Ribolla Open Africa Route

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Limpopo is renowned for its arts, crafts and design. Some of the province's most acclaimed crafters, better described as artists, include Noria Mabaso, Jackson Hlungwane, Phineas Masivhelele and Sarah Munyai, just to mention a few who are resident along the Ribolla Route. There are traditional dancers, storytellers, gardeners, and singers to be seen on this route, in traditional Shangaan and Venda villages where visitors can stay overnight at rondavels or in luxury accommodation such as Shiluvari Lake Lodge. Here one can experience the culture and traditional way of life of the people of this region and the history of Louis Trichardt.

The Ribolla Route is in the crown of the rainbow nation, where the Drakensberg mountain range ends. Ribolla is the name of a mountain in the area. Limpopo province is a region of extraordinary myths and legends, of great and ancient kingdoms. This is where the queen Modjadji makes rain, where young women dance like pythons, where rhinos are made of gold, where clay pottery is made and where the best wood sculptures are found.

Throughout this Land of Legends people will welcome you in the traditionally hospitable African manner. You will sense compelling links with the past in the traditions and dances. This is the essence of Limpopo.

Establishment of the route:

The Transnet Foundation has for a long time been interested in assisting with development in the Louis Trichardt District Municipality area and in particular supporting the artistic talents of many of its inhabitants. Recognising that these people are not only talented, but also hard-working and dedicated, the Transnet Foundation believes that this route will widen the exposure of their own strengths.

Route location:

Ribolla Route is situated 23ºS and 30ºE, in the northernmost parts of South Africa in Limpopo (previously known as Northern Province). It is situated along the route to the Kruger National Park, which is one of Africa’s finest parks, and stretches from the northern parts of the Polokwane (formerly Pietersburg) area along the N1 route towards Musina, formerly known as Messina, on the border of Zimbabwe, before joining the R524 and R523 to the Punda Maria Gate at Kruger National Park. Here the Ribolla Route joins the Hlanganani Route in the eastern part of Limpopo.

The route covers the four primary areas of Venda, Elim, Louis Trichardt and Giyani. This includes villages such as Njhaka-Njhaka, Mbokota, Mukondeni, Vuwani, Tshakhuma, Bungeni, Tsianda, Makulana, Mashamba, Makuyini, Mpheni, Shirley, Tshivhase and Thohoyandou, Giyani and Elim, while Louis Trichardt is the main town in the region. The route is about four hours’ drive from Gauteng and one hour from Polokwane (Pietersburg).

Useful travel information:

Travellers are exposed to malaria, so please consult your doctor about the medication you will need to take before and after leaving Limpopo, as well as while holidaying in the area. The best protection against malaria is not to get bitten by mosquitoes and regular application of repellents usually assures this.

There are two airports close to this route. Pietersburg International Airport is located about 100km from the route and the other is Phalaborwa Airport, which is about two hours’ drive from the general route area. Both airports are served by daily flights from Gauteng and Cape Town. 

The best way to explore this route is with a knowledgeable guide, available at reasonable rates. Tours can be arranged to suit visitors’ requirements. Please contact Ribolla Tourism Association for more information about this and all participants on the route.

Directions from Gauteng:

From Gauteng take the N1 heading towards Polokwane. From Polokwane continue on the N1 towards Musina and Zimbabwe until you reach Louis Trichardt. This is the start of Ribolla Route.

A brief history of Venda:

This far north-eastern corner of Limpopo became the home of migrant groups of people seeking peace and sanctuary. In this 'pleasant land', Venda, they found high mountains, peaceful valleys, an abundance of clear water and some of the finest indigenous forests in Southern Africa. In the silence of these forests many legends were born, telling of the spirits of the water and the sacred guardians of hidden lakes and ancient burial places.

The VhaVenda culture is steeped in the spirit world and finds expression in their dances, woodcarvings, pottery and the decoration of their buildings. The Venda people are regarded as among the finest artists in Africa and their original works are collected worldwide.

The best-known Venda dance is the domba, which is performed during initiation ceremonies. The domba drum is a prized possession, intricately carved in wood. Generations of carvers have kept this craft alive, and an open-air workshop near Mutale is worth a visit.

Thohoyandou is the former capital of what was the nominally independent 'homeland' of Venda and the proud heart of the VhaVenda people. The name means 'head of the elephant' in tshiVenda. The town is the commercial, administrative and legislative centre for the district. It is a bustling centre of commerce, well served with shopping complexes, an interesting museum and an international standard hotel and casino.

Thohoyandou is situated in the southern part of Venda, on the main road between Louis Trichardt and the Kruger National Park. This is the lush agricultural centre of Venda, with its banana plantations, acres of sub-tropical fruit, tobacco and maize lands. Coffee and tea plantations grace the higher slopes. It is a well-populated area, dotted with tidy villages. Each home expresses the character of its owner, low encircling walls being delightfully decorated with traditional motifs.

Visit the sacred lake Fundudzi, which lies at the heart of VhaVenda mysticism.

