museum
Located 9km south of Polokwane, the Bakone Malapa Open-Air Museum evokes the customs of the people who lived here over 300 years ago. The on-site cultural village has been authentically reconstructed to give visitors an insight into the history of the Bakone people and their way of life. The tour shows pots being made and demonstrations of tools such as the antelope horn trumpet and marula root matches.
Closed on Sundays.
In town, the Hugh Exton Photographic Museum is set in a restored 19th-century church, and covers Polokwane's first half-century as well as the second Anglo-Boer War through the work of the prolific photographer, who left behind some 23 000 glass negatives.
Closed on weekends and public holidays.
4. Spend a day on the farm
Just a quick drive from the Meropa Casino, the Farmyard Trading Post is a charming and idyllic retreat for the whole family. Sip coffee on the colonial verandah while the kids feed the farmyard animals, or order something delicious from the a-la-carte menu and enjoy alfresco dining. This little Limpopo gem is famous for its unusual deli, and boasts a lip-smacking variety of gourmet cheeses, breads and pastries.
5. Take the kids to see snakes, crocodiles and birds
The Polokwane Bird and Reptile Park is home to over 280 indigenous and exotic bird species. The little ones will delight in the aquariums, which house snakes and lizards, and marvel at the dark pools showcasing the crocodiles. Guaranteed fun for the whole family, there are well-developed viewing hides and attractive picnic spots.
Nearby Moletjie Bird Sanctuary is also worth a visit for its population of vultures. Highly acclaimed internationally, the centre is applauded for its outstanding work in the protection of the rare Cape vulture.
6. Visit the Tropic of Capricorn
About 50km north of Polokwane, the Tropic of Capricorn Monument is a marker surrounded by picturesque mountains and bushveld. The nearby "koppies" (small mountains) are considered sacred by local communities, and many traditional clan rituals are held here. The Tropic of Capricorn is the southern boundary of the tropics and marks the furthest point south at which the sun can be seen directly overhead at noon.
7. Explore caves and fossils
Just 18km south of Polokwane, the Makapan Valley is the only cultural heritage site of its kind. Makapan's Cave is famous for its yield of fossils, some of the oldest in the world. It is also a monument to the 30-day siege between General Potgieter and the local tribesmen, and the ensuing battle in which Potgieter was killed along with 1500 others. The Cave of Hearths is one of only two Stone Age sites in the world that contain an unbroken sequence of artifacts from the Earlier Stone Age to the Later Stone Age.
Visits to the fascinating Makapan's Valley must be arranged in advance by contacting the Mogalakwena Bushveld Community Tourism Association.
8. Walk with lions
Just 25km south of the Meropa Casino, the Ranch, conservancy offers a one-of-kind experience: you can walk with lions in their natural habitat, under the supervision of experienced guides. Close interaction with lions strengthens mutual respect and extends understanding and feelings for conservation on the part of visitors. The kids will love a chance to interact with the playful lion cubs at the conservancy.
9. Go on a canopy tour
Zipline from one platform to the next over indigenous forests and spectacular waterfalls. Magoebaskloof Canopy Tours offer a fun day out for the whole family. There's time to relax on each platform and absorb the tranquility of the Groot Letaba River below, while trained guides describe facts about the fauna, flora, and ecology of the Magoebaskloof region - only one hour's drive from Polokwane. Keep an eye out for the giant kingfisher.
10. Keep it close to home
The Meropa Casino and Entertainment World may be best known for its gaming facilities which run with Smart Card technology, but this Sun International destination offers a variety of attractions and activities for all round family fun. Visit the Cultural Fair and Market for some arts and crafts, play a round of mini-golf, or burn some rubber at the Magic-Speedway go-karting. The WildThingz Garden has a bird and reptile park (home to the peregrine falcon), an insectarium, and a butterfly park, which boasts indigenous butterflies. Jembe is popular with young and old alike, and hosts popular bands, karaoke evenings, and comedians.