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Lake Fundudzi: A Sacred Lake
Lake Fundudzi Information and Facts
Lake Fundudzi is located in the Limpopo Province of South Africa, in the Soutpansberg area. Because the lake is considered sacred by the local Vhatatsindi people, it is in great condition today, having one of the cleanest waters among the country’s many lakes.
The lake came into existence after a massive landslide that happened nearly 20 000 years ago, which blocked the Mutale River. It is the only inland lake in South Africa, surrounded by lush forests, waterfalls and mountains. Three rivers provide the lake with water, but Fundudzi doesn’t have any obvious outlets.
Its climate is subtropical, hot summers and pleasant winters, making it an enjoyable destination throughout the whole year. Its vegetation is mainly made up of afromontain grasslands and small patches of afro-temperate forests. Plenty of species inhabit the lake and its surrounding area, such as the chorister robin-chat, white-starred robin, knysna turaco, yellow-streaked greenbull, orange ground-thrush and crocodiles.
Legends and Mysticism
The local “People of the Pool”, the Vhatatsindi, part of the Venda people consider Lake Fundudzi and the nearby Thathe Vondo forest sacred and have created various legends regarding these places.
According to one legend, the lake was created when a leper passing by the area was refused food and shelter. Because of this bad treatment, he cursed the kraal (which is an enclosure for cattle and local domestic animals in South Africa), which collapsed below the waters of the newly-created lake. The Venda people claim that they can still hear the cries and drums of the drowned people and cattle in the morning silence.
Another myth claims that a white crocodile guards the ancestral spirits who live in the lake. A third legend believes that the lake is protected by a huge python god, which lives in the mountain. The local people actually worship this god, and pay homage to him with an annual puberty dance, characterized by winding swaying and writhing of a conga line. Locals also affirm that if something is thrown into the lake, it will be tossed by the spirits inhabiting its waters.
Tourism and Recreation
In order to get to the mystical lake, one must drive there with their own or their rented car, towards the town of Makhado or Elim, and ask for directions from there. In order to step on Fundudzi’s precinct, tourists must apply for a permit from the tourist office. If the permit is granted, newcomers must participate in two important rituals. The ukodola is when tourists must turn their backs on the lake, bend over and look at it between their legs. They must also walk nearby the lake and throw in a few hairs into the lapping wavelets.
Although people are not generally allowed on the lake’s shores because of the many crocodiles governing the area, one must not be disheartened, because the most spectacular views of the lake can be seen from the surrounding mountains. The Thate Vondo forest must be explored with great care, so as to respect the graves of the Venda Chieftains. Because of the crocodiles, swimming is also prohibited. On the Ribolla Art Route one can find traditional Venda sculptures, paintings and pottery items.