Rixile Culture to Kruger Route

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The word rixile means 'rising of the sun' or 'the dawn of day'. The route, situated in the Limpopo province of South Africa, meanders between the small town of Giyani and Phalaborwa, the only town with a gate into the Kruger National Park.

The Limpopo Province is rich in cultural history and there is much to do in this land of myths and legends. The game viewing is possibly the best in the country and it is one of the most renowned eco-tourism destinations in Southern Africa. The province’s impressive mountain scenery beckons hikers, climbers and bikers, while mystic cultural destinations intrigue both local and international tourists.

The province is also referred to as the Great North. It is what the needle of the compass turns to for direction. Maps are ruled by it, and with it goes the symbolism and imagery of greatness and authority.

These are ancient lands. Some of the oldest and most comprehensive remains (and evidence) of prehistoric human habitation can be found at the Makapans Caves near Mokopane. Further along the time scale you find the unique history of the Stone Age San. Today their culture exists largely as spirits in the form of immaculate rock artwork, archaeological relics and in the tradition of storytelling.

Baobabs, also referred to as the 'upside-down tree', are a distinctive feature of the province. According to local legend these trees were uprooted and cast back to Earth by angry gods.

A compass swing to the east is the wildlife heritage of the Valley of the Olifants in the Lowveld. The Kruger National Park shoulders the province and houses a multitude of fauna and flora. Here are also the mountains, rivers and forests of the Letaba district, an unhurried, fertile area with its own distinctive characteristics.

South are the Nylsvley wetland and the mountains of the Waterberg. Here, the heat can be quenched and the muscles soothed by the mineral baths of the area's wealth of hot spring resorts.

Polokwane is the geographic and economic centre of the province. It provides the administrative workforce for a province of industry and determination. To the north of the province are the neighbouring Southern African countries of Zimbabwe, Botswana and Mozambique and the Limpopo River, which also offers a number of activities for the tourist.

Limpopo is divided into four tourism regions, each representing a range of varied and interesting cultures, growing industries and an expanding tourism industry. Each region is unique.

The tourists regions of Limpopo include:

  • The Waterberg, where the great Waterberg Biosphere incorporates the Nylsvley Nature Reserve and the Makapans Caves;
  • The Capricorn region, which incorporates the provincial capital city of Polokwane;
  • The Zoutpansberg region, which includes the Mapungubwe heritage site and the land of the vhaVenda people; and
  • The Valley of Olifants, with towns such as Tzaneen, Phalaborwa and Hoedspruit.

There is an abundance of Marula/Maroela trees in the area. A local delicacy worth trying when visiting the region is cooked or fried Mopane worms

Mopane worms and marula berries:

The Mopane worm:

The mopane worm (Imbrasia belina) is a large, edible caterpillar that forms the basis of a multi-million rand trade in the Limpopo Province and Mpumalanga in South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.

The mopane worm feeds on the mopane tree, Colophospermum mopane. The adult stage is a large and attractive Emperor moth (Family Saturnidae). The worm is an important source of protein and income to many people in Africa. However, the trade is threatened by over-harvesting and mopane worms are now rare or extinct in some areas.

One of the greatest problems is the shortsighted destruction of large mopane trees as a way of harvesting worms that are too high to reach. Mopane worms are being studied to try and find out more about the extent to which this resource can be harvested on a sustainable basis.

Mopane worm recipe:

Caterpillars are prepared for eating by squeezing out the gut contents before they are fried in their own body fat or boiled in a little water. Most of the caterpillars are dried so that they can be stored for use throughout the year. Dried caterpillars may be eaten dry as a snack or rehydrated and cooked in a little water before they are fried in oil with onion and tomato. They may be served with pap (maize-meal porridge), onion and tomato gravy and atchar (chili sauce).

The Marula:

The Marula is a handsome, medium-sized spreading tree of wooded savannah and belongs to the mango (Anacardiaceae) family. It favours sandy soils in the warmer, eastern parts of the continent, where it may grow up to 15m in height.

