Madi a Thavha mountain lodge is a 4-star, Fair Trade-certified lodge situated in a valley of the Soutpansberg Mountain about 11 kilometres west of Louis Trichardt/Makhado in Northern Limpopo – there is still a name dispute about Louis Trichardt/Makhado..be aware when following road signs it could be either. We are on the scenic R522-road tapping off the N1 in town and going east past Madi a Thavha on towards Vivo, Mapungubwe, Botswana and Zimbabwe. The National Kruger Park’s Punda Maria-gate is about 160km east of Madi a Thavha mountain lodge.. about and hour and half’s drive.
The lodge covers an area of about 320 hectares and is located in Limpopo province on the southern slopes of the Soutpansberg mountain range. Our closest town Makhado (which had a name-change from Louis Trichardt recently for the time being) has all the necessities for tourists, shops, churches, schools and hospitals.
Madi a Thavha is well situated in the middle of the cultural and natural marvels of the north. We offer village tours to artists’ and crafters’ work places in the rural villages where you can experience the everyday rural buzz, meet traditional dancers, singers, musicians, story-tellers and traditional healers. A two hour drive will bring you to the World Heritage Site of Mapungubwe with its Interpretation Centre, award winning architecture and famous golden rhino, unlocking the secrets of an iron-age civilization. The rich history of the vhaVenda can also be explored at the Dzata museum near Siloam Hospital, at sacred sites like Lake Fundudzi and the mystical Thate Vondo Forest.
We specialize in a cultural experience
We specialize in showing-off the friendly, vibrant and creative citizens and rich cultural diversity of the far North. The lodge is surrounded by Big-Five-country, so even though in ‘cultural mode’, you won’t miss out on a remarkable variety of game, bird, tree and even insects and bat viewing opportunities in the Soutpansberg and Limpopo Valley too.
This region forms the backdrop of the talented and creative Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho people. Their rich cultural legacy, mythical background, spiritual beliefs, legends and rituals are firmly rooted in their culture and traditions and are clearly visible in the unique interpretations of their art. The artists and crafters are renowned for their woodcarving, pottery and textiles. Colourful traditional attires are proudly worn in everyday life while some adaptions caters for modern technology like a beaded bag for a cell phone around the neck. Decorating the round mud homesteads with gorgeous wall paintings is still a proud tradition whilst villagers keep up with international news via the satellite dishes on their pointed thatched roofs.
Historical background of the lodge
Water is widely available in the mountainous part where the lodge is located. For this reason the lodge is called Madi a Thavha, which means ‘water from the mountain’ in the local Venda language.
Initially the farm area was covered with bush and grazing land, used by different tribes for their cattle. From 1950, white settlers started to develop the land and since then, the farm has been owned by 7 different farmers. We bought the farm in 2004 and started to develop it to become fair trade tourism destination involving local Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho people and their rich cultural background.
The very best of Nature, Culture, History and Geography
The Earth’s oldest so-called red-bed rocks are found in the Soutpansberg mountain range, indicating that they were deposited under an atmosphere that contained free oxygen, the product of thousands of millions of years of photosynthesis by cyano bacteria. These resistant sandstones of the Soutpansberg give rise to spectacular scenery in the Limpopo province.
The land of Madi a Thavha lodge is situated in a valley basin which was formed due to the geological activities over thousands of years. This valley basin is 800 m above sea level and the mountain rises up to 1300 m above sea level. This valley is open at the south eastern corner, where the entrance to the lodge is, and forms the connection between the basin and the surrounding mountains.
Soutpansberg literally means Salt Pan Mountains, and is derived from the great natural salt pans that are located at the arid northwestern foot of the mountain. This east-west mountain range is also known as ”the wall beyond the world”. The Soutpansberg and the Limpopo river valley form the natural northern frontiers of South Africa around which San hunter-gatherers, Khoekoe herders, Iron Age farmers, Northern Sotho, Venda and Tsonga communities and colonists of European decent met, clashed, married and are still learning to live together in a zany fusion of customs, religions, dress codes and food.
The region offers endless bushveld plains, stark and rugged beauty in unexpected mountain valleys. It hides an astonishing amount of rock-art, subtropical forests on the southern slopes of the mountains, waterfalls and steep gorges. Jealously guarded pockets of unspoiled nature allows abundant wildlife, nature reserves, rare indigenous forests, extraordinary botanical diversity and birdlife.
