Open Africa
Open Africa

Land of Legend Route


Mc Vitt Cultural Village
This is a cultural village in the making, with a rich heritage of previous communities that lived on the mountain. The c...

Mukumbani Waterfall
This beautiful waterfall is situated near the Mukumbani Dam and near the sacred forest. There are picnic spots where vis...



Below is a list of accommodation establishments along this route. Bookings and enquiries can be made directly with the establishment.

Acasia Park
Acasia Park offers accommodation and camping facilities. There is a playground and swimming pool on the premises.

Bougainvilla Lodge
  A board room that can accommodate up to 15 delegates; An a-la-carte menu; 18 Bedrooms with en-suite bat...

Changes has the following on offer: A lapa; Bar; Restaurant; Swimming pool / Jacuzzi; Conference facilities; Pri...

Copacopa Luxury Lodge and Conference Centre
This newly built lodge offers the following: Seven en-suite chalets; Restaurant; Boma (Saturdays boma braais (...

For a Change Hotel
The hotel offers 50 air-conditioned double bedrooms with en-suite bathrooms and five self-catering units all with D...

Golwe Picnic & Campsite
Please note:  Booking is not required at this facility, but notice of arrival is appreciated so that preparations c...

Mbere Accommodation Centre
Facilities: Conference hall; Picnic site; Seven single rooms; Four family rooms; A tuckshop; and Boutique.

Mphephu Holiday Resort
Mphhephu Holiday Resort offers twin-bedded chalets, all en-suite and built out of stone, which is said to be from the ho...

Muanalo Cultural Village
Here visitors can overnight in traditional huts. Ablution blocks and a traditional kitchen are available. The village al...

Nandoni Game Park
Nandoni Game Park, Resort and Golf Estate is situated around the Nandoni Dam. There are plenty of activities and facili...

Pafuri Youth Cultural Village
This cultural village offers accommodation, traditional activities a restaurant and campsite, as well as a bar.The villa...

Sedzazwau Lodge
Sedzazwau Lodge offers private accommodation in beautiful face-brick chalets. All the rooms are en-suite, offer tea/coff...

Tshivhase-Fundudzi Tourism Camp (Part of the African Ivory Route)
The camp offers traditional, cultural huts for accommodation.The camp was started in 1998 many natural tourist attractio...

Vhueni Village Lodge
Vhueni Village Lodge offers accommodation in 22 rondavels (round huts) that are detached from one another, as well as ei...

Vhuimo Tourism Business Prospects and Guiding
The business can supply accommodation in the form of cultural huts, along with a traditional kitchen. A boma is also ava...

Morning Sun Nature Reserve - Mashovhela Bush Lodge
  Morning Sun Nature Reserve is situated in the Soutpansberg Mountains of the Limpopo Province in South Africa, cl...

The Fig Tree Lodge
The Fig Tree Lodge offers overnight accommodation and conference facilities. Facilities and services: An a-la-carte...


Below is a list of arts and crafts outlets and projects on this route. Booking and enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Golden Feet Tours
Golden Feet Tours is a tour operator that operates in the Limpopo province.  They offer: Guided tours; Traditi...

   Arts & Crafts

Below is a list of arts and crafts outlets and projects on this route. Enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Budo Cultural Clothing
Budo Cultural Clothing offers traditional clothing designed and made by Judith Mudau. Traditional shirts made out of Ven...

Dima's Tours Arts and Crafts
This Arts and Culture Centre hosts a variety of local visual arts and crafts. The works range from paintings, beadwork,...

Tshidzini Diimiseni Cultural Group
The Tshidzini Diimiseni Cultural Group performs traditional dances such as Malende and Tshigombela. Traditional food is...


Below is a list of services on this route. Enquiries can be made directly with the business.

Karel Ngigideni Primary Cultural Group
This group can be booked for special occasions or functions.The Karel Ngigideni Primary Cultural Group is a group of sch...

Khavambe Primary Cultural Group
The cultural group can perform a range of traditional dances such as the Maelende, Tshigombela and thsifase. They are al...

Limpopo Tourism and Parks
The Tourism Information Centre concentrates on marketing the Vhembe region and providing information about it. The centr...


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Travelling on this route offers a chance to explore high mountains, graceful valleys, clear waters and beautiful indigenous forests. Deep in the forests lie many hidden secrets, and mysteries, with the trickling waters and the thundering sounds of waterfalls, legends speak of sacred guardians of hidden lakes and ancient burial places. It also offers a different kind of city experience with a cultural vibe to it and a wide range of accommodation, from cultural to camping, to upmarket lodges and hotels. The natural setting provides stretches of indigenous bush, with features like the baobab tree, amazing wildlife and a diversity of bird species.

