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Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site

Mapungubwe National Park is not exactly a place you decide to go too on a hunch, unless you are my wife and I, situated on the northern tip of South Africa, bordering both Botswana and Zimbabwe, it is a solid 6 hour trip from Johannesburg. So was it all worth it? The short of it is a resounding yes, with a few caveats along the way.

Things to know about Mapungubwe National Park:

  1. Use a high rise vehicle,  an SUV, 4×4 or similar ideally.
  2. Deflate your tyres to about 1.8 to 2 bars, will help on the badly maintained roads around the park. Inside are dust roads so deflated tyres are still a good idea.
  3. There is no cellular signal, except at the gate if you are lucky.
  4. There are no shops anywhere near Mapungubwe National Park, so stock up.
  5. The closest petrol station is a cool 70km away, so refuel there first before entering the park.
  6. The park is divided into 2 sections, west where the World Heritage Site is and east where the camping grounds are. The is a 45 minutes between the two.

Now let forget about the caveats and get back to the business of Mapungubwe National Park.

 Mapungubwe National Park

We went to Mapungubwe National Park without any preconceived ideas or expectations, what we faced was breath taking beauty rarely seen. Mapungubwe National Park has wildlife, we saw elephants and rhinoceros as well as foxes and the usual bucks and antelopes and it has a viarity of predators but no buffalos leaving it with only 4 of the Big Five. But we found out that one does not go to Mapungubwe National Park for the wildlife but rather for the incredible sceneries of contrasting colours and carved landscape, not forgetting a lesson in African history. The first day we got there, we booked a sunset drive with a ranger, Johannes in this case, we often do this to get the layout of the land, the local rangers know their parks better then we do. The drive was spectacular, yet we saw little wildlife, though I did add an animal to my collection of photographs, the bat-eared fox.

 Bat-eared Fox

The next day was rather educational, we booked the visit to Mapungubwe Hill, the World Heritage Site inside the park, I am not going to tell you the history but needless to say it’s a little confusing to say the least, lots of theories and uncertainties. One thing is sure, it belongs with the Lost Cities of the world. I would highly recommend the visit. Cedric, our guide, was well informed and neutral enough in his narration, he gave us more then one theory and was not shy to add his own.

In short, if you have a high rise vehicle and a passion for Africa as well as not looking too much for wildlife, it scores a 4/5 across the board.

Pascal Parent

Pascal's day job is as a technologist but you can mostly find him behind a camera after hours. As a passionate photographer he regularly shares his experiences with the world. From how-to to reviews you will find it all in his regularly updated blog and other places.


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