Stunningly stark, arid, rocky landscapes reverberate with cultural intrigue and wandering wildlife at Mapungubwe National Park. A Unesco World Heritage Site, Mapungubwe contains South Africa’s most significant Iron Age site. The birdwatching here is excellent, as is the wildlife, which includes lions, leopards and elephants. But the park is as much about history as wildlife – archaeological finds from the 1930s are on display at the excellent Interpretative Centre and the site itself can be visited on a tour.
In addition to the big cats and elephants, watch also for black and white rhinos, meerkats and some bird species that are hard to find elsewhere in South Africa, such as the rare Pel’s fishing owl.
The park is divided into an eastern and western section (with private land in between). The main gate is on the eastern side along with the Interpretative Centre, Mapungubwe Hill, a Treetop Walk, Leokwe (the main camp), and the magnificent viewpoints that overlook the confluence of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
Mapungubwe has excellent organised activities, all of which must be booked in advance at the main park gate. The Heritage Tours are the only way to access the archaeological site, which is otherwise off-limits.
All activities begin at the main park gate unless otherwise arranged. These include wildlife drives at sunrise (from 5.30am; three hours) and sunset (from 4pm; three hours); both cost R303 per person. night drives (from 7.30pm; two hours) cost R303 per person, while guided walks (from 6am; three hours) cost R444 per person. A Heritage Site Tour (from 4pm; two hours) costs R247 per person, while Heritage Tour and museum (from 7am and 10am; two hours) will set you back R283 per person.