The Zoutpansberg is South Africa’s northern-most mountain range. Its name was taken from the salt pans that lie at its base near the western end. The salt pans have provided communities with salt from prehistoric times to the present. Boasting over 500 tree species, with 50 of these species being endemic either to the Zoutpansperg range or the Limpopo River Valley. the Zoutpansberg is also a birder’s paradise, with 467 species, and host to a variety of mammal, reptile and amphibian species, as well as the striking Swanepoel’s widow butterfly - endemic to the region.

The mountains host many nature reserves and offer travellers a range of game farms and accommodation facilities. Activities like hunting and 4x4 driving are also available for the adventurous, as well as opportunities for climbers and hikers to explore the mountains.

Cultures of the area include the Shangaan/Tsonga and the Vhavenda-speaking groups, but traces of many other influences are also visible, from the Boers to the German missionaries and even the English. It is safe to say that the predominant cultures are collaboratively from the 'people of the north', who migrated from northern African countries into Southern Africa. In Venda, the VhaVenda’s history tells of this journey through ruins and legends.

Please take note that visitors should not swim or bathe in rivers and dams in the lowland areas, since the area carries a bilharzia risk. Visitors should also be aware that this is a lower-risk malaria area so they should consult their doctor for malaria prophylaxis before visiting the area.

Reasons to visit:

There is a beautiful view of Lake Fundudzi from the hills just outside Thohoyandou and Sibasa. It is also here where the Thathe Vondo Forest is located. Within this forest lies the Sacred Forest, with giant hardwoods, tree ferns, lianas and creepers. But visitors may only enter the forest if they agree to stay on the path. Even common VhaVhenda folk are forbidden in the forest, as it is where the chiefs of the Thathe clan lay buried. There are also many mysteries and legends surrounding this sacred place. 

It is best to visit this forest with a guide, as they can tell the stories and legends in detail and with enthusiasm, making the experience more memorable. From the Thathe Vondo Forest, there is also a beautiful view of the Thathe Vondo Dam and perhaps the perfect place to take a moment to absorb all the mystery and intrigue. The forest encompasses the Thathe Vondo Tea Estates, Mahovhovho Falls and Mukumbani Dam.

The D’zata Ruins are traces of the original settlement of the VhaVenda in the Nzhelele Valley. The settlement was built around 1700 AD and was the capital of the Venda empire. D’zata ('a good place') was occupied for about 60 years. According to speculation, these rocks could have been carried on the heads of slaves, coming all the way from Central and North Africa. It was reconstructed by archaeologists, and even though some of the original walls are still standing, significant changes were made to the site.

The D’zata Museum has been erected near the ruins and provides more information on the history of the people who once lived there. It explains how this flourishing capital came to an end. The story goes that after the disappearance of Thohoyandou the inhabitants of D’zata were terrified. They attempted to install a successor, Tshisevhe, but his reign was short-lived and foiled by calamities. The diviner Nedambale was called in to bring life to the capital, but instead advised them to evacuate it. After a fierce storm hit the capital, people fled and left the place in ruins.

Mabalingwe Lion Man:

When: 11 July 2015

Where: Bela Bela, Waterberg, Capricorn, Vhembe, Mopani & Sekhukhune

Tel: +27 14 736 9000

The Bela Bela Lion Man Mountain Bike Race will take you through the rolling hills of the Big 5, Mabalingwe Game Reserve. Choose between the 40km race (recommended for younger cyclists and families) or the 80km race or 115km Ultra Marathon for more experienced cyclists.The Bela Bela Lion Man Mountain Bike Race is the only race of its kind where the full race takes place within the boundaries of a Big 5 Reserve.Bring your whole family, we will keep them entertained while you are out enjoying the race.

Magoebaskloof Mountain Bike Classic:

When:  7 November 2015

Where:  Stanford Lake College, Waterberg, Capricorn, Vhembe, Mopani & Sekhukhune

Contact Person(s):  Steve Willson - Senior Adventure Facilitator

Tel:  +27 15 276 6130

Cell:  +27 82 637 3651

The Magoesbaskloof Mountain Bike Challenge came about after Gray Braadvedt and Rudi Viljoen sparked the brilliant idea of hosting a mountain biking event in the beautiful surrounding of the Limpopo province, an area spectacular with immaculate scenery and some of the most perfect bike trails within the country. Drawing in the community and opening up gateways to the local tourism and creating helpful benefits to local charities, the first event kicked off with great success. This year the event brings you that same fun and thrill seeking adventure that will lift your spirits in the wind and have you enjoying the sport that you love!

