Limpopo, South Africa

Baobab tree in Limpopo, South Africa.
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Limpopo was known as Northern Province until 11 June 2003. Before 1994 the region was part of the Transvaal. Limpopo is the northernmost province of South Africa and its capital is Polokwane (formerly Pietersburg).

The name of the province was formally changed to the name of its most important river, on the border with Zimbabwe. The most common spoken languages are Tsonga, Northern Sotho, Venda and Afrikaans.

Although the northern, wilder part of Kruger National Park falls into this province, it seems to take second place to its southern neighbour, Mpumalanga, in the safari stakes. As well as Lowveld game farms, similar to (and some say better) than those further south, the north has so much to offer.

The Limpopo River arises in the interior of Africa, and flows generally eastwards towards the Indian ocean. It is around 1,600 kilometres long (or 1 770km /1 100 miles according to another source). The Limpopo is the second largest river in the region.

The Limpopo river flows in a great arc, first zig-zagging northeast and north, then turning east and finally southeast. Then it serves as a border for about 640 kilometres, separating South Africa on the southeast bank from Botswana in the northwest and Mozambique. There are several rapids as the river falls off Southern Africa's interior escarpment.

Vasco da Gama was the first European to sight the river, when one of his expeditions anchored off the mouth in 1498. However, there has been human habitation in the region since time immemorial - sites in the Makapans Valley near Mokopane contain Australopithecus fossils from 3.5 million years ago. The Limpopo was immortalized in the short story 'The Elephant's Child' by British author Rudyard Kipling, in the Just So Stories, where it is described as 'the great grey-green, greasy Limpopo River, all set about with fever-trees,' where the 'Bi-Coloured Python Rock-Snake' dwells.

It's quite a sparsely populated province, with many interesting cultural sites. You could visit the sacred grove of cycads, which has been guarded by succeeding queens of the Lobedu people for centuries. Deep in the forests of Venda, a sacred lake holds unfathomable secrets. Young girls dance to the beat of a drum and large forests jealously guard their precious trees (and the graves within them).

But it's not all myth and magic. There are some very tangible attractions. The northern part of Kruger is said to be wilder with fewer facilities and far less people. There are two wonderful horseback safaris, one of which is in the game-rich Waterberg Conservancy, and another is in the beautiful Lowveld area known as the Harmony Block.

Limpopo province presents a medley of incomparable scenic landscape, an enthralling cultural heritage, an abundance of wildlife species and numerous nature-based tourism prospects. It is a land of legends and myths and of ancient civilizations. Those in search of history will find many places of archaeological magnitude that yielded relics dating back millions of years. Modern towns, good roads and excellent accommodation establishments will also enable visitors to enjoy this intriguing province to the fullest

The Olifants River, which flows into the Kruger National Park, is a zesty, not-too-tricky white water river and you can join a day trip, overnight or multi-day excursion. The hiking is quite strenuous but very scenic - through large tracts of (not too sacred) indigenous forest. And near Tzaneen, beautiful rivers flow through lovely afromontane forests, while a whole range of wonderfully delicious tropical fruits grow in the valleys.

A number of private lodges are situated within the private game reserves bordering the Kruger Park. For those who wish to experience the thrill of Africa in a more tangible manner, wilderness areas and trails may provide the solution. Sports enthusiasts will find a wealth of opportunities from a canoe adventure on the Limpopo River to hiking or climbing the mountainous terrain of the Soutpansberg. Limpopo but will entice visitors back again and again.