The Thathe Vondo Forest, with its giant hardwoods, tumbling streams with canopies of trees ferns and creepers, is an impenetrable and mysterious place. It contains the Sacred Forest, where one may not walk for fear of angering the ancestral spirits. Even the VhaVenda common folk are forbidden here, as it hides the burial place of the chiefs of the Thathe clan.

Activities and attractions:

Big Tree:

The largest baobab in the country, over 3 000 years old, with a girth of 43m, is found near the Sagole Spa 35km from Nwanedi Nature Reserve in the Venda region.

Dzata Ruins and Museum of the Drum:

Site of the VhaVenda royal village dating back to 1400 AD. The history of the Venda is depicted and the ruins with their dry-stone walls can be explored. On the R523 between Thohoyandou and Louis Trichardt.

Kokwane Prehistoric Footprints:

Near Louis Trichardt north of the Soutpansberg on the R523.

Levubu Tree Park:

A scenic park in the garden of the Dutch Reformed Church in Levubu near Thohoyandou.

Lwamondo Hill:

A photogenic hill, named after a clan whose stronghold it still is. A troop of sacred baboons still keeps watch over this place. Their task was to warn the Lwamondo of any intruders by barking fiercely. A shower of rocks and arrows would then disperse the enemy. The baboons are protected to this day. Between Tshakuma and Shayandima on the R524 road.

Makuya Park:

Adjacent to the Kruger National Park between the Mutale and Levubu rivers near Tshikondeni coal mine, east of Masisi.

Mphaphuli Cycad Reserve:

A nature reserve and hiking route on the Mutale Road near the Makonde Village, east of Thohoyandou.

Nwanedi National Park:

In the wooded foothiils of the Soutpansberg, where the Nwanedi River and its tributary, the Luphephe River, meet, twin dams have been built. These form the hub of a resort area with comfortable accommodation. The park is extensive, 11 170ha, and well stocked with game. About 20km east of Tshipise on the R525 road, 75km north of Thohoyandou.

Pafuru Picnic Spot:

One of the best birding spots in South Africa in the northern Kruger National Park is the Pafuru picnic spot, where visitors can see a wide variety of bird species.

Phiphidi Falls and Guvhukuvhu Pool:

Visitors are urged to respect the fact that locals consider this tranquil place a sacred site. On the R523 road between Sibasa and the tea plantation.

Sagole Spa and Village:

The village of Sagole, in the north of Venda, flourishes as the natural hot spring attracts visitors to the area. Tshikovha, a local herbalist and diviner of international repute, can be visited by arrangement. This is also the area where the biggest boabab tree is found.

Thathe Vondo Forest:

A magnificent forest on the R523 road between Thohoyandou and Louis Trichardt. The forest contains the Thathe Vondo tea estate, the Sacred Forest, Mahovhohovho Falls, Mukumbani Dam and Lake Fundudzi.


An archaeological site where Africans smelted gold around 1300AD, in the northern region of what is now the Kruger National Park.

Tshakuma Village:

A place to see the rich African culture, with Venda sculptors and crafters plying their trade.

Tshatshingo Potholes:

On the Thohoyandou/Mutale Road turn left to the potholes at Khubve Village.


A crucial archaeological site containing iron furnaces dating back to 1250AD. Visits can be organised through the guide.

Brief history of Louis Trichardt:

Louis Trichardt is an important commercial, industrial and residential centre in the northern region, a true 'gateway to Africa'. Situated at the foot of the densely forested Soutspansberg range near the Zimbabwean border and the Kruger National Park, in a fertile, rapidly growing agricultural area, LouisTrichardt has become one of Limpopo’s premier business and tourist destinations.

LouisTrichardt lies 100km north of Polokwane and 100km south of the Beit Bridge border post that separates South Africa from Zimbabwe. The N1 passes through Louis Trichardt and forms part of the Maputo sub-corridor. It has a population of 120 000 and 600 000 people live within a 50km radius.

The town Louis Trichardt was named after the Voortrekker leader Louis Trichardt. There is a memorial commemorating this brave man, who wanted to move as far away as possible from British rule and was part of the Great Trek in 1838. After an arduous trip Trichardt and his wife died of malaria.

The Church of the Covenant was built after the battle between the early settlers and the Venda people. Fort Hendrina was a mobile fort used during the Anglo-Boer War. Schoemansdal Open Air Museum portrays the way of life of those early pioneers.

Several routes around LouisTrichardt take in the interesting characteristics of the area, such as the fruit route, where one can visit the farms where a variety of fruit and nuts are produced. The arts and craft route in the Elim area takes in sisal mats, candles, silk-screen prints, batik articles, traditional Venda pots and woodcarvings. It is also possible to see the way of life of the Tsonga/Shangaan people.

A wide variety of hiking, horse and mountain bike trails, guided or unguided, can be undertaken, such as the Soutpansberg Hiking Trail (two days circular, 21km); Ben Lavin Nature Reserve (18km of walking trails); Greater Kuduland (guided and unguided game walks) and Medike Mountain Reserve (scenic mountain and riverine trails). 4x4 routes are extremely popular.