Miss Limpopo 2015 - Beauty Pagent:

When:  12 December 2015

Where:  Meropa Casino, Waterberg, Capricorn, Vhembe, Mopani & Sekhukhune

Contact Person(s):  Matlakala Bopape - Miss Limpopo Trust Chair

Tel:  +27 15 291 4836

Spring Festival:

When:  19 - 27 September 2015

Where:  Haenertsburg Village, Cheerio Gardens & Magoebaskloof Hotel - Waterberg, Capricorn, Vhembe, Mopani & Sekhukhune

Contact Person(s):  Anne-Marie Brook / Linda Miller 

Cell:  +27 82 883 4449 (Anne-Marie) / +27 82 575 5738 (Linda)

Join us for our annual Spring Festival in Haenertsburg Village, Cheerio Gardens and the Magoebaskloof Hotel. A glorious experience in one of South Africa’s best kept secrets – Haenertsburg / Magoebaskloof.

*Information correct at the time of publication - prospective event participants are advised to contact the organisers for any possible updates.



Venda was a designated homeland under the apartheid system and the people were fairly unaffected by political and social changes by comparison with their impact on the rest of the country. The Venda population, about a million, lived their lives the way they had been living for hundreds of years in the lush, mountainous and remote region. As a result their culture, language, arts and crafts have stayed mostly intact and are still very much a part of the people’s everyday lives.

The Venda have an interesting mix of other cultures, incorporating characteristics from east African, central African, Nguni and Sotho groups. For example, the Venda forbid the consumption of pork, which is common practice on the east African coast. They also practice circumcision, which is also carried out in the Sotho culture, but not in the Nguni culture. The true Venda, however, can apparently be divided into two groups, namely the western group and an eastern group.  The eastern group regard themselves as descendants of Lwamonde, Rambuda, Tshivashe and Mphapuli. The Venda culture is interwoven with numerous legends, many of which are still believed today. Another distinct group of the area, who later joined Venda, are the African Semites, the Lemba.

The VhaVenda:

The VhaVenda came from the Great Lakes of Central Africa. They first settled in the Zoutpansberg Mountains where they built their original capital, D’zata. The ruins of D’zata are still visible today.

Dimbanyaka was said to be the first VhaVenda chief to have settled in the area known as the Nzhelele valley over eight centuries ago. They called the place Dzata ('a good place') because Chief Dimbanyaka went for a walk with his dog one day, and went into a cave in the surrounding Soutpansberg. Unfortunately, the rocks caved in and Dimbanyaka was trapped inside the cave. His dog, which was still outside, apparently went to fetch Dimbanyaka’s son and heir, Thohoyandou, at their village. When Thohoyandou reached the cave, his father was still alive. He could not free his father and they had a conversation through the rocks. Dimbanyika made Thohoyandou promise that he would unify the different clans in the area and build a great nation. Thohoyandou kept his promise and is known as one of the greatest VhaVenda leaders of all times. Thohoyandou, ('head of the elephant'), refers to the strength of a leader. 

Elephants have been used in African mythology as a symbol of strength, leadership and greatness. This symbolism is still prevalent today, as important people are greeted with 'nda ndou', meaning  'good day elephant'. What is also interesting is that no subsequent leader was ever called Thohoyandou. The next chief in the VhaVenda nation was a Mphephu, a name that is still carried forward today.


The current Mphephu sacred village is situated in the vicinity of Hangklip. This site is forbidden to those who are not Venda and is looked after by VhaVenda women. It is sacred as it is the burial place of the VhaVhenda chiefs and all the previous Mphephus. The burial also has a myth connected to it.

The myth:

The VhaVenda are known to re-bury their chiefs. Apparently one of their chiefs once swallowed a small white rock, and soon a ritual was born where, after a chief passed away, his body was placed on a wooden stack or elevation until it completely decomposed. The white rock then falls out of the body and the new chief swallows this rock.

The reason for this ritual seems to be linked to the sacred Lake Fundudzi. According to legend, a white crocodile used to live in the lake. Crocodiles are known for their strength and they swallow rocks to assist the digestion of their food. Apparently one of the VhaVenda chiefs translated the white crocodile (which could have been an albino crocodile) and the swallowing of small rocks into the swallowing of a small white rock by the chiefs – possibly to give them the strength of a crocodile. Since women cannot become a chief, they guard the bodies so as to ensure that the rightful chief swallows the rock.


The legend of the Singo king was that he could protect his people from attack by their enemies by beating a special drum, called the Ngoma Lungundo ('drum of the dead'). The sound of this drum would strike fear into the hearts of enemies and make them flee.


