South Africa travel information accommodation guide
  www.South-Africa.org.za
 Northern Cape Province
 
Northern Cape Introduction
 
Northern Cape Province, South Africa

Escape to the tranquil beauty of clear skies and vast open plains and desert that is South Africa's largest province, the Northern Cape. Enjoy the wide, open spaces of the golden deserts by day and the clear black star-studded skies by night with the beautiful milky way laid bare for all to see in her awe-inspiring glory. The Northern Cape holds many stories and is a treasure trove of unexplored adventure, from the rock art of the fearless San people to the treasure hunters after the most precious gem found in abundance in the area – the rare and beautiful diamond.

Take a trip through the Karoo region to experience the simple way of life of the local farmers, and be amazed at their adaptability to the harsh environment. A trip to the Namakwa landscape is a must in Spring to see nature in her full splendour when the spring rains announce the arrival of the annual wild flower season – truly a sight to behold of a carpet of wild flowers spread across the vast plains.

Whether the Northern Capes brings forth adrenaline inducing river adventure, wildlife or bush excursions or historical exploration, everyone will find something to experience and will leave with many awesome memories of Africa's great desert landscape.

 
Top Ten Attractions
 
Namaqualand Flowers

Be amazed as the desert landscape is transformed every Spring into one of the most beautiful displays that you are ever likely to witness – in the dry region of Namaqualand. Stretching from the Atlantic Ocean in the west to the small town of Pofadder in the east and bordered by the Orange River in the north, the Namaqua area is famous for its spectacular spring flowers, best viewed on sunny days – flowers that have inspired countless poems, novels and paintings for their rare beauty and colour. Make sure you bring your camera as this is a photographic opportunity not to be missed!

 
Kimberley's Big Hole

A trip to Kimberley is not complete without a visit to the largest man-made hole in the world! Formerly a small hill known as Colesberg Koppie, the big hole was excavated of 22.5 million tons of earth in search of diamonds. The original mine was closed down in 1914 having yielded over 2,700 kg of diamonds, and on the site now stands the Kimberley Mine Museum where you can learn more about the excavation process and the mining way of life, while visiting old-style buildings such as a digger's tavern and boxing tavern. End your exploration with a stop at the tearoom for light refreshments.

 
Augrabies Falls National Park

Be dumbstruck by one of the most awesome sights and sounds you are ever likely to experience, as you witness water thundering down the 56 meter Augrabies Falls into the great Orange River below. The Khoi people called this ‘Aukperebis' or Great Noise and it's no surprise for the noise is deafening. The klipspringer and kokerboom (quiver trees) stand tall against the backdrop of the African sky, paying homage to those able to survive in this unique environment. The Park is also home to a range of species, including birds, reptiles, antelope, leopards and the endangered black rhino.

 
Tswalu Kalahari Reserve

A trip to this 1000 square meter malaria-free reserve is a must for anyone wanting to experience a true South African safari. Tswalu, meaning ‘new beginning' in Tswana, is owned by the well-known Oppenheimer mining family, and is said to be the most extensive private game reserve in the country. Tswalu is home to 70 species of mammal, including lion, cheetah, black rhino and antelope, as well as 200 species of bird. Visitors can enjoy game viewing from open-sided safari vehicles across the dunes of the desert, or get truly up close to the wildlife on horseback. Experience sunsets like no other and an abundance of wildlife as you live the South African dream.

 
Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (incorporating the Kalahari Gemsbok Park)

Visit the land where the red dunes fade into the horizon and the wildlife seeks shade under thorn trees, before moving with the seasons in search of water. The Kgalagadi, at some 3.6 million hectares, is one of the few remaining conservation areas of this size in the world, and its red dunes and sparse vegetation allow for perfect viewing and photographic opportunities of antelope, predators and birds. The Kalahari is a very dry region and summer temperatures can soar up to 40°C while winter nights drop below zero, so visitors should come appropriately prepared!

 
Fossil and Rock Art Routes

Take a trip back in time by visiting one of the Northern Capes numerous fossil and rock art sites. Driekopseiland just outside of Kimberley offers a range of century old San engravings, although being on a river bed they are sometimes under water, so viewing times are best in drier seasons. For a guaranteed viewing visit the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Tourism Centre also near Kimberley, where visitors have the opportunity to interact with the !Xun and Khwe people, while learning more about the San culture and history. Remember to stop off at the souvenir shop where you can purchase local handmade arts and crafts to take back home.

