I’ll be the first to admit that living in Cape Town can sometimes make you forget that you’re in Africa at all. There’s a very European feel and energy to this city, and you’re likely to hear a European language or American accent at least once a day. So I often find myself daydreaming about an “African” adventure. A trip that involves road tripping and villages and wildlife and getting off the grid and connecting with new people.
Imagine my excitement when I found my African adventure, just four hours from Johannesburg, right here in my own South Africa. No passport or visa needed. No foreign currency, triangle for the front of your 4×4, or high vis vest for the driver needed. In fact, all that’s really needed is a selection of padkos, an open heart and a sense of adventure.
I was invited to spend a week exploring the Ribola Art Route in Limpopo with Open Africa, a social enterprise that works with small businesses to establish rural tourism routes that offer travellers authentic experiences, while generating income and jobs for local people. They’ve already developed 58 routes in 6 African countries, creating over 28 000 jobs.
“What is there to do in Limpopo though?” you might well be asking. Well, so was I. I mean, it’s certainly not a province that was ever at the top of my bucket list. I never really thought much about Limpopo, to be honest, but when I did, I mostly imagined dry landscapes and not much else. Well, boy was I wrong!
Allow me to tell you about fifteen amazing things that you can and should do in Limpopo before you even think about booking your next overseas holiday!
1. Spend the night in a cabin in the forest
At Kurisa Moya, an eco lodge in Magoebaskloof, you can spend the night in a beautiful wooden cabin, three meters up, in the middle of an indigenous forest. The cabin is fully self-contained with a double bed looking out onto ancient trees; a fireplace with a free basket of firewood supplied each day; a fully-equipped kitchenette; a bathroom with a shower and a private deck with a Weber braai. It’s very romantic, so don’t blame me if you want to spend the entire weekend cuddled up indoors.
Rates: Up to 10 people: R6400 – R8800 per night
Breakfast: R180 pp
Lunch: R200 pp
Dinner: R280 pp
2. Reconnect with the people you love in a historic farm house
If you’d rather spend the weekend relaxing with your friends or family, you can do exactly that in Kurisa Moya’s historic farm house, which offers five en-suite bedrooms; a fully-equipped off the grid kitchen’ huge fireplace and sprawling porch. The house was built in 1937 and really makes you slow down, with no cellphone signal or electronics to distract you. Guests have to option of self-catering, or having three meals a day prepared by the farm’s lovely chefs.
Rates: From R750 – R1000 pppn
3. Unwind in a stone cottage
Thora Boloka Cottage is on the edge of a bushveld-grassland area overlooking the Kudu’s River Valley. It sleeps six, and has an outdoor shower, family-style kitchen and a porch with amazing views. It’s crafted with stone from the farm and painted the colour of the earth it stands on, so it feels like you’re in a really natural and peaceful space. The wood used is from cedar trees knocked down in the 2000 floods and door frames are twisted gumtree branches as they are in nature.
Rates: From R750 – R1000 pppn
4. Visit a traditional village and try some local foods
We visited a local village with our guide, David Letsoalo, and tried out some snacks including chicken feet, giblets, cow heel, a variety of wild spinach, pap (a savoury maize meal porridge) and samp (dried corn kernels that have been stamped and chopped ) in the home of a lovely lady called Mary. We washed it all down with South African beer, of course.
5. Visit an organic cheese farm
In the hamlet of Haenetsburg, we visited Wegraakbosch Organic Cheese Farm where geese, goats and cows live a blissful free-range life. We learned how the farm produces their organic cheese, using old-timey methods, without electricity. Then we enjoyed a delicious cheese platter, in front of the range, in the kitchen of the 300 year old farm house.
6. Watch the sun set over the Albasini Dam
Glass of wine in one hand, mopane worm in the other. We checked into Shiluvari Lakeside Lodge, and watched as the sun turned gold and pink over the Albisini Dam from the deck of their boat. Serious birders in the group were overjoyed to spot an African Skimmer, which apparently has never been spotted this far South. I just enjoyed the ride.
7. Listen to the sounds of indigenous music under the stars
After a really great dinner at Shiluvari, we crowded around a bonfire to watch the super talented Vutsila Indigenous Music Band under the stars. As the flames tried to lick the stars, I felt like the African drum beat was my heartbeat itself. It honestly made me feel so emotional and so South African.
8. Learn to make clay pottery the old fashioned way
In Mukondeni Village, we learned to create clay pots in the age-old way; by burning clay found deep in the ground in a fire pit. The ladies of the village were so friendly and kind and talented and they patiently showed us how to sculpt clay pots – without pottery wheels. I loved it and truly think I have found my new hobby.
9. Visit talented local artists
Patrick Manyike’s gallery is located above the crossing of the two rivers. Here, in the gallery he built with his own two hands, he carves sculptures from wood he finds, so he never has to cut down any trees. His vision is inspiring and his passion is infectious.
Pilato Bulala’s home-studio is located in Tshivuyuni Village. He’s pushing the artistic boundaries with his “Scraptures’; art pieces he creates from old scrap metal and bits of machinery he finds and collects. His masterpiece is a working car made from old scrap metal, equipped with a bluetooth sound system.
10. Eat the best chicken of your life
At Ceasar’s Roadside Chicken. Open 24 hours a day, the smell of flame grilled chicken is enough to make your mouth water. Served with pap, chakalaka (a spicy vegetable relish) and wild spinach, and washed down with beer. This is honestly not-to-be-missed food. I would go back to Limpopo for this chicken alone.
11. Be blown away by traditional dancing
In the heat of the Limpopo sun, we watched a group of colourful Xibelani dancers sing and make music in stunning traditional finery. Their voices and the beat of their drums carried through their village and right through my heart.
12. Stay in a traditional Venda Village
At Leshiba Wilderness, perched on top of the Soutpansberg, the Venda Village, which was originally home to a Venda tribe, has been painstakingly restored, with the help of renowned Venda artist, Noria Mabasa. Relax in the pool or hang out around the fire pit. Take an afternoon walk or game drvie. Spend the night in one of the round huts, comfortably kitted out with soft beds, white linen and en-suite bathrooms.
Rates: From R1520 (single) to R2025 (double per night) including accommodation, early morning tea & coffee, brunch, afternoon tea and dinner, variety of herbal teas, coffee and fresh fruit and one game activity per day.
13. View thousand year old rock art
Take a walk from the Venda Village to a rock art site where thousands of years ago, ancient people made their mark. Our guide, Peter, was incredibly knowledgeable and shared insights ranging from which plants you can eat for a headache, to how traditional African medicine is still alive today. Being in the presence of these paintings, left for us by people who lived at least a thousand years before us, was very moving.
14. Spot wildlife from your bath
15. Eat some delicious food
Every meal we had, from phyllo-wrapped chicken breasts with a Dijon mustard sauce at Kurisa Moya, to lamb shanks and mashed potato at Shiluvari, to homemade quiche and banana bread at Leshiba, was truly delicious. I was so impressed with the quality of flavour and fresh produce, and for me, a food-obsessive, it really took the trip to the next level. There’s nothing like good food to make a holiday memorable, and we were never disappointed in Limpopo.
Book your Limpopo adventure
View the experiences and book your trip on the Open Africa site.