Leshiba Wilderness is located on a mountain plateau in the Soutpansberg Mountains in South Africa’s northernmost province, Limpopo. Limpopo is often referred to as the place of myths and legends, and nowhere is this more perceptible than at Leshiba. Once you arrive here, after a rather steep and treacherous dirt road which is passable with a normal car but a whole lot more comfortable in a 4×4, you can almost touch the magic. The plateau has an amazing flora (over 360 tree species alone), and is a Natural Heritage Site. This richness made Leshiba a place of pilgrimage for early hunter-gatherers from the San and Khoe Khoe tribes; a place to collect medicinal and other useful herbs and plants. During guided walks, you can see rock art that is up to 2000 years old.
Apart from the amazing flora, the reserve also has a wide variety of game including rhino, giraffe, zebra, the rare brown hyena and elusive leopard, as well as excellent birding like Crowned Eagle, Cape Vulture and Purple Crested Turaco. But its most unique feature is the Venda Village.
This village was once home to a local tribe of Venda, that worked the farm at Leshiba. They were subsequently evicted and had to move down to the valley. When the current owners, the Rosmarin family, took over Leshiba they restored the now dilapidated village with the help of renowned Venda artists Noria Mabasa and Thomas Kubayi. It is a tribute to Venda art, with all its wonderful myths, magic and legends.
Nothing evokes the feeling of Leshiba better than this poem by the late (and dearly missed) Gill Rosmarin:
Oh Leshiba you sing to me of sandstone rock
And mountains clad in green,
Of earth red soil
And secret streams and waterfalls.
You sing to me of mystical mornings in the clouds,
And robins heralding the dawn,
Of orange moons and stars
And sunsets colouring the sky in rays of pinks and mauves.
Oh Leshiba you sing to me of forest walks
And leaves bedecked with old man’s beard;
Of spiders webs strung inbetween like gossamer on fairy wings;
And lichen fossilised in stone.
You sing to me of the flowering Cape Chestnut tree
And blossoms on the Wild Pear;
Of ancient figs inviting you to climb their boughs
And share their healing energy.
Oh Leshiba you sing to me of sheltering caves hewn by wind and rain,
Whose walls tell tales of those who passed here once.
Of cliffs where eagles wheel and soar and swoop
To snatch their unsuspecting prey.
You sing to me of a myriad coloured butterflies,
And the francolins raucous warning cries,
Of families of guineafowl strutting importantly along
And the liquid melodious song of the Blackheaded Oriole.
Oh Leshiba you sing to me of whispering grass,
Where antelope and zebra pass and snakes slither shyly away;
Of waterholes where rhino wallow and gentle giraffe
follow you through big brown eyes and curly lashes.
You sing to me of the elusive leopard, mongoose and elephant shrews
And leguwaans lazing in the sun;
Of monkeys shouldering their young
And baboons that bark and mark their territory.
Oh Leshiba you sing to me of roads that lead to mountaintops
Bedecked with sculpted Kiaat trees and proteas in bloom;
Of vygies richly painting the stony ground
And where on a clear day you can see forever…