Few African trees are held in such high esteem by indigenous peoples. The marula has a multitude of uses in terms of diet and culture. The abundant crop of fruit, high in vitamin C, is a source of jelly and jam as well as the basis for potent liquor. This has been commercialised in recent times as Amarula Cream - one of South Africa's most successful exports.

In addition to the flesh of the fruit - a single tree can produce over 10000 -  the oil-rich seeds or 'nuts' are also sought after by people and a variety of animals. The Zulu people crush and boil the seeds, skim off the oil and use it as a therapeutic body massage while the Venda people are said to use the oil to preserve meat. The seeds are difficult to extract from the stone-like kernel, but the Cape Parrot is able to do so with its strong beak.

Elephants are fanatical about the grey bark of Marulas and, when they occur at high densities, can eliminate entire communities of these valuable trees through destructive ring-barking.


Phalaborwa, meaning 'better than the South', owes its existence to the Ba-Phalaborwa people that started mining copper and iron ore deposits in the area hundreds of years ago. Part of their ancient workings has been traced to two 'koppies' (hills) just outside of Phalaborwa, Sealene and Kgopolwe, which have been declared national monuments.

There is archaeological evidence that the Phalaborwa region was occupied by metalworking communities during at least two periods in the last 1200 years. Both phases of occupation (the 9th-13th and 17th-20th centuries) coincided with trade along the East Coast of Africa. There are approximately 53 metal working sites dotted around the Phalaborwa region.  

Metalworking sites in Phalaborwa:

The majority of the sites in Phalaborwa are associated with the syenite hills that stud the area. The settlement style of the metalworkers indicates a geographical separation of primary (ore smelting) and secondary (iron forging and copper smelting and forging) metalworking activities. The metalworkers and their families lived on terraces located on the hill slopes and level ground. Iron and copper smelting furnaces were located far from the living quarters. Iron forge furnaces, on which iron bloom was forged, were built close to where people lived. This pattern is consistent with an ideology in which smelting was practised with ritual and associated with many taboos. Smelting was done away from villages so that menopausal women could not attend or interfere with these activities. Medicinal holes in iron smelting furnaces and certain iron forge furnaces served as receptacles for 'medicine' such as human hand bones. Other possible 'medicines' included remains from aardvark, lions and neonatal sheep. Some of these medicines were used to appease the forefathers to ensure a successful smelt.

Geographical separation of smelters’ working areas from residential areas may indicate that smelters were “married” to their furnaces during smelting periods and consequently abstained from sexual intercourse with women during times of iron and coppers smelting. The metalworking process was also regarded as a metaphor for human sexual intercourse, fertility and fecundity. Metalworking eventually became entrenched in the political, social, religious and other aspects of the lives of metalworkers.

The Masorini heritage site close to the Phalaborwa gate was also once inhabited by a group of the Ba-Phalaborwa people. These people made a living by manufacturing and selling iron artefacts during the Iron Age. The site has old shafts and stopes from which ore was extracted in the early days. Local legend has it that the iron was beaten into assegai heads and primitive hoes and used as a form of currency among the Ba-Phalaborwa tribes.

International interest in the 1950's resulted in the establishment of large-scale mining operations in the area. The town itself was established in 1957 after rich phosphate-bearing ore was discovered on the hill known as Loole Kop. Loole Kop has vanished under the onslaught of man and machine. All that remains is an open cast mine. The mine has become a unique tourist attraction as the big hole that was left behind has a diameter of just less than two kilometres. A visit to the view point and the mine museum is a must. The wealth of minerals in the area is attributed to a series of volcanic eruptions 2000-million years ago. The cone of the eruption has long since vanished but the pipe, an astonishing geological feature measuring 19 square kilometres, is still intact. The pipe is filled to an unknown depth with minerals such as phosphates, copper irconium, vermiculite, mica and gold.

Although much has happened since, the original Ba-Phalaborwa people still live in the Greater Phalaborwa area. Many of their traditions and original way of life are still intact.

