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Northern Cape

This is a harsh, unforgiving landscape not given to agriculture which makes it unique in South Africa. But amongst the arid starkness of the Karoo and Kalahari, which make up the majority of the Northern Cape province, there are flashes of life unique to the area … MORE \ Discovering the Northern Cape \ To find a place to stay visit Northern Cape Accommodation or Northern Cape Hotels. (Popular searches for accommodation include Kimberley and Upington).

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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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


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

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

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

Friday, 12 August 2016

Why The Lesser-Known Northern Cape Is The Perfect Place For Adventure

It’s no secret. South Africans regard their country as the Adventure Capital of the World.

And for good reason – we’ve the world’s highest commercial bridge bungee jump, the world’s only crocodile cage-diving, we free dive with tiger sharks, swim with Cape fur seals, cage dive with great whites, hike in Big Five territory, abseil off Table Mountain, kayak with crocodiles and boast an Extreme 19th hole (accessible only by helicopter) on one of our signature golf courses (we’ll leave it up to you to find out where!).

And that’s only the highlights we managed to fit in one paragraph…

But you might not know about the Northern Cape as an adventure destination. This region, best known for its desert landscapes, red sand dunes, nature reserves and springtime flowers, is such that once you’ve visited, you are inexplicably drawn to return.


Thursday, 4 August 2016

Who Wants To Know The Best Way To See The Namaqua Flowers?

Cut through the jargon and the hype and take note of these easy to follow suggestions for the best blooming Namaqua experience you’ve had yet! Continued

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

20 Best Secret Scenic Spots In The Northern Cape

When it comes to recharging, re-connecting and reclaiming one’s sense of self, the Northern Cape’s isolation and beauty is hard to beat.

It is one of the biggest provinces in the country, known for its desert landscapes, wild spring flowers and wildlife. But it is not as well navigated by travel books and guides as the Western Cape.

We help you find the best secret scenic spots in the Northern Cape for your travel Instagram pics … Continued

Monday, 17 August 2015

Top Ten Natural Attractions in Northern Cape

The Northern Cape is easily described in terms of remoteness. Both vast and under populated, by comparison with anywhere else in the country, it annexes 373 000 sq km – most of it the far-flung, empty spaces of the hinterland defined by relentless heat and desert sand dunes; the landscape knobbly with quiver and Halfmens trees.

Yet this aridness also relinquishes some of nature’s most generous treasures – the richly green wine-producing banks of the Gariep Dam, the legendary Augrabies Falls, dunes teeming with wild life, and spring flowers that oblige a desert mutation from a barren terrain into a latticework of blooms.

To  help you navigate, here are the Top Ten Natural Attractions in Northern Cape… Continued

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

10 Karoo towns with weird sounding names

It isn’t difficult to find unusual names in the Karoo. It seems as if this vast, effortless aridity gives rise to names that are the deuce to pronounce, if you’re a visitor, and difficult even if you live in South Africa.

Here are 10 Karoo towns with weird sounding names… Continued

Thursday, 9 July 2015

10 Oddities that make the Northern Cape such a gem

The Northern Cape is a vast province. It occupies a chunk of South Africa’s north western territory, curving around the southern projection of Namibia, sharing parts of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park with Botswana, and bordering on the Eastern Cape’s Venterstad, and the Free State’s Christiana.

People head to the Northern Cape to disappear. It isn’t difficult given the countless little towns about which nobody has heard – Melkboom, Breeshoek, Aggeneys, Rooiputs and Hotazel are just a few of them. Continued

Thursday, 28 May 2015

10 Far-Flung Karoo Towns For Fabulous Festivals

If you’ve ever looked at a map of the Karoo (the Groot and Klein Karoo) you may have noticed that it occupies a huge chunk of central South Africa.

It stretches from Alexander Bay on the West Coast, encompassing the bulk of the Northern Cape, all the way to the Free State towns of Smithfield and Cookhouse on the Karoo’s eastern boundaries, whilst its southern borders are dotted with Route 62’s well-known towns from Robertson through to Uniondale.

Its towns read like a list of who’s who of the Platteland – Loeriesfontein, Van Wyksvlei, Prieska, Putsonderwater, Philippolis, Bitterfontein, Koffiefontein and Kuboes.

With so many towns to choose from, just where in the Karoo does one go? In this, the first of a series of blogs on the Karoo, we bring you 10 Far-Flung Karoo Towns For Fabulous Festivals... Continued

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

10 attractions that will have you packing your bags for the Upper Karoo

For many the Karoo is a great expanse of (dry) land somewhere in the middle of South Africa. Just where this place of great heat and frosts, with an annual rainfall of next to nothing, starts and ends is a mystery, expounded by the impression that its extent is unknown (although we estimate it as nearly 400 000 square kilometres).

We have rather a romantic notion about its limitless skies, Marino sheep, succulents, windmills and little hillocks. Rightly so, as it is unusually beautiful. Some of us speak with longing of retiring to a town in said expanse of land, to fritter away our days running fish ‘n chips shops, or little coffee cum bookshops. Others actually do this… Continued

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Visit Kimberley

We arrived in Kimberley on a mid-Sunday afternoon at its brilliantly atmospheric railway station. As you descend onto the platform you are immediately conscience of how wonderfully different it is from other modern day stations. The metal latticed roof structure is designed to allow plenty of natural light in and the wooden benches perfectly accompany the calligraphy signage boards that announce your arrival with all the flair of a bygone era. Stone walls and white arches guide you out and into the Capital of the Northern Cape. Continued

Wednesday, 23 October 2013
What to wear in South Africa

What to wear in the Northern Cape – The Northern Cape Packing List

The Northern Cape has a unique climate, thanks to its being situated higher up and along the Namibian border. It is home to part of the immense Kalahari Desert, which means that a large proportion of the province is either arid or semi-arid. It is hot and dry. While this may not yield a particularly green and lush vegetation that is typical of provinces like Mpumalanga, the Northern Cape certainly does boast a beauty all its own. Continued