Mapungubwe National Park
World Heritage Sites in South Africa

© Roger de la Harpe

Where Three Countries Meet

Arid savanna plains, punctuated by giant baobabs, breathtaking sunsets, the Big Five under endless blue skies searching for shade under mopani trees … a swash of green where the Limpopo and Sashe rivers join, forming a magical point where three countries meet … this alluring, inspiring and overwhelming region hides an incredible World Heritage Site in South Africa called Mapungubwe National Park. It is rich in biodiversity, great scenic beauty and cultural importance.

© Jacques Marais

Driving Routes Inside Mapungubwe National Park

There are about 45 kms of roads in the park and they are all gravel or sand. Most of these roads are accessible for ordinary sedan cars, but you will benefit from a good suspension and bit...more

Early Settlers in Mapungubwe

Although there wasn’t much going on in the Mapungubwe area during this period, several strange and little-known tribal cultures were developing in other parts of the country. One fascinating example...more

Excavations at K2 Mapungubwe

Excavations at K2 have brought up thousands of imported glass beads from Egypt and India. These valuable beads, found in a variety of colours ranging from blue to green, were probably given as payment...more

K2 People of Mapungubwe

All in all, the K2 culture was a more substantial affair than the humble Zhizo. At its peak, K2 was home to around 1500 people, and was probably divided into several ‘suburbs’ arranged around...more

Kingdom of Mapungubwe

A visit to Mapungubwe Hill, the place where archaeologists excavated the famous golden rhino, and the amazing interpretation centre near the main gate, home to the golden...more

Limpopo-Shashe Transfrontier Conservation Area

This would consist of the Mapungubwe National Park, the northern Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana and the Tuli Circle in Zimbabwe – a total area of around 136 900ha. Various other pieces of land are also under consideration. The story that began with Jan Smu...more

Mapungubwe Basic Facts

Mapungubwe is located in the north western corner of South Africa, at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers. It is on the border with Botswana and Zimbabwe, opposite the Tuli Block....more

Mapungubwe Birding

The potential for birding in Mapungubwe is endless. The park is located at an environmental cross-road and any number of bird species could turn up. It is thought that the region contains around 400 species....more

Mapungubwe Complex

By 1250 AD, Mapungubwe was at the peak of its power. About 5000 people lived around the hill, and this qualifies it as Southern Africa’s first town. Several other settlements...more

Mapungubwe Confluence

A highlight of the park is the confluence of the Limpopo and the Shashe rivers, the place where three countries meet. To take in the awesome view, the park has built a series of large wooden platforms...more

Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape

Although the artefacts of Mapungubwe, the golden rhino, sceptre and bowl, are on display at the University of Pretoria, you can still go on a guided tour of the various archaeological locations...more

Mapungubwe Ecology, Flora and Fauna

Mapungubwe is characterised by a combination of Mopane Bushveld and savannah vegetation. The numerous habitat types within the park have resulted in a high species diversity....more

Mapungubwe Geology

Geologically speaking, Mapungubwe lies in a basin between two granite cratons (a large section of stable crust). This depression is called the Limpopo Mobile Belt. Around 250 million years ago...more

Mapungubwe Hill

For 100 years, the people living around Mapungubwe Hill flourished. Then, quite suddenly, the civilisation collapsed. It does not appear as if the hill was invaded by an external force, but climate change...more

Mapungubwe Museum

Sian Tiley, the curator of the Mapungubwe Museum, is quick to point that the museum does more than just display objects in glass boxes. It has all the functions of a museum: research, conservation...more

Mapungubwe National Park Accommodation

All the facilities at Mapungubwe are self-catering. And I do mean self-catering. Mapungubwe National Park does have a shop where you can buy basic supplies, but it is better to come completely prepared...more

Mapungubwe National Park Activities

Walk along the treetop walkway to a viewing platform offering spectacular views across the Limpopo River towards neighbouring Zimbabwe and Botswana where amber sandstone outcrops rise ruggedly...more

Mapungubwe on the Banks of the Limpopo River

This is a strip of road that runs flush along the banks of the Limpopo. It was once used to patrol the heavily defended border between South Africa and Zimbabwe, and is a testament to the nasty bush...more

Mapungubwe Uncovered

The first modern awareness of Mapungubwe’s trade surfaced in the 1930s, when white people started exploring the hill for the first time. Undeterred by tribal taboos and what they...more

Mapungubwe's Golden Rhino

Mapungubwe is an awesome place, with large flat-topped hills and baobab-studded valleys falling away to the Limpopo River - just the kind of place you'd choose if you wanted to start a dynasty....more

The Collapse of Mapungubwe

For 75 years, the people of Mapungubwe lived life on a comparatively grand scale. They ruled over a state that covered 30 000 square kilometers and traded extensively throughout the region...more

The Mapungubwe Capital Growth

An appallingly long list of African dictators have since followed the Mapungubwe example and set themselves up in gilded isolation, far from the cries of their followers....more

The Mapungubwe Collection

The star attractions of the Mapungubwe Museum are the famous gold rhino, gold sceptre and gold bowl. This trinity is at the heart of what Sian Tiley refers to as ‘South Africa’s Crown Jewels’....more

The Name Mapungubwe

Did you Know: Anthropologists are not 100% sure where the name Mapungubwe came from, but it’s origin is thought to be based on ‘the place (or hill) of jackals’....more

UNESCO and the Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape

Mapungubwe is the site of an ancient African civilisation that flourished on the banks of the Limpopo River from 900 AD to 1300 AD. It is the earliest known kingdom in sub-Saharan Africa...more

Visiting Mapungubwe

The Mapungubwe National Park opened its gates to the public in 2004. It is a beautiful reserve; evocative, mysterious and full of surprises. I found it to be a constant source of delight and inspiration....more

Visitors to Mapungubwe National Park

The Mapungubwe National Park receives thousands of day visitors (including many school tour groups) and the numbers are rising all the time. Furthermore, 60% of the visitors are black...more

Zhizo People of Mapungubwe in Limpopo

The Zhizo culture was evidently quite sophisticated. They kept cattle and livestock, and harvested and stored grains. Archaeologists have also uncovered a number of unusual clay figurines...more