Activities and attractions in the LouisTrichardt area:

Ben Lavin Nature Reserve:

Beautiful views, fascinating archaeological sites dating to 1250AD, over 160 tree species and 50 mammal species. Mountain biking, hiking, birding, game drives.

Church of the Vow:

The Church of the Covenant is one of two churches in South Africa that came about as a result of a vow. On October 16, 1898, shortly before the Republican attack on the Venda monarch Mphephu, worshippers promised that if the Lord enabled them to make peace with the Venda, a church would be dedicated to His honour. The church was designed by Gerhard Moerdyk and built in 1926.

Fort Hendrina:

Collapsible fort used in 1887 as protection for 25 artillerymen and 100 mounted police. Next to municipal library in Erasmus Street.

Hanglip Picnic Site and Forest:

A superb bird watching site (one of the few in the country where the narina trogon, purple-crested loerie and Knysna loerie have all been spotted). With many trails through scenic wooded countryside boasting trees of worldwide dendrological interest. All trees are marked. Forestry Road north of town. Drive up the mountain, park at the boom and walk 150m to the site.

Indigenous Tree Sanctuary:

There are 145 regional indigenous trees in this arboretum. Situated at the N1 highway, Trichardt Street intersection.

Memorial Garden:

Lovingly manicured gardens commemorating local victims of various local and international conflicts. A plaque commemorates the first school north of the Vaal River.


A private residence providing one of the country’s finest examples of 18th century architecture. Has been declared a national monument. Snyman street extension.


The settlement of a fascinating local people, descendants of Coenraad de Buys, who settled in the area many years before the arrival of the Voortrekkers. On the R522 road towards Vivo.

Langjan Nature Reserve:

Typical Kalahari sandveld with scenic red sand dunes, conserving the last remaining naturally occurring herd of gemsbok in Limpopo. On the R521 to Alldays, 22km from Vivo.


Elim is an area situated next to the hospital of the same name. This is a small town that caters for most of the villages around the area. The residential area apparently developed as a result of the establishment of the hospital in the region.  

Attractions and activities in the Elim region:

Albasini Dam:

Named after Joao Albasini and built on his farm, 25km from LouisTrichardt on the Levubu Road, or 12km from Elim on the Levubu/Vuwani Road. Boating and angling can be done here.

Elim Hospital:

A small museum in the Elim Hospital commemorating the work of Swiss doctors and missionaries in South Africa. Famous for their research on glaucoma. Turn left off the N1 onto the R578 road towards Giyani via Elim, south of Louis Trichardt. Entrance is to the left at 4-way stop at Elim.

Grave of Joao Albasini:

A gravesite commemorated annually by the local Shangaan for a man who became their chief and the Portuguese Vice-Consul in the early 1800's. Opposite picnic spot at dam wall.

Lemana College of Education:

A newly proclaimed national monument near Elim Hospital was established in 1908 as one of the first institutions of higher education in the area.

Mambedi Tea Estates:

These beautiful estates can be viewed by appointment. On the Elim/Levubu/Vuwani road between Elim and Levubu.
Tel. +27 15 556 3135

Mashamba Potters:

Traditional Venda pottery on the R578 road at the Riverplaats turn-off after crossing the mountain. Left to Mashamba Post Office.

Tsonga Textiles:

Some of the most creative local textile designs are on offer here. Cross the four-way stop at Elim, on the R578, continue up the mountain, turn left at the Shirley farm road.

Lake Fundudzi and Domba Dance:

One of the best-known sacred places in Venda, located on the R523 road between Sibasa and Fondwe, is Lake Fundudzi on the Mutale River, where, as legend has it, the giant python god of fertility dwells.

It is regarded as a spirit world and in the past it was believed that a great white python accepted human sacrifices in the form of young maidens before it would command the much-needed rains for the region.

This sacrifice became the integral part of Venda life, together with the remarkable ceremony known as the domba dance (python dance), which has become part of the initiation rites of young women. The dance is performed by rows of girls imitating the movements of a python.

Lake Fundudzi lies hidden from view in a valley and one may visit it with permission from the priestess of the lake. It can be seen from the road winding up through the surrounding hills.

Visit Lake Fundudzi and listen to the myths and legends told by local people.

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.

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
Where:  Magoebaskloof
Contact Person(s):  Linda Miller
Tel:  +27 15 276 1531 / +27 82 575 5738 or
Anne-Marie Brook on +27 15 276 4828 / +27 82 883 4449

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.

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.

Rixile Culture to Kruger Route

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.

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.


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Pharme662 on 26th of February, 2012 at 16:28.

I have a collection of about 10 post of about 1.50 cm hieght, made by Lilian Munyai , who died a few years ago. I knew the artist well personally. These large post were traditionally plced on both sides of the mentrance to a Venda homestaed. Post are in Berlin 0049 43204798. Consider selling some

stefan on 14th of May, 2010 at 18:29.

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