South Africa: Mapungubwe National Park: Cycling
At the confluence of the Shashe and Limpopo Rivers, where Botswana, Zimbabwe, and South Africa meet, lies Mapungubwe National Park, declared a World Heritage Site in 2003. Artifacts dating back to 1000 AD were first discovered in the area in 1932, providing evidence of an African civilization that flourished long before colonization. These artifacts indicate that the Mapungubwe Kingdom, considered one of the most complex pre-colonial civilizations, was centered around family and farming. Today, Mapungubwe Hill, where many of these artifacts were first discovered, and the surrounding forests and bodies of water, comprise Mapungubwe National Park.
Arrive in Johannesburg this afternoon and spend the evening in a new hotel that is located directly across the road from the airport terminal buildings. Dine locally and prepare for your early morning departure.
This morning, the hotel porter will direct you to the rental car pick-up point, adjacent to the hotel building. Depart from Johannesburg, driving six hours to you accommodation, Mopane Bush Lodge at Mapungubwe National Park. Mopane Bush Lodge is a tranquil bush retreat, a 4-star luxury lodge in African Renaissance design nestled in the Mopane bushveld. It is situated on its own 6000ha private nature reserve in the Limpopo Valley – a safe environment for walking, cycling, or birding in the bush, with or without a guide.
This afternoon, you will begin to explore the landscape with an open vehicle drive through Mapungubwe National Park. You will get your first look at the dramatic scenery with views of the Limpopo River, its confluence with the Shashe River and the park’s breathtaking sandstone cliffs. The nature reserve is home to many species of birds, animals – including elephant & rhino – and a wide variety of plant life.
Return to the lodge in time for sundowners and to enjoy the magic of the evening as you join around the fire for a home-cooked meal served under the brilliant stars of the southern skies.
After an early breakfast of coffee and rusks (homemade biscuits), you may wish to set out on your own to cycle amongst the giant baobab trees, otherwise known as the trees of life, with their enormous girth and dominating presence. Return to the lodge at mid-morning for a delicious brunch of local foods, and spend the rest of the morning at your leisure. Optional spa services are available on site.
In the early afternoon, set out on a guided Mapungubwe World Heritage Site tour. Mapungubwe Hill is the center of the site where the first African Kingdom was established in the 13th Century, predating Great Zimbabwe. This Kingdom, unique in Africa at its time, actively traded with the Far East via the Arab east coast trade route. Explore the ancient and evocative cultural history of the site, with time to see gold, copper, and stone artifacts that have been uncovered.
Return to camp in time for an outdoor dinner.
This morning, after another early breakfast, you’ll head out with a local guide to see the San rock art sites scattered throughout this primeval landscape. There are 150 sites in all. Your professional guides will interpret the drawings with mesmerizing tales of shamans, rain animals and the supernatural as they unravel the mysteries of this most ethereal of human expressions.
Once again, the late morning is yours to enjoy brunch and the many optional spa facilities at the lodge.
An afternoon cycle ride can be planned or, if you wish, you can arrange to join an exclusive guided radio tracking tour to view Africa’s large carnivores on Venetia Limpopo Nature Reserve. Tracking employs the use of radio telemetry and GPS technology.
This is not simply a generic game drive experience to view the big cats but an in depth research oriented experience where one is exposed to the people, the technology and the animals themselves. Your hosts will discuss the conservation issues facing scientists and the animals they study and give you a true sense of what it is like to live and interact with some of the Earth’s most misunderstood beasts. Learn how radio telemetry works and assist the research team in finding the animals. This is a unique and evocative learning experience like no other hosted by the De Beers Ecology Unit. The research is currently lion focused but may extend to brown hyena and leopard in the near future.
In the evening, discover the sheer majesty of the baobabs at sunset while sipping local drinks, followed by dinner.
Spend your final morning relaxing on the lodge property or exploring the surrounding parklands on your own, relishing your last hours of peace in the bush. After breakfast, pack up and collect your rental car for your return to Johannesburg. Drive directly to the airport for your return flight, or continue on to the next part of your Willing Foot South African journey.
This is just the beginning.
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