The Soutpansberg Mountains, South Africa’s northernmost mountain range, lie 49 km north of the Tropic of Capricorn. Soutpansberg means “salt pan mountain” and takes its name from the large salt pan at the western end of the mountain range— a source of salt since time immemorial.
The range runs along an east-west axis for about 130 km. The width of the mountain range varies from 18 to 32 km. Several of its peaks tower over 1 500mabove sea level. Among the highest peaks are Hanglip (1 719 m) and Letjume, the highest peak, at 1 747m. Although it may be interesting to know the dimensions of the Soutpansberg Range, they cannot give you a clear picture of the awe-inspiring views that await you. A variety of animals and indigenous plants abound in the area, which is criss-crossed by rivers and streams.
The fertile terrain is extremely suitable for the planting of a wide variety of crops, and the rainfall can be as much as 2 000 mm a year in some places. There are many opportunities for hikers and climbers in the area, especially in the Soutpansberg Mountains themselves. The mopani bushveld is ideally suited for game farming: over 500 species of trees grow here and as many as 465 species of birds have been recorded in the area.
The Nzhelele River has its source on the eastern slopes of the Soutpansberg and flows into the Limpopo River 40 km east of Musina (Messina). The Limpopo Valley, named after the Limpopo River, the third-longest river in the country and which forms South Africa’s northern and north-western borders, lies north of the Soutpansberg Mountains. The Limpopo River provides life-giving liquid nourishment to what would otherwise be a very dry country and is also a source of water and food to the inhabitants of the area.
The former “homelands” of Lebowa and Venda (meaning “the Pleasant Place”) have been fully incorporated into Limpopo and lie within the Soutpansberg Region. The ruins of Dzata, the first settlement of Venda people in the area, lie in the upper Nzhelele valley.
Since the region has so much to offer, a series of meanders was mapped out to guide visitors to sites of interest. The Baobab Meander winds down the northern slopes of the Soutpansberg, through areas grown with aloes, mopani trees and giant baobab trees and onwards to the hot mineral pools and to the game and citrus farms of Tshipise. The Bushveld Meander opens up the Bushveld with its game and cattle farm.