Nestled between the murky waters of the Letaba River and the Misty Peaks of the Wolkberg, Tzaneen is a town offering an abundance of natural, cultural and historical attractions. The diversity of Tzaneen is underlined by the lushness of the low country, with its vast groves of sub-tropical fruits, contrasting with the cool green forests and grasslands around the Magoebaskloof and Haenertsburg mountains. The mountains of Haenertsburg, Magoebaskloof as well as the mountains of Agatha, are linked via George’s Valley – an area of stunning scenery which has a special magic where only sparkling sunshine is able to encourage the hanging mists to dissipate.
There are a wide range of activities to be done and adventures to explore in the greater Tzaneen area and is definitely worth a spot on your Limpopo itinerary.
The small and sleepy town of Haernertsburg is also known as the capital of the “land of the silver mist” and offers a visitor a wide range of opportunities for sightseeing and activities in the area and will appeal specifically to nature lovers and those fond of hiking and bird watching. Leading up to the village, one travels alongside the Woodbush State Forest, which is the largest indigenous forest in Limpopo Province and is home to some magnificent trees and a wide range of forest biodiversity to appeal to anyones interest.
Further on towards the town of Haernartsburg, one also finds the Wegraakbos Organic Cheese Factory where the more discerning visitor can learn about the interesting facts involved in organic farming and the production of cheese as well as sample and taste their wonderful produce.
Close to this one can also find the Cheerio Gardens where hundreds of different Japanese flowering cherry trees come into spectacular bloom during late September/ early October. In addition to the cheery blossoms, the gardens are ablaze with the vibrant colours of azaleas, crab apples and other spring flower shrubs and trees.
The name Magoebaskloof comes from a legendary character of the region – King Makgoba, who as leader of the Tlou people. King Makgoba was able to keep the Boer government at bay during the battle for his mountaintop domain between 1888–1895. Additionally he was also responsible for leading his people in revolt on an issue of tax collection. He was eventually tracked won in the misty mountains and slain by Swazi impis employed by the Boer Republic in 1895. In order to prove to Commandant General Joubert that they had killed King Makgoba, the Swazis cut off his head. The Tlou buried their King’ body and the site remains a secret until the head of King Makgoba is returned. However, to this day the whereabouts of the King’s head remains a mystery. The memory of the King lives on in the name of the scenic Magoebaskloof, where he reigned and a regal bronze bust of his famous head stands proudly in the entrance square of the Magoebaskloof Hotel.
The Magoebaskloof Mountain pass is truly an awesome scenic experience as it winds its way slowly up the mountain through indigenous forests in which waterfalls, lakes and craggy kloofs can be found. The pass leads from the sub-tropical Lowveld up through the Drakensberg escarpment to the upper lying Highveld region on your way to Polokwane. One of the most scenic waterfalls is the Debengeni Waterfall which is situated at the foot of the Magoebaskloof Mountain. This is a wonderful picnic spot with braai and picnic facilities available.
Gardens of the Tzaneen Region
There are a number of remarkable gardens that one is able to visit and spend time in relaxing, enjoying, picnicking or simply pondering the more colourful aspects of life.
Kings Walden is found in Agatha and is the historical home of Dave and Tana Hilton-Barber. In this most romantic garden you will experience bold vista’s, intimate rooms, secret paths and poetic detail and all of this garden’s wonder overlooks the most remarkable scenery of the Lestitele Valley. Kings Walden is truly a garden that will appeal to the romantic soul and inspire those a little more jaded.
Coach House Gardens are also to be found in Agatha, not too far from Kings Walden and encompass 8 hectares of well assembled gardens immediately surrounding the hotel. The garden comprises a veritable mix of both exotic and indigenous plants of which a most remarkable aloe garden finally gives way into orchards of macadamia trees. Marked paths lead through the gardens as well as the 560ha estate surrounding the hotel and gardens where one is able to visit the two picturesque dams within the estate.
