A Brand South Africa (SA) activation programme saw a group of local travellers embark on a journey to South Africa’s Limpopo province to tour, explore, enjoy and #UnpackLimpopo.
Brand SA, represented by Toni Gumede at the time, said: “Our role is to represent and showcase the country, to encourage people to come to visit, as well as to do business; but also to learn about the country. #PlayYourPart.
“We want to showcase Limpopo as a destination of choice. We want people to play their part in rallying behind the environment and sustainability. There is the preservation of wildlife species; the preservation of game reserves and places that need to stay the way they are for future generations, such as the community and the village which we visited earlier today,” she said, referring to the tea farm in Gamatlala Ramoshebo Village in the Sekhukhune area, where the organic Setsong Tea is made.
Toni continued: “Can you imagine if one day your grandchildren go back there and found nothing?”
In terms of showcasing Limpopo as a business destination, she said: “We want to show people that in this very beautiful place that you can go for heritage and tourism, you can also do business. As Brand SA, we are entrusted with the responsibility to position the country as a brand that is competitive and attractive.”
Sonto Ndlovu leads by example
I spoke to Sonto Ndlovu, CEO of Limpopo Tourism Agency. Talking about women in leadership, the first woman CEO for the Limpopo Tourism said: “We want more women to participate in leadership, especially in the tourism sector. The great thing is that in Limpopo we have taken the national initiative of women in tourism very seriously.
“So, there is a very vibrant chapter of women in tourism. I am very humbled that I was able to take on this position. I am trying to do my best to inspire other women who look up to me, who say: ‘In you, we see some of us, and we have seen it is possible’.”
#1 domestic tourism destination
I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Limpopo is the number one domestic tourism destination in the country. And I wondered what the secret ingredient was.
Sonto said: “Firstly, there are a lot of people who are from Limpopo who work all over South Africa, so they come home every week to visit. They are counted as tourists because they might not stay at home but stay in hotels. For as long as they interact with the tourism sector they are counted as tourists. Secondly, Limpopo is home to the Kruger National Park, which is a world-famous destination. South Africans love it. We see a peak in the school holidays, Tourism Month and December holidays. We want South Africans to visit these so-called international tourist attractions that we have here.
“Thirdly, Limpopo is very big on social/leisure events. We have the Mapungubwe Arts Festival which celebrates the arts and culture of Limpopo. Limpopo has three diverse cultures (VhaVenda, Bapedi and BaTsonga). And people come from all over SA come to attend these events. Limpopo is also home to the biggest church in Africa, the Zion Christian Church (ZCC). So, in terms of religious tourism, there are millions of people who come to Moria during Easter and when they get here, they stay in our tourism facilities.
“What I always encourage is that whether you are coming to Limpopo for a church event, or a funeral or a wedding, take some time out to experience Limpopo. You can either go and meditate at a nature reserve, go for a walk in a park, or even take the family for a picnic. Because of our proximity to Gauteng, it’s easy to get here. When you leave Pretoria, within an hour’s time you are in Bela Bela.”
Sonto continued: “Lastly, South African corporates do their meetings, conferences and adventure outings in Limpopo. If you work in the concrete jungle of Gauteng, where are you going to rest or inspire your team? You come to Limpopo. It has nature, the resorts, and the facilities. And people get to experience that serene atmosphere that inspires them to strategise. So, we get a lot of board getaways. Business owners from Gauteng come here to plan about their businesses and to recharge. So, we think those are some of the factors that make Limpopo a number one domestic tourism destination in South Africa.”
Put Limpopo on your bucket list
“There are hot springs in Bela Bela, which is apparently a very big tourist attraction in Winter. When people can’t swim anywhere else in South Africa in Winter, they can go and swim there with the children during the school holidays,” Sonso said.
In terms of international arrivals, Limpopo is number two after Gauteng.
Sonto said: “We can still grow. My message to South Africans is: Put Limpopo on your bucket list. Don’t go overseas while you have not been to Limpopo. Know your backyard. Know the other provinces.
“You know when we were coming out of apartheid, people did not really travel much. Now it’s our time to know other South Africans and other cultures. Mingle and just learn. We get a lot of people from KwaZulu-Natal who go to Thohoyandou in Venda. There is so much to learn there. Before you go to Thailand and Mauritius, every South African has a responsibility to just play their part.
“Knowing your South Africa will empower you to be an ambassador when you meet internationals. You can tell them about your country with confidence. And if we can be ambassadors of South Africa first, it’s easy for us to tell our friends who are overseas why they should come to South Africa. Authentic stories of who we are will bring people to our country.”
Travel encourages nation building
Travel can also encourage tolerance and nation-building. Said Sonto: “It will also help us prevent and avoid xenophobia. People of Limpopo are welcoming. Did you know that local women in Limpopo can make healthy salt at Lake Fundudzi in Venda? This is what people need to come and learn.”
Limpopo is also full of arts and culture events.
“We have the Ribola Art Route that cuts across from Tzaneen, Giyani and all the way to Venda, where you can visit various local art galleries and see the art made by the locals. While other people are excited about Air BnB, we have homestays, where the communities allow foreigners to stay in their houses and learn about them,” she added.
Limpopo also has the African Ivory Route, which is made from various camps in the middle of nowhere under the fig trees along the riverside.
Sonto said: “This is where you can come and have a tranquil time. The international tourists come in numbers. We want South Africans to experience this also. For people who don’t like camping, we have glamping.”
Glamping is where you stay in a glamorous camp, which has an en-suite bathroom/toilet, electricity, and the whole shebang. So you take your glamorous lifestyle with you to the bush.
Agri-tourism is how Limpopo leverages on nature and natural produce to create an interest in people to travel to the province. The alcoholic beverage Amarula comes from the Marula tree, which grows in Limpopo. It’s a wild fruit, which means it just grows without being tended to.
“That’s what God gave us. He didn’t give us the beach, he just decided to give us the Marula fruit, which is loved by elephants. In January when we see elephants not walking straight, we say they are drunk in Marula,” she jokes. There is also the indigenous Marula beer.
“What the government has done here is to create an industry out of Marula. Once you strip the fruit, you can use the skin to make Marula jams, margarine, butter, hair products and body lotions. We also have the Baobab trees. And from these, people create lotions and massage oils.”
Feeding the nation
Limpopo is the biggest producer of avocado, mangoes, tomatoes, any kind of citrus, and bananas. Sonto said: “Limpopo is a very rich environment. We feed and nourish the nation.”
In terms of sporting events, Limpopo hosts the four-day four-stage Tour De Limpopo of about 500 KM, which starts from Bela Bela to Tzaneen. “Because we have expansive open spaces and scenic beauty, it’s beautiful to create outdoor events where people can see and appreciate the province,” said Sonto.
Participants are professional cyclists and they come from different countries. “We also have golf tourism taking place in Waterberg,” Sonto concluded.
Park Inn Hotel, which is a stone’s throw away from Peter Mokaba Stadium, was our home for the duration of the trip. Thabo Rafuthu, general manager at Radisson Park Inn Polokwane said since opening five years ago, the hotel had grown its occupancy to about 55%. The market of the hotel, which has created employment for the youth of Polokwane, comprise of mainly government and corporate people. The establishment is busy from February until the end of November and during the Easter Holidays, as well as on weekends because it is next to the stadium.
The trip to Limpopo was not only an eye-opener. Wonderful memories were created. And great fun was had. There is definitely #MoreToEnjoy in Limpopo.
Below is a video by Misa Narrates, who was also on the trip.