Vhembe-Dongola, now Mapungubwe National Park, was formed in 1995 when the South African National Parks was appointed to conserve and enhance the tourism potential of the area. Declared a World Heritage Site in July 2003, Mapungubwe today forms the core area of the newly opened Mapungubwe National Park. The park is situated 60 km west of Musina and 230 km north-west of Polokwane, the capital of Limpopo.
Found in the north-west corner of the country, Mapungubwe protects a corridor of mopane veld adjacent to the Limpopo River bordering Botswana and Zimbabwe. With its outstanding botanical, ecological, geological and geomorphological merit, it is envisaged that the park will eventually form part of the proposed Limpopo/Shashe Transfrontier Conservation Area, which will incorporate the Tuli Circle in Zimbabwe and the Mashatu Reserve in Botswana.
The terrain south of the Limpopo River is flat with sandstone and conglomerate ridges and koppies. Closer to the Limpopo River, the flat landscape changes into rugged mountainous terrain.
The diverse vegetation, giant baobab and mashatu trees, riverine forest and associated plains provide an intriguing mix of habitat to accommodate a variety of wildlife such as the African elephant, lion, leopard, cheetah, spotted hyena, wild dog, White and Black Rhino, eland, duiker, impala, zebra, Sharpe's Grysbok, steenbok, waterbuck, Blue Wildebeest, as well as abundant bird-life including the rare Pel's Fishing Owl. Twenty-six Red-Data plant species occur within Mapungubwe National Park.
Attractions in the park include small Iron Age sites at Greefswald, stonewalled sites on hilltops, some identified as Khami-type ruins, San rock paintings, engravings (petroglyphs), fossilised dinosaur footprints and skeletal remains of the dinosaur Massospondylus carinatus, which became extinct some 65 million years ago.
Activities include guided tours to archaeological and San rock-art sites. Guided night drives are offered but no walking trails as there are dangerous animals in the park. For an additional fee the park also offers an Eco-Route, which is a self-drive route through some of the more remote parts of the park, as well as a guided trail into a limited motorised zone. These routes offer visitors the opportunity to view the prolific wildlife and geomorphological riches of Mapungubwe National Park.