One of the farm walks available at the Coach House Hotel takes the avid ambler to what is renown as the country’s most comprehensive Clivia Collection – known as the McNeil Clivia Collection. The garden is built around a small stream and is shaded by grand indigenous trees. The Clivias usually bloom from the end of August to the beginning of October.
Modjadjiskloof – The Land of Modjadji “The Rain Queen”
The land of the Rain Queen is a region embellished with enchanting legends, myths and culture. In the centre sits the royal kraal of Modjadji – the home of the mysterious and mystical woman. Surrounding the Royal Kraal is a region of impressive Baobabs, untouched wilderness and impressive mountain ranges that are home to an abundance of wild animals, colourful birdlife and remarkable flora.
Modjadji is the direct descendant of the mighty Monomatapa who ruled over the karange people in Zimbabwe during the 15th centure. Folloiwng a royal scandal in the house of the king, his daughter, Princess Dzungungini and her son fled south from Monomatapa’s kingdom. With her she carried the potions and secrets of making rain and medicines to protects her against her enimieis. These power were passed down through her family line and her granddaughter was crowned the first Rain Queen Modjadji. It is this very Queen that Sir Rider Haggard immortalizes in his novel “She”. Her immortal reverence has managed to extend far beyond the boundaries of her tiny kingdom and, according to legend, many great kings, including the Zulu king Shaka, have left her nation untouched and often called on her for her awesome rainmaking powers.
Within the gardens of this mystical queen, one is able to visit a garden that has the largest concentration of a single species of cycad (there are 29 different species in South Africa) that has ever been protected for as long as 300 years. In 1936, it was declared a national monument and has further added to the protection of this phenomenal biological feature. Cycads are living fossils and have survived from a very early plant group known as they Cycadales, which was the predominant vegetation type approximately 300 millions years ago – at the time of the dinosaurs, and could quite possible have formed part of their diet. Permits are required to own a cycad in the garden, however, they remain very sought after plants that are able to grow to some 12 metres in height.
Gentle Giants of the Region
Not too far from Modjadjisloof, one is able to visit what is thought to be one of the largest Baobab trees in the world. It has a circumference of almost 50metres and has been estimated to be about 6000 years old . The already existing cavity within the tree has been converted into an intimate pub that is able to accommodate 10 – 15 people maximum.
Further on, in the small town of Mooketsi, one is able to visit the home of EFAF (Elephants For Africa For ever), where African Elephants, previously identified for culling on over populated reserves, are given a second chance in life and are trained for the elephant back safari. The world renown trainer, Rory Hensman has a remarkable and loving bond with each and every elephant that comes into his care and this is clearly visible in the daily interactions that you will witness while there. Rory has been a leader in the world of training polo ponies, dogs and horses and achieves his remarkable results through the positive methods of “ask and reward” system. He has been able to successfully use this very same process with African Elephants and has truly been a market leader in the ability to positively train these phenomenal creatures without the need for negative reinforcement. Spending a day with these gentle giants is a life changing experience and should be grabbed with both hands wanting.
There are a wide range of adventure activities that can be undertaken in the Tzaneen region from Kloofing (Canyoning) on the Letaba River to the Magoebaskloof Skyway Trail – a series of cables and platforms from tree canopy to tree canopy and far about the reclining valley floors below. Thaba Metsi Adventures also offers additional activities such as quad bilking, abseiling, tubing, and paintball.
The region is also home to a vast number of walks, hikes and mountain bike trails – designed for any level of fitness and ability. 4×4’ing is also available and is an activity that is undertaken by many in the region.
Visits to the Agatha Croc Farm might entice one to learn a little more about the deadly reptile that lives alongside us in the rivers and dams that we so often have to rely on for daily needs and activities. The crocs are fed daily so you will be able to experience firsthand their ferocious nature and ability to devour its prey with speed and efficacy.