Limpopo

Limpopo Province

Limpopo Province is located at the top of South Africa. Named after the second biggest river in South Africa, the Limpopo River, its name is derived from the Sepedi word “diphororo tsa meetse”, meaning strong gushing waterfalls. Initially named Northern Transvaal from the formation of the Transvaal province in 1994, it was later renamed ‘”Northern province”.  This name remained until it was renamed again in 2003 after the important river which ran through it, the Limpopo River. Interestingly, another notable consideration for the name was “Mapungubwe”. This was the name for an area where the most ancient gold- using civilisation of the province was found.

Limpopo River

On the banks of the Limpopo River

This great river flows from its source northward towards the Magaliesberg . From here it weaves its way across the fertile Bushveld basin where it is joined by the Marico River. It’s from here that it is known as the Limpopo River.  It is the second largest river in South Africa spanning approximately 1600 kilometres. This majestic river slows through South Africa, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe where it ends, in the Indian Ocean.

The river acts as a border between South Africa and Zimbabwe on the north for approximately 240 kilometres and Botswana and South Africa on the Northeast for approximately 400 kilometres. Its presence is highly valued in the communities that use it with many rural villages nestled along its banks.

Some interesting facts:

  1. The port town of Xai- Xai in Mozambique is situated near the mouth of the river. The river is permanently navigable to by the sea below the Olifants.
  2. Approximately 1500 crocodiles were released into the river in 2013 from the Flood Gates at the nearby Rakwena Crocodile Farm.
  3. A few hundred kilometers upriver, a Zambezi shark was caught at the confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu Rivers in July 1950.
  4. A high concentration of hippopotamus is found between the Mogalakwena and Mokolo Rivers.


View Limpopo Trails and Camps in a larger map

Limpopo Quick Facts

Capital: Polokwane

Share of Population:  10.3%

Languages: Sepedi 52.9%, Xitsonga 17%, Tshivenda 16.7%

Population: 5 404 868 (2011- 5th in South Africa)

  • Black African (96.7%)
  • White (2.6%)
  • Indian or Asian (0.3%)
  • Coloured (0.3%)

Area: 125 755 square kilometres

Established: 27 April 1994

The People and their Land

Limpopo is the fifth largest of South Africa’s nine provinces with a population of 5.4 million people. As a large majority of the population is black, native black languages are predominately spoken at home. Sepedi is spoken by more than half the population, which is followed by Xitsonga and Tshivenda. HIV in the province is above the countries average at 18.5 % (2007) of the population. A large increase between 2001 and 2005 saw cases rise from 14.55 to 21.5%. The people of Limpopo are passionate about their province and Tourism in the area is alive and well.  It forms part a three- pillar economy namely tourism, mining and agribusiness. In 2008 Limpopo accounted for 5% of the country’s total foreign bed nights.

Two giraffe feed

Much of the land is made up of mixed savannah grassland and trees. Summer is known for its intense temperatures followed by summer- rainfall, while the eastern and northern parts of the country are subtropical. The winter is mostly mild in temperature. The province is rich in natural beauty, culture and wildlife. There are no less than 54 provincial reserves and several luxury game reserves! The most famous game reserve is the world- renowned Kruger National Park. Limpopo is also home to Mapungubwe cultural landscape, one of South Africa’s eight world heritage sites. As South Africa’s first kingdom, it was developed into a subcontinent’s largest realm. Its reign lasted 400 years before it was abandoned in the 14th century. During this period, gold and ivory were traded with China, India and Egypt.

University of Limpopo

The University of Limpopo started as a merger between the former Medical University of Southern Africa and the University of the North in 2005. The University of the North was established in 1959 under apartheid regime’s policy of separate ethically- based institutions. The town that grew around the University was named ‘Sovenga” (Sotho, Venda and Tsonga) for the three ethnic groups that were to study there.

In the 1960’s, 70’s and 80‘s the university was a centre of resistance to the apartheid regime. The university was often under– resourced during these times and students struggled to further their education due to a lack of funding and facilities employed by Limpopo university.  The liberation at the end of apartheid saw enrolment fluctuate wildly. Some faculties made the transition without much of a problem while other struggled to embrace the change.

Today the University operates on two main campuses, Medunsa and Turfloop.  There are around 16 00 students enrolled at the university and over 900 academic staff. It is a thriving university a with a largely significant future. It is committed to finding solutions to Africa’s diverse challenges, particularly relating to the continents rural realities.

Limpopo National ParkLimpopo Province

The famous park lies on the border of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. It forms part of a conservation area covering 35 000 km2 which is approximately the size of the Netherlands! In December 2002, the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park was established through the signing of a treaty at Xai- Xai, Mozambique. Machampane Wilderness Camp lies in Parque Nacional do Limpopo, a 1.1 million hectare Mozambique sector of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. It lies adjacent to the Kruger National Park.

The park forms the core of the second- phase conservation area which measures approximately 100 000km’s2. This area includes the Zinave and Banhine parks, the Massingir and Corumana area and interlinking area in Mozambique. It also includes various state- owned and privately owned conservation areas.

This great wilderness area holds a lot of natural beauty and is a favourable tourist attraction. Its mission is to achieve inter- state collaboration in the trans- boundary ecosystems and promote the sustainable use of natural resources to improve the lives of people living in South Africa,  Zimbabwe and Mozambique.  Transfrontier park’s objective is to uplift the rural communities which a are living around them socio- economically.