This vast dominating range of mountains, stretching in a mighty panorama from east to west across the northern reaches of the Northern Province of South Africa, is unique in its splendour and beauty. The myths and legends of the people of the North are interwoven into the mist-shrouded peaks and crags of these beautiful mountains. The trees, the plants and animals, many endemic to the region - ancient ruins of a people long gone - a legacy of rock engravings to mark the passage of the San hunters and gatherers many centuries before, combine to create fascinating insight into an area and its people.
Today the mountains are a sanctuary for tourists. The parks and valleys offer much that is unusual. The tea estates, waterfalls and the sacred lake of Fundudzi are but a few of the many attractions. Tropical fruit farms welcome the tourist as do the many artists' stalls and galleries. The Venda people are regarded amongst the finest artists in Africa and their original works are collected worldwide. Further north the Limpopo River forms the natural boundary with Zimbabwe. To the east lies the beautiful tropical Levubu valley where some of the finest fresh and processed fruits are available.
Further east the Kruger National Park offers some of the finest game viewing and birding in Africa. Throughout the Land of Legend you will be welcomed by the people in traditional African manner. You will sense the compelling links with the past in the traditions and dances and you will leave filled with the mystery of Africa…And then you will come back to the Province of Peace to explore deeper the mighty Soutpansberg.
Soutpansberg Places Of Interest
Stretching from the Tropic of Capricorn up to the Beit Bridge border post, touching the majestic Blouberg to the west, flanking the Kruger National Park to the east - this is the Soutpansberg.
The Soutpansberg range derives its name from the large salt-pans found at the base of its northern slope in the west - pans which have probably been used by game since time immemorial, and whose salt has been exploited from stone age times right up to the present. The salt pans are open to the public and well worth a visit. The highest peak, Letjume (1 747m), lies about 800m above the surrounding plains.
Nestling in the southern foothills of the breathtaking Soutpansberg mountain range in the shadow of Hanglip, a giant perpendicular cliff, lies Louis Trichardt. The town is a central point from which to explore the wonders of this unspoilt area. Numerous cliffs and peaks challenge the mountain climber. The steep slopes and deep ravines are luxuriantly covered by forests and paths winding through the giant stinkwoods, yellow woods and a profusion of almost sub-tropical vegetation owing to the moderate climate and relatively high rainfall. These paths can be explored on foot and some by mountain bike or on horseback.
For the nature lover, the area abounds in game farms, natural heritage sites and nature reserves. Experience the breathtaking scenery on foot through guided hikes, self-guided walks or with a 4 X 4.
Mountain scenery can be enjoyed along the Witvlag and Bluegumspoort roads. The well-known Wylliespoort, Verwoerd tunnels and Masekwaspoort are also worth a visit.
Visitors to the area can cool off in clear mountain streams and pools or go fishing at one of the many dams.
The wide spectrum of habitat types form a gradient from east to west and from north to south according to the variation in rainfall. Further modifications in habitat result from the diverse geology and topography of the mountain range. These and other factors have produced a unique assortment of ecological niches which are in turn occupied by a wide variety of plants and animals. No less than 555 tree species have been identified in the Soutpansberg. In addition, the mountain range is home to some 94 mammal species, four kinds of tortoise, 44 lizard species, 48 snake species, 1 crocodile species, 23 amphibian species and one butterfly species.
The last remaining naturally occurring herd of gemsbok in the Northern Province is being conserved at Langjan Nature Reserve. This reserve has been proclaimed to provide sanctuary for the herd but also because of its typical Kalahari veld with red sand dunes.
An amazing 145 tree species can be seen in the Indigenous Tree Sanctuary in Louis Trichardt and the Levubu Arboretum boasts 290 species. The various tree species at the Hanglip Picnic Site and Forest have been well marked. A nature reserve in which cycads are protected, the Mphaphuli Cycad Reserve lies east of Thohoyandou and boasts a hiking trail. The largest boabab in the country, over 3000 years old, is found near Nwanedi, east of Tshipise and the famous Elephant's Trunk boabab can be seen in the Erich Mayer Park, just outside Messina.
This is a region with an amazing diversity of fauna and flora, from mountain fynbos to centuries old boababs, sacred forests to genuine "hardekool Bosveld" - it's all there.
Step into the domain of the elusive loerie, or watch the majestic vultures circling the sides of the Blouberg. The Soutpansberg is a birder's paradise with no less than 380 bird species and good birding spots are the Hanglip Picnic Spot, Pafuri Picnic Spot in the Kruger National Park and the Ben Lavin, Langjan, Blouberg and Happy Rest nature reserves. Some of South Africa's Red Data bird species occurring in the area include the blackfronted bush shrike, bluespotted dove, goldenbacked pytelia, Cape vulture, Peregrine falcon, black stork and the bat hawk.
