Madi a Thavha mountain lodge is a 4-star, Fair Trade-certified lodge situated in a quiet valley of the Soutpansberg Mountain about 10 km west of Louis Trichardt/Makhado in Northern Limpopo. We are on the scenic R522-road tapping off the N1 in town which goes 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 and the Pafuri gate about 2 hour’s drive further North.
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) has all the necessities for tourists; shops, chemists, schools, hospital tennis and squash courts and a popular golf course.
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 revealing the secrets of an iron-age civilization. The rich history of the VhaVenda-people 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
Madi a Thavha specialize in showing-off the friendly, vibrant and creative citizens and rich cultural diversity of the far North. The lodge is surrounded by Big-Game farms and reserves of this region so even 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 with some adaptations that cater 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, villagers keep up with international news via the satellite dishes on their pointed thatched roofs though.
Historical background of the lodge
Water is widely available in the mountainous part where the lodge is located. For this reason we called it 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 a fair trade tourism destination involving local Venda, Tsonga and Northern Sotho people with 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 formed due to geological activities of thousands of years. This valley basin is 800 m above sea level with the mountain rising up to 1300 m above sea level. This valley is open at the south eastern corner, where the entrance-road 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. Pockets of unspoiled nature allow for abundant wildlife and rare indigenous forests with 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 winter days and between 20 – 35 degrees in hot, sunny summer days. Summer rain showers are accompanied by spectacular and characteristic thunder storms. 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 healthy 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 self catering suites all have names related to the interconnected and important water-bodies of Northern Limpopo.
Flora and fauna
Indigenous bush veld characterizes 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 garden. On the Madi a Thavha birding lists are more than 100 bird species. Many velvet monkeys and a huge family of baboons live around the lodge. Small game like Duiker and porcupines 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 % of the surface area of South Africa, it contains:
- 30 % of the tree species;
- 48 % of the genera of flowering plants;
- 60 % of the bird species;
- 40 % of the mammals
- 30 %t of the amphibians and reptiles
- 70 % of the 66 families of spiders
- 93 % of all bat species
We started building and renovating the old farmhouse in 2005. We developed the plans for all buildings ourselves, step by step, making use of indigenous building methods, ideas and wisdom of the 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 our own staff.
We recycled nearly all materials like bricks, window frames, doors, pipes, beams and even rubble was used in new foundations. We not only created jobs this way, but also minimized 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 and we made use of natural materials and traditional techniques like the cement floors done with natural oxide floating in the local Venda and Tsonga way. Also the work surface of our kitchen and bathroom-tops were done in this sensible way.
Integrated approach: sustainable Tourism and Development
Offering hospitality services, cultural and nature experiences to our guests is Madi a Thavha’s main focus. Besides hospitality we also have a Textile & Design studio at the lodge, offer various training workshops for development-programs of the region and support arts and craft projects in Limpopo.
We continuously work on establishing sustainable relationships with our employees, their families, and the local communities around us too. 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 is an extremely important approach when running a tourism business in an area stricken by poverty, unemployment, and HIV/Aids.
Madi a Thavha has been accredited and commended by the following organizations:
- The Tourism Grading Council South Africa graded us as a 4 Star Lodge
- We are included in the Lonely Planet as ‘our pick’ accommodation
- Madi a Thavha is a Fair Trade lodge, certified by Tourism South Africa
To continuously keep the lodge and land of the lodge clean raise awareness a clean, neat and eco-friendly environment amongst our staff. We started with a waste recycling system in 2007 and has done it ever since. We separate our compost, paper and card board, glass, tins, and residual waste. We have containers available that employees and guests can use to separate their waste everywhere at the farm and in the guest houses.
Motivating and familiarizing our staff with the benefits of living in a clean environment and recycling encourage them to implement these kind of systems in their own environment. We also encourage our guests to recycle with different bins available in the guest houses to separate waste. The lodge use energy-saving light-bulbs and encourage our guests to switch off lamps, heaters and fans in the guest rooms and suites when they go out and we do so ourselves too.