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Destinations and Provinces

Nature has worked a special magic on the South African landscape. Although culture and history are an integral part of the South African experience, it is nature which is the true jewel in the crown.

Wind, sun and rain have sculpted vistas of unsurpassed beauty in which some of the earth’s most diverse plant population thrive. With kilometres of countryside and coastline where visitors can enjoy the sun, South Africa is an African masterpiece … MORE \ Discover South Africa

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

10 Reasons You Should Visit the Big Hole in Kimberley

posted to: Northern Cape

Kimberley’s open cast mine is the city’s major attraction. Mention Kimberley to anyone and their knee-jerk reaction is: ‘have you seen the Big Hole?’

Reputedly the world’s largest hole excavated by hand, the huge open pit (also known as the Groot Gat, which is Afrikaans for ‘big hole’) has attracted visitors since mining operations closed here in 1914, but is a visit a must-do? We list 10 reasons you should visit the Big Hole in Kimberley

 

Kimberley's Big Hole

1. THE HOLE REALLY IS HUGE

Kimberley’s Big Hole is big. It is the site of the world’s biggest diamond rush and the subsequent Kimberley Mine that dates back to 1871, with the emergence of De Beers. The gold rush brought thousands of people from all over the world, and the country, to the mine that started off as a hill, on Colesburg Kopje, but rapidly evolved into a hole as miners dug deeper and deeper into the Kimberlite pipe. Today it stands 463 metres wide, with a surface area of 17 hectares, excavated to a depth of 240 metres. This depth was subsequently infilled with debris, so now has a depth of about 215 metres. 40% of the Hole is now covered by water.

2. THERE IS A CANTILEVERED PLATFORM OVERLOOKING THE HOLE

Back in 2004, before the museum and Big Hole facilities were revamped for visitors, one merely walked into a caged-off corridor with a view of the Hole. R50 million later, the Big Hole is a world-class tourist attraction with an open-air steel platform that juts over the Hole giving one a vertigo-inducing view right into the chasm. It’s all the more impressive and interesting when you realise that the platform is exactly the size of a mining claim.

 

Kimberley's Big Hole

3. THE WATER IN THE HOLE IS GREEN (& MAKES FOR GREAT PICS)

The colour is more like turquoise, and apparently due to the aftereffects of algae. You have only to head to Instagram to see that it makes for interesting photographs.

4. THE MOVIE AT THE START OF THE TOUR IS EXCELLENT

I thoroughly enjoyed the twenty minute movie that marks the start of any guided tour. The entertaining film does much to re-create the mining conditions and characters that played a part in late-19th-century Kimberley. The Diamond & Destiny film is a period drama that follows the fascinating story from when children discovered a shiny stone on the banks of the Orange River to how this shaped the destiny of many lives.

 

Kimberley's Big Hole

5. THERE IS A WEALTH OF INFORMATION IN THE EXHIBITION CENTRE

The exhibitions of the museum-part of the experience cover everything from how diamonds are formed through the history of the diamond fields to the exhibit of diamonds that include replicas of the Hope diamond, the Dresden Green and the Star of South Africa. Interesting was the history of South Africa in relation to world events, the story of the myths and legends of ancient peoples of diamonds, and the hardship faced by those who laboured on the mines. You could spend hours here. My advice is to break the experience with lunch at the Occidental Bar & Restaurant in the Old Town, returning for further exhibits.

6. YOU’LL GET TO SEE REAL DIAMONDS IN A DIAMOND VAULT

It gets a little warm in the vault, but it is thrilling to be this close to such interesting stones. The temptation to touch is overwhelming (it’s all behind glass, so not much chance of that happening). The vault is a high-security vault created especially for the museum and it’s filled with stones of every colour, type and size.

 

Kimberley's Big Hole

7. THERE’S AN UNDERGROUND EXPERIENCE THAT KIDS WILL FIND THRILLING

You don’t really go deep underground, but there’s a simulated lift that gives the impression of going down for miles.  The rock falls and the techniques of underground mining are interesting, particularly if you think that until Kimberley geologists were under the impression that diamonds were found only in rivers. In Kimberley the primary deposits were volcanic pipes.

8. THE OLD TOWN IS EVOCATIVE (& FREE)

You can walk around the Old Town free of charge – it isn’t part of the Big Hole experience – but you would lose out on the whole story of Kimberley if you forego the guided tour. Historically, the Old Town is a series of buildings brought back to life. The buildings are period pieces filled with memorabilia and historically relevant artefacts, moved here from their original places around town as they became threatened with demolition. Now there’s a collection of pubs, shops, churches and a functioning pub and guest house. There is also a very short vintage tram ride (fun for children, but otherwise not worth the extra cost). This ride used to be far more extensive, connecting the city hall with the Big Hole.

