Northern Cape Attractions
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NOTHERN CAPE ATTRACTIONS
Diamond Fields, Northern Cape
During the world's greatest diamond rush, hordes of prospectors converged on the region, scouring the river banks and sifting soil in a frenetic quest for wealth. At times, there were as many as 30 000 diggers labouring all day and far into the night. Although the name Kimberley evokes images of glamour and romance, the diamond heyday was an era of blood, sweat and tears, high stakes and ruthless power struggles.
Kimberley developed around the huge hole in the ground, formerly a small hill known as Colesberg Koppie, where diamonds were discovered early in 1871. An observation platform provides a good view of the Big Hole, about 365 m deep and covering an area close on 15,5 ha. Between 1871 and 1914, men toiled to remove some 25 million tons of earth from the site. It yielded about 14,5 million carats of diamonds.
Kalahari, Northern Cape
The portion of the great Kalahari desert that lies in the Northern Cape is but part of a large arid to semi-arid sandy area known as the Kalahari Basin, covering 2.5 million square kilometres that stretch from the Orange River to cover most of Botswana and parts of Namibia. It evokes a picture of never ending red sand dunes, big, blue skies and a scorching sun that shimmers unrelentingly on ancient dry riverbeds, known as omuramba.
The Kalahari, derived from the Tswana Kgala, which means ‘great thirst’ or ‘waterless place’ is a vast area of red sand dunes, the southern part of which dominates the Northern Cape. Yet set along the border with the North West province are the mostly unfamiliar mining towns and villages of Black Rock, Dibeng, Kathu, Van Zylsrus, Hotazel, Dingleton, Olifantshoek and Kuruman. The Kalahari is both deceptive and alluring. Deceptive because beneath the surface of apparent desert lies an incredible wealth of iron, manganese and other precious ores, which explains the mining towns, and alluring for visitors because of the many game farms and nature reserves to which the Kalahari is home.
Despite the wilderness, the Kalahari is not true desert in the sense of being unable to support life. Parts of the Kalahari receive as much as 250 millimetres of rainfall, albeit erratically, throughout the year, and grasses and acacias easily support large species of antelope, hyenas, lions, meerkats, giraffe, warthogs and jackals.
Nature Reserves like the beautiful Witsand Nature Reserve, with its famous ‘roaring sands’ of the Kalahari - dunes that emit a rather uncanny rumble when disturbed – and Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, surrounded by the beautiful Koranneberg Mountains on the edge of the Kalahari, one of the largest private game reserves in the country, are part of the allure of the Kalahari.
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, Northern Cape
Surrounding the rugged Koranneberg Mountains in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve covers 1000km² (100 000 ha) of land on the edge of the mysterious desert wilderness that is the Kalahari. In the Kalahari, the thornveld and sweeping sand dunes are home to some of the world's most fascinating wildlife. It is here that you will find Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, the most extensive private game reserve in South Africa. The word 'Tswalu' is a Tswana word meaning 'new beginning'.
Free from malaria and other tropical diseases, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve boasts 70 species of mammal including lion, cheetah, desert black rhino, sable and roan antelope. More than 200 species of bird can also be found. Tswalu is the historical home of the San, whose storytelling and dream imagery can be seen at the many archaeological sites found in this unique private game reserve.
Tswalu offers game drives in open-sided, canopied safari vehicles. All game drives are led by experienced rangers who provide a fascinating insight into indigenous wildlife of the region. Optional bush walks allow guests of this private South African game reserve to get even closer to nature, and are led by experienced field guides who are highly knowledgeable into the local vegetation, bush medicines and history of the San people. Bird-watching, star-gazing and visits to the habituated meerkat dens of Tswalu are just some of the activities on offer at Tswalu. Optional horseback trails, with a qualified guide, enable guests to become one with nature and to experience close encounters with wildlife.
Upington, Green Kalahari
Upington is the chief city in the Northern Region of South Africa. This dry and hot area is characterised by desolate deserts and harsh landscapes. However, do not let that deter you. Upington boasts a marvellous oasis: the fertile and lush Orange River valley which runs through it.
This shimmering valley provides a green ribbon through the harsh landscapes bringing life-giving water from the distant highlands of Lesotho. Upington was founded in 1884 and currently boasts a population of 72 198 inhabitants. It was named after Sir Thomas Upington, the Attorney-General of the Cape. It originated as a mission station established in 1875. The mission station now houses the town museum, known as the Kalahari Orange Museum. The museum is also the home of the famous donkey statue, which recognizes the enormous contribution that this animal made to the development of the region during the revolutionary days of the 19th Century.
