Mapungubwe South Africa Kingdom of Monopotapa

Mapungubwe National Park

Mapungubwe South Africa, one of the last remaining pieces of wilderness in Africa

Mapungubwe South Africa “Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area” as it is officially called.

Known for incredible vistas, untouched nature, overwhelming wildlife and rich in culture, the area developed as today’s Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area brings together three countries (South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe) and offers a very wide variety of attractions for the true wildlife enthusiast. The Ancient African Kingdom of Mapungubwe.

Read the interview with Dr Mathole Mothekga

Mapungubwe South Africa


Limpopo River

On the border of Zimbabwe and Botswana

Conservancy of Mapungubwe

It is just a small spot on the map. Still today where Mapungubwe is situated. In the north of South Africa – it is unknown. Mapungubwe is the name of a piece of land that measures three by twenty miles, situated on the south bank of the Limpopo River. It is in the upper north of South Africa, opposite Zimbabwe and Botswana.

The heart of this piece of land is Mapungubwe Hill, a stone hill of granite near the confluence of the Limpopo and the Shashi River.

In this savannah landscape with tens of thousands mopane trees and thousands of gigantic baobab trees you find a few very big agricultural companies, some lodges for tourists, a single village and elephants, giraffes and zebras.

At a certain point like along the road N572 to Botswana rises an eye-catching stone building. The Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre in the heart of a national park. Mapungubwe is also a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The Kingdom of Mapungubwe

In the thirteenth century Mapungubwe was a mighty kingdom with 5000 citizens. The king lived on Mapungubwe Hill, his nationals lived in the fertile valley. Mapungubwe had trade relations with Arabs and Asians. At the end of the thirteenth century the land was abandoned for unknown reasons. Climate change? Illnesses?

More or less up till today. During hundreds of years the existence of remains by an old civilization was not known. In 1932 an old man who lived here, told a story about artefacts that could be found on Mapungubwe Hill. Archaeologic research resulted in spectacular finds. Such as golden artefacts. Like a small rhino and a beautiful sceptre.

Earliest civilization in this part of Africa

More recent excavations in the region east of Mapungubwe (between Mapungubwe Hill and the city of Musina) have proven that the earliest civilisation in this region goes back to 500 AD. Pottery shells, beads and other jewelry are being found. This is the proof that was needed and the fact that a vast area in this part of Africa was inhabited in early days.

Because of that it is the reason why there is a call to allocate the status of heritage site. To a much and far bigger region than the heart of Mapungubwe.

Mapungubwe South Africa

In 1922, 1st Minister Jan Smuts saw the great potential in this area and started very committed to protecting it. Back than it was a protected area as in a botanical reserve. In the 1940’s they declared it The Dongola National Park.

General Smuts wanted to connect the area to the wilderness areas across the border. Botswana (then Bechuanaland) and Zimbabwe (then Southern Rhodesia). Unfortunately, this did not really take off at the time and the wildlife area to be set up went under politics in 1948.

However, over time academics and researchers continued to research the lost Kingdom of Mapungubwe as they have done since 1930. And still do.

Mapungubwe South Africa

Mapungubwe Hill

Home of secret leaders of the Kingdom of Mapungubwe

Today, the circle is complete for the Mapungubwe Transfrontier Park. The rare vegetation. Acacia Salvadora forests that inspired Jan Smuts to protect this area is now an official conservancy.

Animals that are on the red list such as Wild Dogs and Sable Antelopes have been re-introduced. Today cross-border protection in a cross-border conservancy is in full swing and will be be realized.

Mapungubwe African History is going further back in time than you think

South African history goes back further than you think. During the time of the Dark Ages in Europe. The Kingdom of Mapungubwe in Limpopo already welcomed merchants and men of influence from Arab countries and the Far East.

It is only quite recently that this fascinating fact about this ancient Kingdom has been discovered.

Mapungubwe South Africa

This Unesco World Heritage Site, Mapungubwe was the capital of a country about the size of Swaziland and surrounded by more than 200 villages.

Museum Mapungubwe South Africa

Mapungubwe museum

You may come to Mapungubwe for its ancient history. The scenery will amaze and touch you deeply. The magical limpopo river that flows along and the sandstone hills. Here you are at the pinnacle of South Africa in more than one way.

Largest Baobab

Did you know that the largest Baobab in Mapungubwe has a circumference of more than 31 meters? The low sandstone hills of Mapungubwe glisten in the sun, accompanied by gigantic Baobaps that make them seem to dance together.

Perhaps that’s why people talk about the feel of Mapungubwe which is different from any other park. It has a kind of spirituality in it.

The area has a very romantic place where you complete the picture of the park today. The viewpoint where the Limpopo River and the Shashe River merge, where you can see Botswana and Zimbabwe on the other side of the water border.

Mapungubwe South Africa. The golden Rhino

The wildlife in the park, including lions, elephants, rhinoceroses, leopards and wild dogs, are already migrating back and forth within the protected areas between the three countries and they are ignoring the human boundaries.

Golden Rhino Mapungubwe South Africa

The Golden Rhino of Mapungubwe

The sandstone hills have more than 1 secret for you. The apex of one of them called Mapungubwe was the center of a special African gold trade that dates back more than 1,000 years.

Archaeological studies have shown that 1,000 years ago, ancient Mapungubwe traded gold and ivory with Arabia, India and China. Much of this you can find in the national museum in Pretoria.

Also read the legends of klein Bolayi Mapungubwe

Like to visit Mapungubwe. We can take you on a tour and show and tell you all about it. Learn more

We also can do this tour in Dutch. Learn more

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