 

Kimberley's Big Hole

9. THE BIG HOLE EXPERIENCE HAS WON AWARDS

The Universal Accessibility (Mobility) Award and the Visitor Experience Award in the 2015 Lilizela Tourism Awards. And the team at the museum has received the TripAdvisor top award for service excellence for 2013, 2014 and 2015.

10. ONCE A DOG (AND A MAN) WERE STUCK IN THE HOLE

But on separate occasions. The dog one can understand; it’s a story that ends well as she was adopted by the man who pulled her out, as part of the rescue team. But the man rescued from the banks of the hole in September 2015 was apparently in search of diamonds on a Sunday afternoon. Disoriented, he had to be pulled to safety. The mind boggles …

Kimberley Pages:

 

Kimberley's Big Hole

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Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Free Things To Do In Cape Town this Summer

Cape Town might be the most expensive place in South Africa, but the city’s long summer days (sunrise before 6am and sunset well after 8pm) help diminish the sting of inflated prices.

Best of all, summer comes with a list of things to do without price tags – you just have to know where to look.

Here is our selection of free things to do in Cape Town this SummerContinued

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Best Holiday Spots Within Easy Driving Distance Of Cape Town

As much as Capetonians would have you believe that South Africa ends at the Hottentots Holland Mountains, there is another whole world out there filled with historical and seaside villages, and mountain retreats, within easy driving distance of Cape Town.

Just don’t get away too late. Any time after 15h00, on a Friday, and you’ll spend over an hour in gridlocked traffic trying to leave the city. Here is our list of the Best holiday spots within easy driving distance of Cape Town … Continued

Monday, 31 October 2016

Corbelled Houses Unveiled – Why They’re The Most Exciting Thing To Happen To The Karoo

Few people know that in South Africa’s hinterland – on farms neighbouring the towns of Carnarvon, Williston, Loxton and Fraserburg – are a series of strange-looking beehive stone structures.

They’re an anomaly of the Northern Cape Karoo; excellent examples of the inventiveness of early pioneers (trek boere) to this semi-desert landscape, known as ‘hard man’s Karoo’, who headed out here between the middle and the end of the nineteenth century into the barren area beyond the Sak River.

They left to escape the restraints of government or to search for new grazing grounds for their livestock. Departing the boundaries of the colony they arrived in a region visited by relatively few even today.

There are no trees to speak of here. It is an unrelenting country of black basalt ridges, semi-desert scrub and plenty of stone. It’s incredibly beautiful from the confines of an air-conditioned vehicle, but in reality harsh and unyielding… Continued

Thursday, 27 October 2016

Head To Stellenbosch For A Downton Abbey Experience

Just as the Crawleys of Downton Abbey (the impressive Highclere Castle in Berkshire, England) decided to open their doors to the public for a day, so too four historical homesteads of Stellenbosch (if on a somewhat less grandiose scale) combine to form the Village Museum, their doors open for daily tours.

The four homesteads form part of the Historical Stellenbosch on Foot tour, a great way to explore Stellenbosch – the quintessential historical town – filled with Georgian, Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture that lines tree-lined streets full of museums, hotels, restaurants, students, Capetonians and visitors.

It’s been here on the banks of the Eerste River since it was established by the Cape governor, Simon van der Stel. Back then it was an island known as Wildebosch (Wild Forest) that functioned as one of the cattle outposts of the Dutch East India Company (VOC). It was just time before he renamed it Stel’s Forest – Stellenbosch… Continued

Monday, 24 October 2016

The Highlights Of Kimberley’s Belgravia Walk, Including 3 Useful Tips

Belgravia is Kimberley’s most posh suburb. Like its London counterpart, which lies just behind Buckingham Palace, Kimberley’s Belgravia lies close to the city’s major tourist attraction, The Big Hole.

In fact, the land on which Belgravia lies was once a farm called Bultfontein, owned by the London and South African Exploration Company – a group of individuals considered, by all accounts, unscrupulous landlords.

Most of the houses and buildings in the area were built during the 1880s, Victorian in style, from Kimberley bricks – deep orange/red, handmade and pressed – with corrugated iron roofs and fences, their wide verandas, on at least three sides, an enviable feature even today… Continued

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

7 Reasons to Explore the Karoo Roggeveld between Britstown and Sutherland

The alternative route between Bloemfontein and Cape TownA spate of idiosyncratic towns will enchant you, as will the incredible scenery, windmills, hospitable people, corbelled houses and star-strewn skies – the likes of which you’ve never experienced before.

As the crow flies it takes the average traveller 11 straight hours, and a rather deadened derriere, to travel between Cape Town and Bloemfontein.

