At the foothills of the Waterberg Mountains of Limpopo, Bela-Bela is most famous for its geothermal hot springs, which bubble up from the earth.
Previously known as Warmbaths, the town name Bela-Bela is a derivative of the Northern Sotho word for “boiling, boiling,” an ode to the area’s boiling cauldron of hot spring water.
Water has a significant, life-giving presence in Bela-Bela and surrounds. Limpopo’s name translates as “strong gushing waterfalls” in Sepedi, named after the Lebepe (Limpopo) River. The river flows north from the meeting point of the Marico and Crocodile Rivers, forming a natural border between South Africa and Botswana and Zimbabwe. For hundreds of years, it has supported life of various kinds living along its banks.
The Bela-Bela hot springs were used by the local Tswana people for healing purposes for hundreds and hundreds of years. Today, the rest of South Africa (and the world) has cottoned on and the town has channelled the waters into popular holiday and health resorts.
But there’s more to the area than just its delightful warm waters. The Waterberg bushveld offers experiences centred around its natural wonders. There are ample mountain paths to hike and cycle, with big game and bird spotting in the bushveld. Welgevonden Game Reserve, the Entabeni Safari Conservancy and Mabula Game Lodge, are popular and not too far from the town. One of the most unique national parks in the country, Mapungubwe National Park, is also well worth the drive from Bela-Bela. It has an age-old, rich history, inspiring plenty of stories about lost kingdoms and legends.
Bela-Bela is in the south-west of the province. The capital, Polokwane, is a two-hour drive away.
The town is within easy reach of Johannesburg and Pretoria. It’s just over two hours from Johannesburg and an hour-and-a-half drive from Pretoria, driving north on the N1. Johannesburg’s Lanseria Airport is the closest airport, 123km away. Hire a car and embark on a self-drive holiday. It’s the best way to explore the area!
What to do in Bela-Bela
Besides delicious dips in the warm baths of Bela-Bela, the area also offers adventure activities in the form of hiking, mountain biking, as well as some game viewing at different game parks.
Where to stay in Bela-Bela
Where to eat in Bela-Bela