Traditional African cultures thrive in the swelter of valley bushveld and indigenous forests and bring a wealth of legends to a place of rustic beauty. The Soutpansberg is also home to the sacred lake, Lake Fundudzi, where according to Venda legend, a white crocodile lives. Lake Fundudzi is the only naturally formed lake in South Africa.
At Lwamondo Hill, named after a clan whose stronghold it still is, a troupe of sacred baboons still keep watch. Their task was to warn the Lwamondo of any intruders by barking fiercely. The enemy would then be dispersed by a shower of rocks and arrows. The baboons are protected to this day.
Many legends were born, telling of the spirits of the water and the sacred guardians of hidden lakes and ancient burial places in the silence of the indigenous forests.
The VhaVenda culture is steeped in the spirit world and finds expression in their woodcarvings, pottery and the decoration of their buildings.
Take a cultural drive through the old Venda, where surrounded by echoes of the past amazing panoramas open up - remote villages clinging to hillsides, tumbling waterfalls, deeply flowing streams shrouded by cycads and tree ferns, delicate wild flowers and dense forests.
Visit one of the many rock art sites or archaeological sites and learn more about the the lives and exploits of the early hunters, traders, explorers and settlers. Coenraad de Buys arrived in the area in 1821 and was the first settler in the area. In the 1830's the Voortrekkers arrived and established the town, Schoemansdal, which was the most important trading centre in the Northern Transvaal where ivory, game skins, horns, wood and salt changed hands. The settlers' way of life is depicted in the Schoemansdal Open Air Museum, close to Louis Trichardt. The descendants of the patriarch Coenraad du Buys live at a settlement, Buysdorp, west of Louis Trichardt. The Kranspoort Mission Station which was erected in memory of Reverand MacKidd, who worked as a missionary amongst the Buys people in 1863, is also close to Buysdorp.
At the Elim Hospital Museum 150 years of service by Swiss missionaries and doctors is commemorated.
Ruins dating back to 1 250 AD can be seen at the Ben Lavin Nature Reserve.
Louis Trichardt boasts many sites of exeptional historical interest which allow the visitor to get a glimpse of the unique and colourful past of this town and its origin. The Church of the Vow was erected after General Joubert's men were sucessful with their punitive expedition against Mphephu's village in 1898. Fort Hendrina, a collapsible fort used during 1887 as protection for 25 artillery men and later 100 mounted police can be visited opposite the church. The famous Voortrekker leader Andries Potgieter was buried at Schoemansdal. Joao Albasini, a Shangaan tribal chief and Portugese Vice Consul to this area in the mid 1800's, was buried at the Albasini Dam. The first school north of the Vaal River was also built in Louis Trichardt and a plaque commemorates its location.
A 18th century residence, Stonehenge, which was declared a national monument, can be viewed by appointment. The Bonsmara cattle breed originated at the Mara Agricultural Development Centre west of Louis Trichardt.
The rich copper deposits in the northern countryside of the region ultimately led to the establishment and growth of the town Messina. In prehistoric times, black miners of the Musina tribe discovered the mineral and it was due to the determination of 20th century prospectors that it was rediscovered. The Zeederberg's Mail Coach, the original coach that was used to service the old Pretoria-Zimbabwe line, can be viewed at the Messina Civic Centre.
The Musina chiefs executed their prisoners at the Bulai/Dongola Execution Rocks west of Messina. South Africa's youngest and northernmost national park, the Vhembe Dongola National Park, is situated at the historical archaeological site of Mapungubwe, which has been dated to 1000 A.D. The Park also houses the fauna and flora of the Limpopo/Shasi catchment area and is situated west of Messina close to Pontdrift.
Thohoyandou, the former capital of the Republic of Venda, is the proud heart of the VhaVenda. Its name means in TshiVenda "head of the elephant". Places of historical importance are Dzata Ruins, the site of the VhaVenda royal village dating back to 1 400 AD and iron furnaces dating back to 1250 AD at Tshimbubfe. An archaeological site where gold was smelted in 1 200 AD, Thulamela is situated close to Pafuri.
The world's oldest datable rock, a piece of granite gneiss dated almost 4 000 million years old, is an impressive feature to be viewed in the Messina Nature Reserve.
This is a summer rainfall area, with summer temperatures averaging 30º C and 20 - 25º C in winter.
Soutpansberg Tourism Authority
Tel./Fax No.: 015 516 0040
Soutpansberg Tourism On the web: http://www.soutpansberg-tourism.co.za/
Soutpansberg's natural history and its conservation: http://www.soutpansberg.com/