The national road is easy enough to navigate despite the barrage of trucks, if mind-numbingly dull (the N1 circumnavigates most towns en route, and the road goes on forever with little variety).

However, the back roads through the Karoo hinterland are a different kettle of fish… Continued

Monday, 17 October 2016

Visiting Bloemfontein? Read This

Stay in Bloemfontein for a couple of days and you begin to realise that the city’s reputation as the redneck capital of the country is more than a little unfair. For any of the residents of the country’s judicial capital will wax lyrical, at the drop of a hat, about its laidback vibe, surprisingly pretty gardens and reserves, gorgeous sandstone public buildings and not half-bad nightlife.

We were in the capital recently and uncovered the best spots around Bloem.

Visiting Bloemfontein? Read on… Continued

Friday, 14 October 2016

12 Hidden Spots In Cape Town You Probably Don’t Know Exist

As well as one thinks one knows Cape Town there is always some little nook or cranny, deli or coffee shop left undiscovered.

Here are 12 hidden spots in Cape Town… Continued

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

FREE. The Best Kept Secrets In Kimberley

Before exploring Kimberley I thought it had little more to offer than its ‘Big Hole’ experience. But the biggest city in South Africa’s largest province has a lot more going for it than we give it credit for. It’s origin as a diamond rush town made it the fastest-growing city in the southern hemisphere at the time that Cecil Rhodes amalgamated hundreds of claims into one hugely wealthy diamond industry.

Today it’s a bustling, albeit small in terms of a city, community that Leana Coetzee, resident of the house next door to the one in which my father-in-law was born (it’s a long story!), explains to me is one of the friendliest you’ll find in the country… Continued

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

The 10 Best Food and Drink hoods In Johannesburg

Food is about people coming together to have a good time, and Johannesburg’s eclectic eating scene satisfies just about all palettes with a range of foods and dining experiences across its myriad districts and suburbs that would keep the average foodie in foodie heaven for months, if not years.

On our list of 10 best neighbourhoods in Johannesburg there is everything from great locals, through Indian cuisine, to fine dining… Continued

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Johannesburg’s top 5 hipster suburbs

When CNN starts to refer to Johannesburg as a ‘hipster hangout’, GQ magazine calls it the ‘cool capital of the southern hemisphere’, and the BBC describes how Johannesburg has changed ‘from no-go to gotta-go’, then you know things are changing.

The perception of Jo’burg as a crime-ridden and turbulent city best avoided has done an about-face.

Only ten years ago the average travel blog suggested, none too subtly, that you use the city of gold merely as a launching pad to head either into the bush, or to the very tip of the country where, it was hoped, the beaches would detract from Johannesburg’s downtown, described as a ‘no-go area of high-rise slums, violent crime and streets filled with trash’.

So, what’s happened to Johannesburg? Continued

Thursday, 22 September 2016

The Secrets of Kalk Bay

Don’t miss our favourite 5 historical buildings, homes and churches on Kalk Bay’s main drag!

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you Kalk Bay is one of the most delightful seaside fishing villages on Cape Town’s False Bay.

On weekends traffic along Main Road is backed up virtually to Muizenberg by 1pm as people forget how popular it is (and about the never-ending Stop Go at Glencairn).

Parking is severely limited along the narrow mountain hugging main road (despite the improvements) and Kalk Bay’s narrow, cobbled alleyways accommodate very few (additional) cars – residents already park on the road.

Catch the train? Yes, we’d advise it.

We’d also recommend that when next in Kalk Bay you have a clear view of where it is you’re going to avoid the we’re-here-now-what crowd that mills around the centre of Kalk Bay.

A plan like Kalk Bay’s historical walk … Continued

Monday, 12 September 2016

10 Of The Best Cape Town Boutique Hotels – We Loved The First And The Last

A boutique hotel is a small, stylish hotel typically found in a fashionable part of a city.

Originally the term described small hotels in the centre of large cities, like London and Berlin, but today it characterises an intimate set-up, usually a small selection of rooms with a distinctive personality and style.

Although many bigger hotels now add ’boutique’ to their description in a bid to sound distinctive, the term used correctly describes an intimate, independent hotel of few rooms that feature themed décor.

We share 10 of the best Cape Town boutique hotels. We’ve selected those that have a certain designer flair, that stand out above the rest. We loved the first and last, and so will you… Continued

Thursday, 8 September 2016

48 Hours in Cape Town

Only 48 hours in Cape Town – What to see and where to go in Cape Town – we give you the low-down.

With the rand at an all time low, now is the time to visit! A plan to enjoy the Mother City could pursue any of the following: from sipping wine and browsing farmers’ markets, to heading up the famous Table, followed by a sedate drive along the Cape peninsula… Continued