The average annual rainfall in summer is higher on the southern slopes of the mountain range, because this is the rain side of the Soutpansberg Mountains. Temperatures range between 15 – 25 degrees in mild, sunny winterdays and between 20 – 35 degrees in hot, sunny summer days. Summer rainshowers are accompanied by spectacular and characteristic thunderstorms.The main wind direction is from the northwest, but because of the enclosed basin, the wind tends to swirl around gently during the evenings. Mist occurs in winter time and before, during and after rainfall in summer time.
The water sources at the lodge consist of fountain-water and bore holes. These sources are sustainable and healty because of the high water level inside the Soutpansberg Mountains. Pipes bring the water from the fountains down to the lodge. The fountain water is sufficient for both domestic use and garden irrigation.Our five rooms and three selfcatering suites all have names related to the interconnected and important water-bodies of Northern Limpopo.
Flora and fauna
Indigenous bush characterises the landscape. Although the Soutpansberg has gone through numerous periods of drought, many of the mountain vegetation are able to store water and survive on the mist. Additionally there is an invasion of alien plants; the lodge is involved in a programme of the Department of Forestry to remove the alien plants and trees.
Birders have an abundance of tick-opportunities. One of the Vhembe/Soutpansberg’s ‘big five’, the Crested Guinea fowl, is a regular sight at our lodge and even garden.On the Madi a Thavha birding lists are more than 100 bird species. Many velvet monkey’s and a huge family of baboons live around the lodge. Small game can be seen when hiking on the lodge’s trails. There are leopards high in the mountains, but they are very shy and there has never been any incident in the Soutpansberg of them approaching humans.
The Soutpansberg is one of the very few regions in South Africa, as indeed on earth, where one still finds pockets of undisturbed nature. Although the mountain covers less than 0.5 per cent of the surface area of South Africa, it contains:
- 30 per cent of the tree species;
- 48 per cent of the genera of flowering plants;
- 60 per cent of the bird species;
- 40 per cent of the mammals
- 30 per cent of the amphibians and reptiles
- 70 per cent of the 66 families of spiders
- 93 per cent of all bat species
We started building and renovating the old farmhouse in the beginning of 2005. We developed the plans for all buildings ourselves, step by step, making use of indigenous building methods and ideas from only local people who helped us. Learning by doing and learning from each other is our motto. The builders taught us their traditional building techniques and we were taught them about our dutch planning, and design. Contractors worked with ourown labour.
We recycled nearly all materials like bricks, window frames, doors, pipes, beams and even rubble,we used in new foundations. By doing this we created jobs and did not produce large amounts of waste. During the building we created jobs for about 20 people for a period of one and a half year. In addition to job creation, skills development was an important aspect in the process. A Dutch retired Technical College teacher came to teach people on the job in: carpentry, plumbing, and painting skills for a period of 3 months.
The building approach was basic, making use of natural materials and traditional techniques, for example the cement floors is done with natural oxide floating, the Venda and Tsonga way. Also the tops in kitchens and bathrooms, and some flooring is done in this sensible way.
Integrated approach: sustainable Tourism and Development
Offering hospitality services and cultural and nature experiences to our guests is the main focus of Madi a Thavha. Besides hospitality we also have a Textile and Design studio at the lodge and we support arts and craft projects in the area.
In the mean time we build on establishing sustainable relationships with our employees, their families, and the local communities around us. This integrated approach is strengthening our tourism concept and benefits the communities around us. The way we run our business is in line with the principles of responsible tourism. A tourism management strategy focusing on responsible planning, management, product development, and marketing in order to achieve positive social, cultural, and environmental impacts. We feel that this approach is extremely important when running a tourism business in an area that is stricken by poverty, unemployment, and HIV/Aids.
Madi a Thavha has been accredited and commended by the following organisations:
- The Tourism Grading Council South Africa graded us as a 4 Star Lodge
- Madi a Thavha is included in the Portfolio Collection
- We are included in the Lonely Planet as ‘our pick’ accommodation
- Madi a Thavha is a Fair Trade certified lodge, done by Tourism South Africa
To keep the lodge and land of the lodge clean make our employees aware of the need to live in a clean and neat environment. In 2007 we started with a waste recycling system and has done it ever since. We separate our compost, paper and card board, glass, tins, and residual waste. Everywhere at the farm and in the guest houses we have containers available that employees and guests can use to separate their waste.
Making our employees familiar with the benefits of living in a clean environment and the principles of a recycling system will encourage them to implement this kind of system in their own environment. We also encourage our guests to contribute to the recycling system. Different bins are available in the guest houses to separate your waste.
We use energy-saving lights and encourage our guests to switch off lamps, heaters and fans in the guest rooms and guest houses when they go out or to the farmhouse for dinner and do so ourselves.