Tzaneen, Modjadji and surroundings
This experience takes the visitor to the tropical region of Tzaneen, interesting township vibes and the realm of the rain queen Modjadji. From Louis Trichardt, follow the N1 for 40 kilometers, then turn left on the R36 towards Tzaneen.
Just before reaching the town of Modjadjiskloof, turn left towards Modjadji and follow the roadsigns to the Sunland Baobab. The Sunland Big Baobab is renowned due to the fact that in its hollowed trunk there is established a bar and a wine cellar. The tree has been carbon dated and is estimated to be around 6000 years old which would make it one of the oldest trees in the world.
Back to the R36, and after leaving Modjadjiskloof behind, the road crosses the Tzaneen Dam. The Tzaneen Dam is set in a tropical area and is surrounded by tea, banana, fruit plantations. To access the dam, a drive along several kilometres of tracks through dense mature eucalyptus forests is required. The dam is fantastic to look at and is a good fishing destination as well.
Further on the road to Modjadji, follow the roadsigns to the Cycad Nature Reserve. This 530 hectare Nature Reserve, situated in the Bolobedu area, contains one of the most fascinating population of plants seen in South Africa. Once the main diet of the prehistoric mammal-like reptiles that lived here, the Modjadji cycad (Encephalartos transvenosus) forms a unique natural forest which can be viewed in its prehistoric state thanks to its strict protection by succeeding generations of Modjadji Rain Queens, the hereditary rulers in the area. The reserve also hosts the Modjadji Ivory Route overnight camp, a good base for further exploration of the area and guided tours in the villages.
The road from Modjadji back to the R36 takes the visitor to Tzaneen. This town lies in the scenic Letaba Valley and is an attractive subtropical garden town with a colourful profusion of indigenous and exotic vegetation. Situated at the foot of the imposing Wolkberg Mountains, the town is recognised as the "capital" of the picturesque Letaba district, which comprises 20 000 square kilometers of tropical and subtropical farming area in the Letsitele River Valley. Due to an above average summer rainfall, and moderate climate all year round, everything here grows in great abundance – nuts, avocado's, citrus, mangoes, litchi's, bananas, coffee, tea and the largest portion of South-Africa's tomatoes are cultivated in this area. Close by are the extensive green Sapekoe tea plantations, and the surrounding mountain slopes are heavily forested with timber plantations of Pine and Blue Gum, with close on 40 sawmills operating in the area.
The centre of town hosts the Tzaneen Museum. This is a small but fascinating museum, which was opened in August 1995. The permanent exhibition is made up of ethnological artifacts of the area. This includes weapons, pottery, beadwork, the largest collection of pole carvings in the country, royal drums from the Rain Queen Modjadji, sacred drums as well as general utensils as used in every day life. The museum is open from Mondays to Fridays.
Around Tzaneen, a fascinating daytrip to Nkowankowa can be organised. This is a combination of experiencing township vibe, and getting more to know about the traditional healers in the area.
EFAF: Elephants for Africa forever/EFAF in Mooketsi offers a unique experience. In a small nature reserve, visitors can interact with and ride on elephants. EFAF's philosophy is that through education and interaction with elephants, they are more understood, valued and hopefully more protected.
Places of interest
- Modjadji Cycad Forest and Ivory Route Camp
- Modjadji Cultural Tour
- Nkowankowa Townhsip Vibe
- Tzaneen Museum
- Tzaneen Dam
- Fairview Lodge
Tour guide: Yes
Level of adventure: Medium
Car: normal car