This group is believed to have descended from Semitic (Arab) traders who entered Africa around 696AD. The Lemba believe themselves to be Black Jews, descendants of the lost tribe of Israel. They mostly keep to themselves and only marry within their own group. They also sometimes refer to themselves as Vhalungu ('respected foreigner').

Their contribution to the culture of the area came especially through the beads they brought with them from far-off countries, which are still treasured today and used in divination and other magical ceremonies. They were also good traders and artisans and famous for their metalwork and pottery.

The region’s past and its people are therefore an intricate part of the land’s vibrant cultural ambience, which becomes an experience through their expression in dance. Dances like tshikona, the malende and the domba are the most well known of these. The domba ('python dance') is especially striking and imitates the movement of a python. Venda girls perform this dance at their initiation ceremony, moving in rhythm to a powerful beating domba drum and with their hands clasping the forearms of the girls ahead.

Domba Dance:

The Domba dance is a ritual for pre-marital initiation. The chief or sovereign will 'call' a domba, upon which families start to prepare their girls for the ceremony. Traditionally the girls used to stay with the chief throughout the initiation process, which could be from three months to three years, but since girls have to attend school under today’s circumstances, they only have to spend weekends at the chief’s kraal (the area where the chief’s houses are built).

This is the final ritual before a girl becomes a woman or a boy becomes a man, and is reached after separate initiations dedicated to gender are completed. These include Vusha and Tshikanda for girls and Murundu for the boys (where circumcision also takes place, a rite that was introduced by the North Sotho). These ceremonies are performed separately, since missionaries decided that mixing males and females in the same ceremony was immoral. The Domba is only attended by girls and has two functions – to teach girls how to prepare themselves to become wives and to bring fertility to the new generation of the tribe.

Vhembe District:

The culture of the Vhembe district is inextricably linked to its natural surroundings. Visitors who are interested in the mysteries of this Land of Legend should visit Lake Fundudzi in the Mutale River. This lake is considered sacred and it is believed that the lake is all that is left of the water that covered the earth before the Creation. In actual fact, this lake is said to be the only true natural inland lake in South Africa and scientists believe that it was formed by a landslide that ended up blocking the course of a river, which is a rare way for a lake to form. This lake is special in more than one way and it is not surprising that the Venda hold it sacred. To read more about the legends surrounding this lake and why it is sacred.

Lake Fundudzi:

Lake Fundudzi is regarded as a place for the spirit world. According to guides from the area, the river that runs into this lake does not mix with the water, but rather skids over the top. It disappears into the mountain and comes out the other side, without emptying the lake. 

Below the surface of the lake, lives a great white python and a white crocodile (also see the Myth under the History of the VhaVenda). The python is the god of fertility in Venda culture. According to legend, a VhaVhenda man had a broken heart because of the loss of a great love. In his sorrow he walked into Lake Fundudzi and turned into a python. The Domba-python dance is still done by virgin Venda girls in order to honour the python god of fertility. Virgin maidens were also once offered to the white crocodile that lives beneath the lake.

Water spirits, called Zwidutwane, live in the lake and the VhaVhenda people often leave offerings of food, pottery and beer to the spirits in order to gain protection for crossing the river safely. Another legend tells that each year a virgin was sent to the lake to pour some millet beer on the water. If it sank, it was accepted and there would be a good harvest. But if it floated, the maiden had t be hauled out fast or the water guardians (spirits) would eat her.

The lake may only be visited after obtaining special permission from the chief and the priestess of the lake. It can also clearly be seen from the road winding up through the surrounding hills. Those who look at the river for the first time, must bend down and view it through their legs and spit on the ground.

Legends of the Sacred Forest (Thathe Vondo):

The sacred forest is the burial place of the Thathe clan’s chiefs and includes the great chief, Nethathe. The forest is guarded by two mythical creatures, a white lion (which is said to be chief Nethathe himself) and a bird of lightning, known as Ndadzi. Ndadzi flies during storms, with wings of thunder and eyes that flash lighting and a beak which carries rain. It is believed that this lightning bird drops eggs of fire that can burn trees to the ground.

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Open Africa Routes

A route is a cluster of travel attractions, accommodation, tour operators, local artisans, guides and restaurants. It brings people together from all levels of community to promote travel to their area. You select what interests you on a route and create your own itinerary.

South Africa - Limpopo

South Africa - Limpopo

The Land of Legend Route, true to its name, offers a platform to explore sacred lands, rippling rivers and awe-inspiring nature sites. Based in Thohoyandou, it is within close range of the Kruger National Park, but deserves more than a stop-over.

Key Contacts

Nelson Maphaha

Mobile: Click here


culture domba-dance thohoyandou lake-fundudzi bush venda limpopo


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