At 7,221ha (72 km2), the reserve forms part of the Limpopo Valley Conservancy that borders the Mapungubwe National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also inside the Greater Mapungubwe Transfrontier Conservation Area (GMTFCA), a large 5,909km2 transnational conservation zone uniting South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe.
The area has a tremendous amount of biodiversity, thanks largely to its varied habitat. Mapesu is situated within the Mopane veld dominated by Colophospermum mopane (commonly called the mopane tree, butterfly tree or turpentine tree) on the Archaean Beit Bridge complex. The reserve consists of undulating plains with a number of drainage lines and some hills (Limpopo Ridge Bushveld) in the East and South. There are plenty of (artificial, some solar-powered) waterholes with plentiful drinkable water on the property, including one natural dam/wallowing hole, which has been dug larger and deeper to allow for some hippos to later be settled in, as well as creating wallowing spaces for rhinos, buffalos, and elephants. There is also a river from which the reserve gets its namesake, the Mapedu, running through the property on a seasonal basis.
This region once focused on cattle farming which had led to overgrazing and subsequent encroachment of mopane trees. We are striving to return the area to its beautiful natural state by (manually) cutting about 100 hectares of mopane trees per month which produces some biochar in the process. This is a long-term strategy where we will not sacrifice nature for convenience; it will take sweat, effort and a lot of time to restore this piece of Africa to its former glory.
There are 46 mammal species either currently on the reserve or that have been identified as having recently been on the reserve. In September 2016, we released a herd of elephants onto Mapesu; these iconic creatures continue to shape the reserve’s flora. In December 2017, we aligned with the Endangered Wildlife Trust’s Cheetah Meta Population Project (Endangered Wildlife Trust) where we reintroduced two cheetahs into the reserve. As of February 2018 the reserve serves as a home for 22 African buffalo. Three of the big 5 roam Mapesu with the remaining 2 species (lion and rhino) occurring inside Mapungubwe National Park and World Heritage Site where we also do game drives.