Tzaneen is the second largest town in the Limpopo Province, situated at the foot of the imposing Wolkberg Mountains. More than 80,000 people reside in its area of jurisdiction. The town is the main trading center for more than 650,000 people living within a 30 km radius.
The principal town in the Valley of the Olifants, Tzaneen is the regional centre for subtropical agriculture and winter vegetables. The Mopani district (20,000 square kilometres of the Letsitele River Valley) produces the majority of the country's mangos, avocados, paw-paws, tea and coffee, and contributes substantially to the total production of timber, citrus, litchis and other crops.
Named after "tsaneng" (gathering place) or "tsana" (basket of hills), truly a good basket can be had here with a very good range of shops and services, including a Woolworths carrying an excellent range of food and delicacies.
Tzaneen is well endowed with natural resources necessary for economic growth: fertile land, abundant water supplies, access to labour and a sub-tropical climate. Timber has been grown in the area since the turn of the century and nearly forty sawmills are in full production processing pine and bluegum trees.
Within easy reach there are the scenic splendour of Magoebaskloof, fascinating archaeological sites, mighty Baobab trees, nature reserves, and a wide range of tourist facilities. The mountainous landscape, the subtropical climate, the lush indigenous vegetation which alternates with plantations, and the largely unspoilt natural environment, make this picturesque area one of the most attractive recreation and tourist areas in South Africa.
Tzaneen hosts numerous special events, including a number of motorsport rallies.
There is an annual Air Show offering everything from fighter jets to stunt aircraft. 2010 was the thirteenth year of the show, which grows in size as it becomes every more established. Usually held at the end of June, it is a great day out.
The Modjadji Cycad Reserve contains the largest concentration of a single cycad species in the world. This particular species (Encephalartos transvenosus) dates back 50 to 60 million years and was abundant during the heyday of the dinosaurs. Some of the cycads stand over 13m in height. The Cycad Reserve was declared a national monument in 1936. Tourists exploring the African Ivory Route can stay over in the traditional hutted camp in the reserve.
Nearby, in comparative isolation and protected from visitors, lives the Rain Queen, Modjadji, and her people (the Bolobedu) whose ancestors lived in this area and nurtured the cycads for over three centuries.
The Tsonga Kraal Museum (in the Hans Merensky Nature Reserve) is a living museum depicting the lifestyle of the Shangaan/Tsonga people.
Tzaneen Museum hosts ethnological artefacts such as weapons, pottery, beadwork, the largest collection of pole carvings in the country, royal drums from the Rain Queen Modjadji, sacred drums as well as a collection of prehistoric pottery, almost 2,000 years old.
Tzaneen Dam Nature Reserve is a popular venue for anglers and campers.
About 70km east of this is the Hans Merensky Nature Reserve which includes the Eiland Mineral Spa (named after a large island of 35 hectares situated on the farm). Located on the banks of the Great Letaba river, the spa resort offers several swimming pools and recreational facilities developed around a hot mineral spring.
Ofcolaco is another local settlement with an interesting history. It was established by a group of redundant British Regular and Indian Army officers who formed the Officers Colonial Land Company- whence came the name Ofcolaco- and they set out to tame this corner of Africa. The Ofcolaco Club still thrives and some "pukkah" traditions are observed.
Map of Tzaneen, showing the edge of the magnificent lake/dam. Change to satellite view and scroll south-west into the fertile semi-rainforest area beyond the dam.
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