Thathe Vondo Holy Forest, Limpopo

Thathe Sacred Forest Image source

The Thathe Vondo Forest is sacred to the Venda people of Limpopo. Situated in the mountains above Lake Fundudzi, traditional folk lore says the forest is patrolled by a sacred white lion, which protects the graves of the chiefs of the Thathe clan who are buried in this sacred place. There is also rumoured to be a thunder and lightning bird called Ndadzi, which, according to myths, flies on the wings of thunder. The forest is comprised of giant hardwood trees such as the yellowwood. There is also a wide variety of ferns, creepers and plants which flourish in the climate. These make the forest nearly impenetrable on foot. The forest is also impenetrable from a cultural point of view; ordinary Venda people are not allowed to walk in the forest. This taboo extends to visitors, who are expected to respect the traditions and beliefs of the Venda people. This means hiking is not allowed in the forest. Visitors can, however, access the forest via a forestry track as long as they are accompanied by a local guide.
As it is relatively untravelled, this track is a good birding route. You can see forest species such as chorister robin-chat, white-starred robin, Knysna turaco, yellow-streaked greenbul and orange ground-thrush.
A visit to the forest can be combined with a visit to Lake Fundudzi, another place that is steeped in Venda mythology and legend. From Lake Fundudzi you can drive along the very top of the Soutpansberg, through afromontane grasslands and small patches of temperate forest. 
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Last updated : 05-Aug-2019

This article was produced by South African History Online on 05-Aug-2019

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