Northern Cape Travel Guide, South Africa / Kimberley / Kalahari

South Africa

Tip For Trip - Northern Cape

Characterised by its vast expanses of space and silence, blazing summer sunshine and interesting and friendly people, the Northern Cape is a province rich with culture.

Diamond fields

The Big Hole in Kimberley is the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. In 1871, diamonds were discovered at the site and mined manually by prospectors. The Kimberley Tram Service dates from the beginning of the century and still transports passengers from the City Hall to the Mine Museum. Underground mine tours are a big attraction, as are the famous ghost tours, during which many historical buildings are seen from a different perspective. Hand and mechanical diamond-digging by private diggers can be viewed by appointment. The McGregor Museum houses invaluable collections of the archaeological finds in the area, as well as San art works. The house where Sol Plaatje (African National Congress founding member and human-rights activist) lived in Kimberley, boasts a library of Plaatje’s and other black South African writers’ works, and several displays, including a portrayal of black involvement in the Anglo-Boer/South African War. The Paterson Museum near the Kimberley Airport houses a replica of a Paterson biplane, which was used for pilot training by the flying school operated by the Paterson Aviation Syndicate at Alexandersfontein. A township tour of Galeshewe provides a fresh perspective on South Africa’s socio-historical realities. Pan African Congress founder Robert Sobukwe’s house is worth a visit. The Magersfontein Battlefield outside Kimberley with its original trenches and other defences intact, is the site of the Boers’ crushing defeat of the British during the Siege of Kimberley. A cultural centre at Wildebeestkuil outside Kimberley features !Xun and Khwe artwork for sale and a tour of rock engravings by these indigenous people. A short distance from Kimberley is the mining town Barkley West, which, due to its proximity to the Vaal River, is a favourite spot for many watersport enthusiasts and anglers. Tucked along the Vaal River near Barkley West lies the Vaalbos National Park. The park is not only home to large raptors, but is also a breeding centre for endangered African herbivores such as rhino, roan, sable and disease-free buffalo.


At Black Rock, visitors are afforded the opportunity to view a worked-out manganese mine. Danielskuil lies at the foot of the Kuruman hills. The Tswana people occupied the area before it became home to the Griquas. Boesmansgat, on the farm Mount Carmel outside Danielskuil, is a unique natural sinkhole – the second-deepest and largest of its kind in the world. Known as the ‘Oasis of the Kalahari’, Kuruman is blessed with a permanent and abundant source of water. Its water flows from Gasegonyana (Tswana for ‘the little water calabash’) – commonly called the ‘Eye of Kuruman’. Moffat’s Mission in Kuruman is a tranquil place featuring the house of missionary Robert Moffat, the church he built, and several other buildings. Moffat translated the Bible into Setswana – the first African language in which the Bible was made accessible. The printing press on which he printed the first 2 000 copies can still be viewed. The church he built seats 800 people and is still in use. David Livingstone married Moffat’s daughter and started many famous travels from this mission station. The Wonderwerk Cave at Kuruman features extensive San paintings that may be viewed by appointment. The Kalahari Raptor Centre cares for injured birds. Many of these majestic creatures can be seen at close quarters. Another marvel is the Witsand Nature Reserve, situated about 80 km south-west of Postmasburg, which features a 100-m high dune of brilliant white sand. It stretches for about 9 km and is about 2 km wide.

Green Kalahari

The roaring sands on the farm Doornaar near Groblershoop is an interesting site. The white dunes, surrounded by typically red Kalahari dunes, are said to ‘roar’ when the wind blows. Eleven water wheels are still used today along the hand-built irrigation canals at Kakamas. The Orange River Wine Cellar Co-op Rockery Route runs between Keimoes and Kakamas. Kanoneiland is a settlement on the biggest island in the Orange River. At Keimoes, the Orange River flows at its widest. The Tierberg Nature Reserve offers spectacular views of the Keimoes Valley and the many islands in the Orange River. The original irrigation canal system is still in use. The Orange River Wine Cellar Co-op’s largest cellar is situated here. Kenhardt is the oldest town in the Lower Orange River area. The Quiver Tree Forest and Kokerboom Hiking Trail, consisting of between 4 000 and 5 000 quiver trees, are within easy driving distance of the town. Upington is the commercial, educational and social centre of the Green Kalahari, owing its prosperity to agriculture and its irrigated lands along the Orange River. A camel-and-rider statue in front of the town’s police station pays tribute to the ‘mounties’, who patrolled the harsh desert territory on camels. The South African Dried Fruit Co-operative is the second-largest and one of the most modern of its kind in the world. Tours of the plant are offered and freshly packed dried fruit is sold. The Orange River displays its impressive power at the Augrabies Falls, also known as the ‘Place of reat Noise’, in the Augrabies Falls National Park. Visitors can hire canoes to ensure closer contact with the natural heritage surrounding the world’s¨sixth-largest waterfall. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park comprises 38 000 m2 of land, making it one of the largest conservation areas in the world. Straddling the Green Kalahari and Botswana, the park is a twomillion ha sanctuary for various raptors, antelope, gemsbok, springbok, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, Kalahari lion, black-maned lion, brown and spotted hyena, leopard, cheetah, and smaller game including mongoose, porcupine and honey badger. The names of various landmarks within the park reflect its long history as a crossroads of many cultures, which have included the San, the Mier, the Huguenots and the Scottish at various times. The park is an important element of the first phase of the Transfrontier Conservation Area 2010 Strategy, which is a priority of the SADC. As a peace park, the Kgalagadi’s goals include increased tourism and economic development. The park has made significant progress in these areas, attracting some 22 000 visitors in 2005/06. Since 2002, the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism’s social-responsibility programme has invested over R40 million in the park, resulting in, among other things, the establishment of 25 SMMEs.


