"As we celebrate the launch of the Greater Mapungubwe Heritage Route, we urge citizens of Limpopo Province and beyond to explore the cultural landscape and heritage hubs of Mapungubwe World Heritage Site as that will help grow tourism along the route." These are the words of acting CEO of Limpopo Tourism Agency, Mr. Fixon Hlungwani, marking the launch of the Greater Mapungubwe Heritage Route.
Limpopo Tourism Agency (LTA), in collaboration with other stakeholders launched the route from 12 to 14 October 2012. Attractions showcased included the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site itself, the Sacred Lake Fundudzi and Dzata Museum in the Vhembe District. The other stakeholders are South African National Parks (SANParks), Limpopo Economic Development, Environment and Tourism (LEDET), Limpopo Department of Sports Arts and Culture and tourism establishments and tour operators in the Vhembe District Municipality, as well the municipality itself. This event stems from the Domestic Umbrella Marketing Campaign, which Limpopo Tourism Agency launched in July and took place under the "It is here...Celebrate With Us" element of the campaign. It urged the citizens of Limpopo to celebrate their culture and heritage, which are the wealth of the province. Limpopo Province optimizes on the competitive advantage of sharing boundaries with other SADC countries. To this end, South Africa, in partnership with Botswana and Zimbabwe have agreed to establish the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area in support of the Mapungubwe cultural landscapes and all heritage sites linked to Mapungubwe across the three countries. The two countries have also committed to attending the launch of the route.
The Vhembe District Municipality (VDM) has for the last five years been conducting the Vhembe Tour, the Cultural Carnival, Tourism Expo and the Music Festival during September albeit on a small scale. The annual event of the municipality was planned for 19-21 September 2012, but the leadership agreed to collapse their event into the Mapungubwe Heritage Route.
Key among the objectives of the Greater Mapungubwe Heritage Route are to establish a unique, world class route in celebration of Mapungubwe Cultural landscape and other highly significant heritage sites/hubs in Limpopo (South Africa), Zimbabwe and Botswana. Link up the heritage hubs with tourism loops and meanders to stimulate heritage tourism in Limpopo (South Africa), Botswana and Zimbabwe. Stimulate heritage tourism in Limpopo (South Africa) and across the borders in Botswana and Zimbabwe on a phase basis and profile the Mapungubwe brand through an epitomic annual event rebranded "The Greater Mapungubwe Heritage Celebration".
The Route links numerous cultural and natural heritage sites through a circular route centred around key sites such as the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site, the Thulamela Archaeological Site and the cluster of heritage sites around the sacred Lake Fundudzi and royal Dzata Museum. The Greater Mapungubwe Heritage Route starts at Louis Trichardt (Makhado) and dates back about 1 000 years. From Louis Trichardt it follows a circular route to the west along the Soutpansberg until Vivo. It ends amongst the largest colony of Cape vultures in South Africa at the Blouberg Nature Reserve. From Blouberg the route goes north to the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Park and World Heritage Site. From Mapungubwe it goes east via Musina to the Greater Nwanedi Wildlife Reserve with its two beautiful dams and the Sagole Big Tree - the biggest baobab in South Africa and one of the biggest trees in the world.
The Makuya Nature Reserve is the next stop and is characterised by stunning views over the Kruger National Park (KNP) at places such as World View, the Luvuvhu Gorge and at the Singo Safari Lodge.
The Route then moves into the KNP to the Thulamela Archaeological Site - one of the primary heritage sites of South Africa, and the link between Great Zimbabwe and the modern Vha Venda nation.
Crooks Corner where South Africa, Zimbabwe and Botswana meet at the confluence of the Pafuri and Limpopo rivers is the centre for the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park and has a fascinating history.
From Crooks Corner the route turns southwest towards the Punda Maria gate of the KNP to enter the heartland of the Land of Legend in the Nzhelele River Valley.
The heart of the Land of Legend is formed by a cluster of heritage sites such as:
The mysterious and sacred Lake Fundudzi
Dzata - the royal history of the Vha Venda
The Holy Forest
The Sacred Tswime Mountain
Tshivhase stone terraces
The next stop is Valdezia - the first Shangaan settlement in South Africa; then to the historic mission hospital of Elim, start of the Ribollah artist route and then to the Skirmishes Route, highlighting a number of very significant incidents during the Anglo-Boer War.
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