Mapungubwe National Park, South Africa

Mapungubwe National Park is a national Park in Limpopo province of South Africa. The park is located by River Kolope stretching south of the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers and about 15 kilometers to the North East of the Venetia Diamond Mine. Mapungubwe National Park borders Mapesu Private Game reserve to the south and it is close to the border of Botswana and Zimbabwe. The park also forms part of the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area.

Covering an area of approximately 280 square kilometers, Mapungubwe National Park was established in 1995. It protects the historical sites of Mapungubwe hill which was the capital of the kingdom of Mapungubwe. The park also protects a variety of wildlife and the riverine forests along the Limpopo River and it is one of the few places in the African continent that hosts both the meerkats and the Nile crocodiles.

The hill of Mapungubwe was a site of the community for the Iron Age dates and with the evidences shown, the community was very prosperous. In the same area, Archeologists also uncovered the famous golden rhino figurine from the site. Mapungubwe is well known for its excellent and beautiful scenic landscape with the sandstone formations, riverine forests, baobab trees and also woodlands.

Vegetation of the park

Mapungubwe National park consist a numerous habitat types which have resulted in high species diversity. The park has about 24 acacia species and 8 Commiphora species. The other vegetation in the area typically short and there is dense growth of shrubby Mopane trees. The riparian fringe of the Limpopo is a dense vegetation community with closed canopy which occur in the rich alluvial deposits along the river.

The most common trees in the community include the Ana trees, the lead woods, the fever trees, fig trees and acacias. The park also has some large baobab with one specimen having a circumference of 31 meters. Extensive vegetation of the park has been cleared for cultivation especially along the length of the Limpopo River.

Wildlife of the park

Bird species

Mapungubwe National Park records over 387 bird species and over 400 species can be spotted in the region. The park has a high density of Verreaux’s eagle and other raptors in its landscape. There is also a variety of cuckoo species particularly in the summer which are about 11 species including the rarer common and thick billed cuckoos. Other bird species in the park include the southern pied babbler, the black faced waxbill, the crimson breasted shrike, the white crested helmet shrikes, Meve’s starlings, yellow bellied greenbuls, black backed puff back, tropical boubou, Natal spufowl, southern pied babbler and others.

The Limpopo floodplain in flood is a home to a number of aquatic birds including the grey crowned cranes, and about seven stock species and the waders, heron, crakes, and the duck species. All these species will easily be sighted during the wet times. Other bird species in the park include the great white pelican, bat hawk, broad billed and racket tailed roller, African golden oriole, green sandpiper, three banded courser, blue spotted wood dove, grey headed parrot and many others.

Mammal species

A variety of large African game species are sighted in Mapungubwe National Park especially during the dry season when the Limpopo River is not in flood. During this season, the games move freely across the park to Botswana and Zimbabwe and then back to the park. Among the games in the park include the hippos, lions, white rhinos, elephants, leopards, cheetahs, blue wildebeest, kudu, zebra, bushbuck, oryx, giraffes, warthogs, bush pigs, baboons, spotted hyena, brown hyena, impala, duiker, steenbok, klipspringer and others.

The park is also home to small game species including the civets, porcupine, caracal, vervet monkeys, badgers, and others. Also, the park hosts about 17 species of bats like the fruit bats which are attracted to the fig trees which are along the Limpopo River banks.

Reptile species

Though fifteen species have been confirmed, Mapungubwe national park estimates about 32 snake species. Among these species include the southern African python, snouted cobra, black mamba, three species of whip or sand snakes and both the horned and puff adders. Other reptile species in the park include the water monitor lizard, rock monitor lizards, rainbow skink, ground agama, giant plated lizards, and the Nile crocodiles which occur in and along the Limpopo River.