Cultural tours are becoming increasingly popular and a number of tour operators in the area offer visitors a unique glimpse of different cultures including:

  • Traditional reading by sangomas (traditional healers);
  • The opportunity to taste Mopani worms and drink traditional Maroela beer; and
  • Traditional tribal dance and music performances.

Phalaborwa is the only town in South Africa bordering the Kruger National Game Park that also has a gate into the park.

The Phalaborwa Gate and Kruger National Park:

The Phalaborwa Gate opened in June 1961 and currently receives an average of 180000 visitors (approximately 55000 vehicles) per annum. The Kruger National Park was proclaimed in 1926 to protect the wildlife of the Lowveld and now covers an area of about 20000 kilometres squared. It is unrivalled in the diversity of its life forms and a world leader in advanced environmental management techniques and policies.

The Park is home to an impressive 336 tree species, 49 fish species, 34 amphibian species, 114 reptile species, 507 bird species and 147 mammal species.

Activities such as guided bushwalks, night and day game drives, 4X4 overland trails and bush braai (barbeque) are offered. Facilities include the Skukuza 9-hole golf course, conference facilities, picnic facilities, swimming pools, restaurants and various forms of accommodation including camping, sleepover hides, cottages, huts and guest houses.

With the establishment of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park, two border posts linking the Kruger National Park to Mozambique are in the process of being developed. The first is the Pafuri Border Post just south of Crooks Corner. The second is at Giriyondo in the northern section between Letaba and Mopani Camps. Culturally there is ample evidence of Middle Stone Age humans in the area. There is also evidence of Early Stone Age (some 500000 to 100000 years ago) humans in the area.

There are also about 80 rock art sites in the area (rock art is generally thought to have been made by the San people) and evidence of Iron Age people dating from recent history back to about 20000 years ago. About 300 archaeological Iron Age sites have also been discovered, dating from recent history to 450AD.

Phalaborwa is known as the town with two summers, with average temperatures of 23°C throughout the year. Tourism and wildlife play a dominant role in the life of this town. Tourists are never more than half an hour’s drive away from destinations such as game farms and lodges, game sanctuaries and nature reserves. The famous Phalaborwa Hans Merensky Golfing Estate is about one kilometre from the centre of town. The golf course is one of few in the world where wild animals roam the fairways. The Gateway Airport in Phalaborwa receives daily scheduled flights from Johannesburg to Phalaborwa.

Phalaborwa also falls within the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve. Kruger to Canyons (K2C) was registered as a biosphere reserve in 2001 and became the 411th biosphere reserve site to be registered in 94 countries worldwide. The K2C Biosphere Programme is an extensive community-driven initiative situated in the east of the country. It bridges the Limpopo and Mpumalanga provinces. It is also at the interface of the Eastern Transvaal Drakensberg Escarpment and the Central Lowveld.

The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve:

The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere is an area designated by the United Nations Education and Scientific Organisation (Unesco) as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve (the Biosphere).

Biospheres are regions of outstanding ecological importance seeking a sustainable balance between the needs of mankind and nature. The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere faces South Africa's defining millennium issues: economic development, equitable governance, and empowerment.

The natural environment introduces conservation imperatives into the transformation of the country being undertaken by the government. A new philosophy of African Renaissance has emerged to underpin the imperatives for transformation across the continent. The empowerment of African people is creating new opportunities for cooperation and conservation in South Africa. The Biosphere is an expression of these cultural and political changes. The Transfrontier Park initiatives and recent recognition of the Greater Mapungubwe Cultural Complex will offer the chance to re-integrate cultures that have been historically disrupted and separated by European colonisation.

The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere contains three major biomes (distinctive biogeographic regions): dry savannah woodlands, Afromontane forest and Afromontane grassland.

As the altitude (and consequently rainfall) increases from east to west, a great biodiversity can be witnessed progressing from scrub and savannah upwards into South Africa’s unique fynbos floral system, rainforests, and climax grasslands on the top of the escarpment, where water is more abundant.