The indigenous people of the Namaqualand region are the Namas. Their traditional Nama reed huts still abound in Leliefontein, Nourivier and Steinkopf. Namaqualand annually puts on a spectacular show in spring when an abundance of wild flowers covers vast tracts of desert. The flowers sprout and survive for a brief period before they wilt and disappear just as suddenly in the blistering heat and dry conditions. The small town of Garies is the centre for those setting out to enjoy spring’s show of exuberance in the Kamiesberg. After diamonds were discovered along the West Coast in 1925, Alexander Bay was known for its mining activities. The town is no longer a highsecurity area and no permits are needed to enter. The Alexkor Museum paints a picture of the history of the area. The town also features the world’s largest desert lichenfield with some 26 species. At Hondeklip Bay, visitors can dive for crayfish and watch the local fisherfolk conduct their trade. Established as a small-vessel harbour and railway junction in 1954 for the copper-mining industry, Port Nolloth is a centre for the smallscale diamond-recovery and crayfish industries. It is the only holiday resort on the Diamond Coast. Fish and crayfish can be bought from the local factory when in season. Set in a narrow valley bisecting the granite domes of the Klein Koperberge lies Springbok. South of Springbok, near Kamieskroon, lies the Skilpad Wild Flower Reserve, part of the Namaqua National Park, which captures the full grandeur of the flower season. The 1 000-ha reserve operates only during the flower season. The Goegap Nature Reserve comprises 15 004 ha of typically granite, rocky hills and sandy flats. The reserve also offers a 4x4, and several hiking and mountain-biking trails. Namaqualand is also home to the Ais-Ais/Richtersveld National Park. It is managed jointly by the local Nama people and South African National Parks.

Upper (Bo-Karoo)

One of the Northern Cape’s most beautiful towns, Colesberg, is flanked by the Towerberg. The town features one of the country’s last working horsemills. An Anglo-Boer/South African War tour is also on offer. A weekend tour includes a visit to the Norvalspont prisoner-of-war camp and cemetery. Colesberg has bred many of the country’s top merino sheep. It is also renowned for producing high-quality racehorses. De Aar is the most important railway junction in South Africa. The author Olive Schreiner lived in the town for many years. Visitors can dine in her former house, which has been converted into a restaurant. Hanover is known for its handmade shoes and articles made mostly from sheepskin and leather. The Star of South Africa diamond was discovered at Hopetown. The town, which is steeped in history, also features an old toll house and a block house dating from the Anglo-Boer/South African War. At Wonderdraai near Prieska, visitors can see the horseshoe-shaped island formed by the flow of the Orange River. It seems as if the river turns to flow uphill. Vanderkloof was built to house the people building the Vanderkloof Dam. Today, it is a flourishing holiday resort. Visitors can enjoy waterskiing, boardsailing, boating and swimming, or visit the Eskom Hydroelectric Power Station situated within the dam’s wall. Victoria West is home to the Apollo Theatre, South Africa’s last operational art deco movie theatre from the 1950s. The theatre comes alive each September with the Apollo Film Festival. The Victoria West Nature Reserve is the habitat of the rare riverine rabbit.

Hantam Karoo

Near the small town of Brandvlei lies Verneukpan, where Sir Malcolm Campbell unsuccessfully attempted to break the world land-speed record in 1929. Carnarvon is well-known for its corbelled domed-roofed houses built of flat stones because of a lack of wood. The floors of these interesting houses were smeared and coloured with a rich red mixture of fat and oxblood, polished with smooth stone. A few kilometres outside Fraserburg lies the Gansfontein Palaeosurface. Discovered in 1968, it comprises several trackways of large, four-footed and five-toed mammalian reptiles. The prints are estimated to be some 190 million years old. Sutherland, birthplace of well-known Afrikaans author and poet NP van Wyk Louw, is known for its brilliant night skies and cold, biting winters. The sterboom (star tree), which blossoms in September, is found only in Sutherland. The South African Astronomical Observatory’s (Saao) observation telescopes including the Southern African Large Telescope (Salt), are in Sutherland. From Monday to Saturday, the Saao offers two guided tours per day and two night tours per week. Day tours entail a guided walk through the visitor’s centre adjacent to the telescope sites on the mountainside and a guided tour of selected telescopes, including Salt. During night tours, visitors can view interesting objects in the sky through two dedicated visitors’ telescopes. Booking is essential.

Northern Cape Map Namibia Map Botswana Map North West Province Map Free State Map Upington Kimberley De Aar Colesberg Springbok Port Nolloth Kuruman Kakamas Western Cape Map Eastern Cape Map N7 N1 N1 N1 N1 N10 N12 N12 N9 N14 N14 N14 N12 N10

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