In its ranking of the 12 top-rated tourist attractions in South Africa, planetware.com ranks the Kruger National Park as No. 1. That’s quite a significant recognition for this iconic South African tourist destination that draws thousands of tourists from all around the world, including South Africa.
For those with a bit of extra time to spend on their Kruger Park adventure, it’s well worth considering taking in some of the great sights in the areas near the Park. With its numerous entrance gates spread over a large distance, the Park is easily accessible if you wander through the provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga before or after visiting the Park itself.
You should also consider including a tour into Mozambique. It’s a small distance from the border near Nelspruit to Maputo, so think about a stop-off at magical Inhaca Island near Maputo. From there it’s a short ride back to South Africa and Kruger.
The many treasures of the two provinces near the Park have become somewhat overshadowed by the popularity of Kruger, which is extremely well-known throughout the world. There’s something for everyone in this region. Nature at its best, African culture in abundance, deep history from both ancient times and the more recent, quirky towns, good food – Limpopo and Mpumalanga offer it all, in addition to the incredible wildlife experiences available.
Mapungubwe near the town of Groblersdal should be on every South African’s travel bucket list since it is core to the history of the African sub-continent. And, with its location north-east of Pretoria, it makes sense for visitors travelling by road from Gauteng to Kruger to go via this World Heritage Site.
It’s the site of an ancient civilisation known to have existed until the 13th century. UNESCO, which granted it World Heritage status, describes it like this, ‘The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape demonstrates the rise and fall of the first indigenous kingdom in Southern Africa between 900 and 1300AD. What survives are the almost untouched remains of the palace sites and also the entire settlement area dependent upon them….’
Cultures of the local area, many of which have survived for centuries, are showcased in a number of locations in both provinces. You can learn more about traditional practices of the Ndebele, the Shangaan, and the Balobedu, with their intriguing belief in the Rain Queen.
The centre of the Balobedu settlement is known as Modjadjiskloof, which is just over an hour’s drive away from the nearest Kruger gate in Mpumalanga.
Modjadjiskloof is also an area of huge significance for botanical life. The Cycad Reserve, established to protect the prehistoric cycad plant species, is very important since it is the only place on earth which is home to a forest of this sort.
Nature lovers are also spoilt for choice as regards birds of the area. The rare blue swallow, for instance, makes its appearance around the curious town of Kaapsche Hoop, near Nelspruit, bringing birders from around the world.
Those mad about flowers should head to Kruger via the south-west part of Mpumalanga Province during late summer when fields of cosmos spring up, dotting the horizon with their white and pink blooms.
As for the history buffs, they will be keen on Mapungubwe, as well as the restored town of Pilgrim’s Rest, site of a failed gold rush dating from the late 19th century.
Whatever your particular interests, you’re bound to satisfy them in the regions around the Kruger National Park, so make sure you do thorough research before you set off. Devise a route to the Park that incorporates the lesser-known (but equally exciting) spots you can experience on the way
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