The reserve’s website offers a Lowveld resources section which includes a calendar of local events, books and recommended websites on the Lowveld or Kruger.

It also contains:

  • A comprehensive bibliography and glossary relating to the site's materials;
  • News relating to the Kruger region;
  • A discussion board; and
  • A Kruger Region events calendar which people can add to.

Lulekani is a suburb and former township of Phalaborwa. The area is one of the poorest regions of South Africa and despite the altered political circumstances the discrepancy between poor and wealthy people has not changed. The approximately 50 000 inhabitants of Lulekani are solely dependent on work in the surrounding mines and farms. The mines will probably close down within the next twenty years, leaving many of these people unemployed.

Young people are concerned by the high unemployment rate. The children, youth and single parents, mostly women, suffer from insufficient infrastructure and social disadvantages. The exact number of young people who have to earn their living on the streets is not known. Against this background it is astonishing to see people persevere to shape their destinies. This accounts for their favourable attitude to tourism. There are some interesting development projects in Lulekani that address social issues and are well worth a visit.

Local events:

Limpopo Marula Festival:

When:  Watch this space for next year's dates   
Where:  Phalaborwa
Contact Person(s):  Gillienne Saddie
Cell:  +27 83 661 7880

Attractions include the Marula Beer tasting supplied by local brewers, exhibitions featuring products made by Marula - soaps, candles, butter, jam, massage oils, chutneys and skin ointments. A weeklong event  covering activities including  4X4 Challenge, Half Marathon, Career Fair, Fun Fair, Cuisine Ala Marula Competition, Youth Rugby (Bulletjies), Street Parade and Open Air Festival. www.where2stay-southafrica.com/event/Marula_Festival_Phalaborwa

Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

The Polokwane Show & Music Festival:

When:  28 - 31 May 2014
Where:  Polokwane Show Ground
Contact Person(s):  Corrie Venter
Tel: +27 15 295 3127
Cell: +27 82 374-0816
E-mail: lelane-venter@absamail.co.za

There will be some of South Africa’s top artists to entertain you, a Fun Fair with an imported, hair raising Simulator ride, local talent show, a wide variety of foodstalls, a beer tent, drum majorettes a military band and so much more to keep you entertained

Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

Kiwi Festival:

When:  2 - 3 May 2014
Where:  Haenertsburg
Contact Person(s):  Jane
Cell:  +27 83 442 7429

This unique event provides a fun experience for the whole family. Entertainment over the two days will include guided tours of a kiwi fruit farm, with tastings of kiwifruit and kiwifruit related products, as well as informative talks on how kiwifruit is grown and their fascinating history (for instance do you know the fruit originally came from China via New Zealand).

Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

Thabazimbi Expo:

When:  Please watch this space for next year's date
Where:  Thabazimbi   
Contact Person(s):  Michelle Black
Tel:  +27 12 326 0560
E-mail:  michelle@hilltoplive.co.za

One of the fastest growing eco-tourist growing points in the country, Thabazimbi will be the host to the Thabazimbi Game and Tourism Expo.

Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

Ellisras Bushveld Festival:

When:  Watch this space for next year's dates
Where:  Lephalale
Contact Person(s):  Marié Seegers
Cell:  +27 82 061 1382

The festival includes cattle shows, a game auction, horse jumping, dog shows, agricultural activities,  4x4 competition, a game farms expo, hunting opportunities, bird and tree identification competitions, traditional food, a beer tent and huge camp fires.

Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

Hoedspruit Game Festival:

When:  12 July 2014   
Where:  Hoedspruit   
E-mail:  reservations@1africa.co.za

Watch planes performing acrobatics, view civilian and airforce aircrafts or speak to pilots, while enjoying fun activities related to aviation and aviation awareness. Food and drink stalls and beer tent.

Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

Die Horing Kunstefees:

When:  Watch this space for next year's dates       
Contact Person(s):  JB
Cell:  +27 83 646 3686
E-mail:  jbbekker@gmail.com

This year took the town by storm with kunsuitstalings. fishing competition, 4×4 competition, stalls, country sports, bull and 7's rugby, drummies, dance, displays, stage productions, opdollie competition, 123 cooking competition, gaskunstenars jumping and fun for the whole family.

Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

Kierieklapper Arts Festival:

When:  Watch this space for next year's dates
Contact Person(s):  Piet Potgieter - High School, Mokopane
Tel:  +27 15 491 5747
(Paying event - entrance fees)

Loads of new and exciting initiatives are planned and the organisers are confident that the entertainment will be excellent, duly enhanced by the overall festive ambiance thus ensuring that there will be something to interest and entertain the whole family.

Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

Waterberg Game Festival:

When:  Watch this space for next year's dates
Where:  Oljaco Auctions, Vaalwater

This festival aims to provide entertainment through artists and various activities, introduce visitors to the region and it's people, support the upliftment of our community and unite the community.

Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

Magoebaskloof Spring Festival:

When:  20 - 28 September 2014

Contact Person(s): Anne-Marie / Linda

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

E-mail:  haen@telkomsa.net / applegrange@mweb.co.za

There will be displays of pottery, ceramics, glass craft, wood craft, mosaics, wrought iron, designer clothing, home décor and jewellery. There will also be hands-on craft demos.

Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

Sasol Marakele Birding Breakaway:

When:  Please watch this space for next year's date
Where:  Marakele National Park
Contact Person(s):  Ampie Venter / Eddie Cassani
Cell:  +27 83 258 5924 (Ampie) / +27 84 370 5255 (Eddie)

A weekend of birding, entertainment, prizes and lots more!

Please note:  Users are kindly advised to check with the listed contacts for any late amendment(s) to the event information.

Berry Festival:

When: 15 - 16 February 2014

Where: Magoebaskloof and Haenertsburg Village

Contact Person(s):  Shahrzad

Cell:  +27 82 903 7593 (Shahrzad) / +27 82 575 5738 (Linda - Tours)

Whether it's fresh farm produce, second-hand books or home-made cakes you're sure to find something unique here. You can also take in the scenery and marvel at the breathtaking views from one of the designated viewpoints or take a walk through the natural forests.



Nearby routes

Hlanganani Route

The Hlanganani route is situated in the northernmost part of South Africa, in Limpopo (previously known as Northern Province), on the north-west border of one of Africa’s finest parks, the Kruger National Park.

Kruger to Canyons Route

Located in the Kruger to Canyon Biosphere, this route includes the towns of Graskop, Hoedspruit and Phalaborwa. It aims to contribute to the conservation of the biosphere.

Land of Legend Route

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.

Ribolla Open Africa Route

The route, named after the uniquely shaped mountain in the Makhado District, showcases the artistic talents of many of its inhabitants, as well as dancers, storytellers, gardeners and singers.

Rixile Bush to Beach Route

A new concept in tourism, the bush to beach experience provides travellers with the opportunity to have the best of both worlds. Spend a few days in one of Southern Africa’s most renowned game parks before reaching the pristine beaches of Mozambique where you can enjoy scuba diving, snorkelling, angling and whale-watching.

Route of Lost Kingdoms

This route gives tourists the opportunity to explore this undiscovered region in the north of South Africa, bordering Botswana and Zimbabwe.

Seraki Blouberg Route

This route lies at the foothills of the Blouberg Mountain in Limpopo and offers an experience that can only be found in Africa. A range of projects with authentic arts and crafts, as well as accommodation in a pristine setting can be found. Vistors can go on adventurous hikes, see cultural and natural heritage and interact with 'real' people.


Did you get to go bet that it is really hot at the mnmeot! (even without fires).Must be pretty interesting.Alain and I went to the Kruger National Park in December one year. Unplanned sleepover. Spent the night killing mosquitoes and hoping that we weren't in the malaria belt.

Takeshi on 13th of July, 2013 at 11:02.

Grade A stuff. I'm unqusetinoably in your debt.

Latoya on 22nd of December, 2011 at 15:17.

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