Polokwane, like many of South Africa’s cities underwent a name change in line with the ‘new’ South Africa. Thus what was once Pietersburg (a name inspired by a Dutch general) is now a “Place of Safety” – the Sotho to English translation of Polokwane. With the lowest crime rate in South Africa, Polokwane lives up to its name, giving you just one reason to visit among many. Visiting Polokwane is desirable for other reasons too though, among them the fine weather, rich culture and eco-tourism opportunities.
The city of Polokwane is the capital of Limpopo province, known as South Africa’s gateway province given its shared borders with Mozambique, Botswana and Zimbabwe. It is a short drive from Gauteng and the thriving metropolis of Johannesburg and is a stone’s throw away from some spectacular nature reserves and game lodges. For those who want to bring a bit of the city to the bush, there are some modern hotels in Polokwane too.
Situated on a plateau, just about divided by the Tropic of Capricorn, the climate in Polokwane is mild, reaching maximum temperatures of around 28 degrees Celsius, minimums of 11 degrees Celsius and a summer rainfall. The plateau is home to Pietersburg Plateau False Grassland, a threatened species of flora.
Despite being one of the fastest growing cities in Southern Africa, it is still possible to see this endangered grassland just outside of town. Ten minutes from the centre of Polokwane, lies the Polokwane Game Reserve which at 3250 hectares is one of the largest municipal reserves in South Africa. The reserve is home to numerous mammalian species such as giraffe and antelope as well as a large array of fauna. A number of tour agencies offer safaris in the park with special offers including breakfast in the wilderness and sunset horse-rides. The reserve has a number of lovely picnic areas for independent adventures and those on a tighter budget. A little further afield in Limpopo province is the Kruger National Park and Marakele, two of South Africa’s most renowned Big Five reserves, both easily accessible from Polokwane.
Further attractions in Polokwane include a beautiful golf course, a real institution in the city. It is older than the city itself and touted as one of the best courses in South Africa. It is also a social hub for Polokwane locals, so if you’re looking for an immersive travel experience, head down to the Polokwane Golf Club for a braai. For a slightly more educational venture, head to the Moletzi Bird Sanctuary, which protects rare birds such as the Cape Vulture.
Speaking of vultures, if you are a culture vulture, the Polokwane Art Gallery may satisfy you, and if you’re looking for something a little more traditional, take a visit to the Tropic of Capricorn monument. While there, take note of the surrounding koppies (little hills). They are sacred for many of the surrounding communities and are the location for many clan rituals.
Furthermore, Polokwane is unique in South Africa for having inhabitants from over 3 different cultural groups. This up and coming South African city is truly a fascinating place because of it (and the aforementioned factors too of course). If you want to get a taste of the real South Africa, Polokwane is the place for you.
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