This area of amazing scenic beauty with mountains, savannahs, riverine forests and subtropical bushveld encompassed by the Golden Horseshoe offers an incredibly varied diversity of habitats and attractions. However, it is not just wildlife and natural scenery that makes this province unique. It is also the fascinating history and the richness of the various ethnic cultures that are woven together to create a patchwork of tourism products of interest to virtually every visitor, and is a province of dramatic contrasts – from true bushveld country to majestic mountains, primeval indigenous forests, latter-day plantations, unspoilt wilderness areas and a patchwork of farming land.
The Limpopo Province is the gateway to the rest of Africa. It is favourably situated for economic co-operation with other parts of southern Africa as it shares borders with Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
About 600 million years ago the whole continent of Africa was almost torn in half and the Great Rift Valley appeared in East Africa. The crack in the continent spread southwards across Zimbabwe, where it is called the Great Dyke. On entering the Limpopo Province, the great crack vanished underground. North of Pretoria the tear reached its most southerly point. With pressure behind it, the flow of molten material was forced to intrude into the sedimentary layers of the Transvaal System and this molten lake undermined the base of the established landscape. Eventually the surface collapsed into the lake and the crust became a smooth floor surrounded by a ridge all that is left of the original surface.
Where the river of fire once flowed, it has left a deposit of minerals so rich that this geological area, known as the Bushveld Igneous Complex, is one of the most productive parts of the world for raw material. This is the largest flat-bottomed basin, or lopolith, in the world. In the basin, at Hammanskraal, 42km from Tshwane (Pretoria), there is a well-preserved volcanic crater.
In this huge landscape there are three significant mountain ranges.
- The Transvaal Drakensberg, the eastern perimeter of the Bushveld, running from Tzaneen in the north to Belfast in the south, with a western spur, Strydpoort Mountains, jutting towards Mokopane (Potgietersrus).
- The Waterberg, a huge mountainous expanse stretching from Thabazimbi in the west to Mokopane (Potgietersrus) in the east. The average elevation of the Waterberg is no more than 600m but many peaks exceed 1 400m in height above sea level.
- The Soutpansberg, the northern most range in South Africa, just north of Louis Trichardt.
The Springbok Flats is grassland that covers the central area of the province. It was the winter pasture for farmers of the Highveld region in the times when farmers trekked with their stock from the Suurveld to the Soetveld regions. Geologically it was originally a large inland lake and hence the flatness of the topography. The soil is turf and very fertile but places restrictions on the type of farming that can be practiced. There are signs of considerable deposits of coal, which can be exploited.