Things to do near
Punda Maria Gate
*Distances are shown as the crow flies and not necessarily the actual travelling
Pafuri Gate (35.5 km from Punda Maria Gate)
Revisit an ancient African kingdom at the mysterious fortress of Thulamela.
For a glimpse of an early African civilisation that was an offshoot of Great Zimbabwe, go to see the intriguing ruins of Thulamela on the southern banks of the Luvuvhu River near Pafuri in Kruger National Park.
Meaning ‘place of birth’ in the VhaVenda language, the stone citadel is regarded as one of the most significant archaeological finds in South Africa.
Discoveries reveal a thriving mountain kingdom that was occupied by 3 000 people who traded in gold and ivory between 1200 and 1600 AD. The prolific trading community were skilled goldsmiths although they also traded in iron that they extracted and smelted from 200 local mines.
Recent excavations have uncovered the burial place of an African king and queen with beautiful gold artefacts. The royal citadel accommodated 1 000 people and surrounding the stone walls are signs of numerous dwellings dotted around the landscape.
Guided tours of Thulamela can be arranged at the Punda Maria Gate.
North Kruger Park (38.2 km from Punda Maria Gate)
Located on the northern part Kruger National Park, Pafuri Camp offers it's guests game viewing, walks and bird watching.
During the drier months, there is plenty of elephant and buffalo to spot, along with resident lion prides and leopards. This area is also regarded as one of the best birding spots, with specialities such as pel’s fishing owl, wattle-eyed flycatcher, tropical boubou, three-banded courser and racket-tailed rollers.
Tshipise (47.2 km from Punda Maria Gate)
Sagole Baobab, also known as the Sagole Big Tree, is South Africa's largest baobab.
The impressive tree is located just east of Tshipise in Limpopo. It proudly stands 38.2 metres high, and has a whopping trunk diameter 10.47 metres. It's size is truly something to marvel.
Thohoyandou (81 km from Punda Maria Gate)
One of South Africa’s largest natural lakes, Lake Fundudzi is situated near the northern part of the Soutpansberg. Visitors need special permission from Venda leaders to go there which makes its allure even more powerful.
The lake and its surrounding lush forests, waterfalls and mountains is imbued with a mystical and spiritual atmosphere. The area contains the burial grounds of Venda chiefs and the lake is believed to be the home of the great python fertility god who decides on the success of the Venda crops.
There is a wonderful viewpoint that overlooks Lake Fundudzi and the Sacred Forest. The best option is to take a tour with the locals or hike the Mabudashango Hiking Trail.
The four-day trail takes hikers through dense forest, awesome mountain scenery, gorgeous waterfalls, streams and pools with rich birdlife. Swimming in the lake is out of the question because of numerous large crocodiles!
Thohoyandou (82.4 km from Punda Maria Gate)
Tramp through the Sacred Forest of Magoebaskloof
Easily one of the most stunning trails in the Limpopo, this four-day hiking trail will take you through the mountainous eastern fringe of the Soutpansberg.
The trail winds past a number of revered sites and the burial grounds of Venda chiefs.
A mystical atmosphere permeates the lush indigenous forest. Keen birders should keep a look out for glimpses of rare narina trogons and Knysna loeries.
A highlight is the spectacular views of the sacred Lake Fundudzi, a place so protected that special permission has to be obtained from the VhaVenda people to visit it.
Overnight camps are fairly basic but provide shelter and toilets. Contact the Louis Trichardt Tourism Office for details +27 (0)15 516 0040.
Galleries and Museums
Makhado (Louis Trichardt) (98.8 km from Punda Maria Gate)
Can you hear the drum beat; can you feel the earth spin?
Venture off the beaten track 50km north-east of Louis Trichardt on the R523 between Thohoyandou and Makhado and you’ll find the Museum of the Drum and Dzata ruins.
The rural peacefulness of the place makes it hard to believe that this was once a thriving community. This significant archaeological site is the remains of the royal kraal of the Venda kings and dates back six thousand years to 1400.
Here you can learn about the rich art culture of the Venda and their famous domba dance at the Museum of the Drum. The building houses a replica of the enormous holy drum, reputed to have magical powers that incapacitate enemies.
Entrance to the Museum of the Drum and Dzata ruins is free.