Augrabies Falls National Park, Northern Cape
The Khoi people called it 'Aukoerebis', the place of the Great Noise, referring to the Orange River thundering its way downwards for 60 metres in a spectacular waterfall. Picturesque names such as Moon Rock, Ararat and Echo Corner are descriptive of this rocky region, characterised by the 18 kilometre abyss of the Orange River Gorge and craggy outcrops dominating scrub-dotted plains. Klipspringer and kokerboom (quiver trees) stand in stark silhouette against the African sky, silent sentinels in a strangely unique environment where only those that are able to adapt ultimately survive. The 28 000 hectares on both the northern and southern sides of the Orange River provide sanctuary to a diversity of species, from the very smallest succulents, birds and reptiles to springbok, gemsbok and the endangered black rhino.
The ancestors of modern history have inhabited the area surrounding the Orange River since the Early Stone Age. During this time, there is evidence that early man had developed weapons for hunting animal like hippopotamus. They knew to establish themselves near good water sources like the Orange River. During the Middle Stone Age man had created more formal work tools and began to utilise fire. The Late Stone Age, which dates back 22 000 years, is characterised by tools that are smaller from the previous periods. The most prolific archaeological features are the stone cairns from the later Stone Age.
Karoo Gariep Conservancy, Northern Cape
Karoo is a “quenna” word meaning “dry and hard”. Gariep is also a “quenna” word meaning “big water”or river. The Karoo Gariep Concervancy is found on the Karoo “dry and hard” side of the Gariep “big river”. Like its name describes this is a very natural diverse part of South Africa. The fact that the N1 route runs through the Karoo Gariep Conservancy adds to its popularity and it is geographically halfway between Cape Town and Johannesburg. The direct effect of this diversity in habitat is the variety of wildlife and birdlife you get here. The bushman etchings found on the conservancy are evident of this. Many of the animals are nocturnal to adjust to the harsh climate.
The conservancy was founded in 2005 by P.C. Ferreira. It is home to the only hippos in the Karoo. They have been reintroduced after the last ones were shot out of this system more than 200 years ago. This act has won P.C the very prestige Kudu award from South Africa Parks Board for his contribution to conservation in South Africa.
The conservancy covers 12 000 ha and the main concern is to bring big game back to the Karoo and stimulate tourism. White Rhino and Cape buffalo are on the priority list. Blue Crane, the South African national bird, flock to this area from July to August in big numbers. Flocks of up to 300 are found in this period and they receive a lot of protection and care in the conservancy. The Karoo is malaria free. Night drives open up a new world as aardvark, bat-eared fox and aardwolf dominate the Karoo nights.
Stargazing is part of life out here with clear clean skies. We have more than expected birdlife in the Karoo and it is ideal for birding. Some of these birds are unique to this area and birds like clapper larks, ludwics busted, blue korhaan and burchals courser draw special attention. With clean and crispy mornings the Karoo is great place for the fitness aware guests Some 100 km of mountain bike routes are laid out on the 12 000 ha. It is recommended to tour the conservancy on a mountain bike as this gives a stronger, first hand experience of the Karoo.
Northern Cape Hiking Trails
Northern Cape Hiking Trails - The Northern Cape is South Africa’s biggest province. It is magnificently beautiful and is noted for its San rock art, diamond diggings, 4x4 Trails and the vast 38 000 sq. km Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park which is home to large herds of antelope and the Kalahari lion. The Northern Cape is also home to the two biggest battlefields of the Anglo Boer War namely the Paardeberg and Magersfontein.
Between July and August the Karoo brightens up when the Namaqualand flowers bloom and proliferate in the area. This is an exquisite sight and attracts millions from all over the world to come visit this splendid occurrence. The Northern Cape boasts numerous fantastic hiking trails in and around these magnificent areas. It also boasts numerous game reserves that offer fantastic hiking trails. The Augrabies Falls National Park is home to a 56m waterfall that thunders down when the Orange River is in full flood. The Khoi people called it ‘Aukoerebis’, or place of Great Noise, as this powerful flow of water is let loose from rocky surroundings characterized by the 18-km abyss of the Orange River Gorge.