Recreation and Tourism

As noted in Water Use and Allocation, there are various demands on water use. Tourism places both consumptive and non-consumptive demands on water. Tourist revenues are greatly dependent upon the presence of wildlife, therefore, the main non-consumptive use of water is safari hunting (Swatuk and Rahm 2004).

Tourism activities in the Limpopo River basin comprise of reserves, parks, and wildlife management areas for nature and game preservation. A significant portion of the Limpopo River basin is utilised for eco-tourism and conservation (FAO 2004).

The total area of the Limpopo River basin allocated to conservation areas is approximately 60 000 square km (Environmentek, CSIR 2003). The table below provides the conservation areas by riparian country.

Conservation Areas in the Limpopo River basin.
Country Type(s) of Conservation Area Conservation Area (km²)
Botswana Game Reserves 415
Mozambique National Park, Game Reserve, Nature Reserve 31 503
South Africa Private Reserve, Protected Area, Wilderness Area 20 081
Zimbabwe Protected Area, Safari Area 5 540

Source: Environmentek, CSIR 2003

Crafts such as woodcarving, beadwork, pottery, basketwork, and agri-/rural tourism initiatives are prevalent in the basin. The planned Gaza-Kruger-Gonarezhou Transfrontier Park occupies part of the Limpopo basin and is expected to house 2 300 guests (LBPTC 2010).



Tourism within the Limpopo River basin in Botswana consists of game reserves due to wildlife populations residing along the east side of the Limpopo River, in the Tati farms, Mashatu and Gaborone Game Reserves, Khama Rhino Sanctuary, and in seven private game farms (LBPTC 2010). There are also historical sites such as Lepokole, Tswapong, Shoshong Hills, and the Moremi and Domboshaba ruins. There are two tourism sites that are not yet operational within the basin (Lepokole/Mapananda Community Project and Moremi Manonnye Conservation Trust) (LBPTC 2010).



High tourism potential exists in much of the Limpopo River basin within Mozambique. The coastal zone districts of Bilene, Mandlakazi, Massinga, and Xai-Xai are classified as high potential for beach tourism (LBPTC 2010). As large areas of the inland Districts are covered by national parks and reserves they are also considered high tourism potential. Despite this, poor tourism infrastructure exists in the Limpopo basin in Mozambique.

Bahine National Park (BNP) is located in Gaza Province northeast of the Limpopo River within the Limpopo River basin. The headwaters of the streams feeding the BNP are located near the border with Zimbabwe (McNamara et al. 2006). This park has remained undeveloped since its establishment in 1972 to protect wetlands of the area. The BNP is part of the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park along with Mozambique's Limpopo National Park.


South Africa

The northern half of Kruger National Park falls within the Limpopo River basin (FAO 2004). Nature reserves and private game farms in the South African part of the basin include:

  • Letaba Ranch
  • Honnet Nature Reserve
  • Messina Experimental Farm and Nature Reserve
  • Blouberg Mountain
  • Lesheba Wilderness
  • Buzzard Mountain Retreat
  • Happy Rest Nature Reserve
  • Marekele National Park
  • Lapalala Wilderness
  • Touch Stone
  • Doorndrai Dam Nature Reserve
  • Hans Strijdom Dam Nature Reserve
  • Mabalingwe Nature Reserve
  • Potgietersrus Nature Reserve
  • Warmbaths Nature Reserve
  • Langjan Nature Reserve
  • Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

Kruger National Park is in its natural state and only small quantities of water are required for game watering and eco-tourism (FAO 2004). Kruger National Park is part of the transboundary Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park.

Blyde River Canyon, South Africa. Source- Kaffer 2007



Along with Kruger National Park in South Africa and the Limpopo National Park and BNP in Mozambique, Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe is also part of the newly formed Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park. This is further discussed under the theme People and the River.


Vast tracts of land that dominate the Limpopo River Basin provide habitats for a wide range of wild animals. Wildlife has become an important land use option in the area, and activities such as safari hunting and ecotourism are a source of revenue for the local communities. Game farming (hunting) and ecotourism (paying tourists) are well suited to the basin. South Africa and Zimbabwe have thousands of hectares under these two production systems.

Zimbabwe’s largest national park, the Gonarezhou, and the Kruger National Park and other game reserves (e.g. Pilanesburg and Madikwe) maintain large herds of elephants, lions, buffaloes, and other wildlife.

The Communal Area Management Programme for Indigenous Resources (CAMPFIRE) was introduced in Zimbabwe in order to assist local communities in profiting from and conserving these valuable resources. CAMPFIRE was established by a parliamentary act of 1987, allowing communities to benefit from wildlife resources within their boundaries. Communities benefit directly from income derived from animals hunted for trophy or income earned from tourism-related activities.

Wildlife utilization quotas set by the Department of National Parks are marketed by district councils, and the revenue generated is passed on to the communities.

Communities living on the fringes of national parks have the greatest endowment of wildlife and, therefore, greater potential revenue earnings from CAMPFIRE. The establishment of private wildlife estates on former commercial ranches, e.g. the Save Valley Conservancy and Malilangwe Trust, has also contributed to an increase in wildlife population in the area. The harsh climate conditions in the Limpopo River Basin have kept the human population density low, thus favouring wildlife. In the basin, successful CAMPFIRE projects have been established in the districts of Chipinge, Beitbridge and Chiredzi. The majority of CAMPFIRE funds are generated through trophy hunting. The use of CAMPFIRE funds are determined by communities in accordance with their needs, such as the construction of clinics, schools, roads and boreholes, and to develop community income generating projects, such as grinding mills and garden projects. In some districts, revenue is used to compensate for crop and livestock losses caused by wildlife. In times of drought, people may opt for cash and seed packs to offset drought impacts.

It has been argued that revenue from CAMPFIRE may be an incentive to reduce livestock population in the dry and fragile environments. However, this has not happened, even in the most successful projects, as the revenue from CAMPFIRE is usually too small to substitute benefits from livestock ownership.

Nonetheless, CAMPFIRE has been very successful and improved community ownership of natural resources and interest in conservation, as well as providing alternative sources of income. A similar approach to CAMPFIRE could be adopted in other communal lands surrounding existing game reserves within the Limpopo River Basin and other similar environments.

Source: FAO 2004

Current ongoing initiatives.

LIMCOM's current ongoing interventions being undertaken