 
Diamond Fields Battlefield Route

The N12 Diamond Fields Battlefield Route starts 120km south of Kimberley at Hopetown, with plenty of signs along the way pointing out various sites for those not wanting to take a guide along. History buffs will enjoy visiting a range of Anglo-Boer War sites, to experience South Africa's greatest war first hand, Sites include the historic battlefields at the Orange River Station, Graspan, Belmont, Modder River and Carter's Hill. A trip to Magersfontein is a must to see one of South Africa's best Anglo-Boer War museum – brochures are available from local tourism offices.

 
Galeshewe Township Tour

Study South African township life at this small township just outside of Kimberley. It is recommended that you make use of a tour guide for safety reasons and also to truly experience all that there is on offer. Tour sites include the Malay Camp, the Sol Plaatje House, the home of Robert Sobukwe ( founding president of the Pan African Congress ) as well as the graveyard. Enjoy a local brew with the township people at the shebeen (drinking house) before retiring to a township guesthouse to experience the people as one.

 
Kamfers Dam

A bird watchers paradise, the Kamfers Dam on the outskirts of Kimberley is home to some 186 species of reed-dwelling birds, representing 62 avian families. The most well known of these are the Lesser and Greater Flamingos, clearly recognisable by their distinctive pink feathers, legs and beaks. Be amazed as entire areas of dam or transformed into islands of pink, or enjoy the many other abundant species of bird – a must for bird lovers.

 
Calvinia

Take a step back into South Africa's past with a visit to this picturesque Karoo town, which lies in one of the biggest wool-producing areas in South Africa. The Calvinia Museum, housed strangely in an old Art Deco synagogue, centres on farming, transport and the daily life of the early inhabitants. Take a guided tour arranged by the tourism office to enjoy the town's main places of interest, or visit one of the two trails in the Akkerendam Nature Reserve to enjoy the beautiful flowers.

 
Major Events & Festivals
 
Hantam Vleisfees
Visit the Hantam Karoo town of Calvinia in August to attend the traditional annual Hantam Vleisfees (meat festival). Calvinia is sheep country, and this festival celebrates its bounty in abundance, from lamb stews and curries and lamb kebabs and lamb barbeques – or for the more adventurous an entire lamb's head – a true Karoo delicacy. The three day festival also has plenty of entertainment on offer, including a street party, music concert, vintage car rally and dancing, and of course the annual Miss Vleisfees beauty pageant. Celebrate small-town living at its best in Calvinia.
 
Gariep Kunstefees
Every year in September the Gariep Kunstefees takes place in the Northern Cape's capital city of Kimberley. The art festival showcases a range of South African talent, including local musicians and artists, as well as children's theatre. There is also a film festival to allow new film-makers to enter the broader spectrum.
 
Adventure
 
Fly-fishing
The Northern Cape's Vaal River can be considered to be a fly-fisherman's paradise, and those who know the area say that the 200km stretch of river is one of the most exciting fishing areas that one can experience – particularly those in pursuit of the feisty yellow fish. The area also offers beautiful scenery, and relaxing on the banks of the river is a perfect way to finish off a day's fishing.
 
Kimberley Ghost Trail

Take this fascinating tour with the help of a knowledgeable guide, and step into the footsteps of spirits who met sad and untimely deaths in a city known for its many stories of ghost sightings and haunted places. The trail starts at the imposing Honoured Dead Memorial, and then meanders its way to various quarters including the Kimberley Library who's former librarian is said to have committed suicide, and is now believed to behind regular book and file rearrangements in the Africana Library. The tour ends at midnight at the grave of the Frankensteins in the Gladstone Cemetery. Be warned: this tour is not for the faint hearted!

 
Arts, Culture & History
 
William Humphreys Art Gallery
A trip to this grade one art gallery in Kimberley is a must for all culture vultures visiting the Northern Cape. While the gallery focuses on South African Art, it also features the works of 16 th and 17 th century Dutch and Flemish masters, as well as the works of British and European artists. The gallery hosts regular exhibitions and is also one of the few art museums to house a collection of fascinating San rock art.
 
McGregor Museum

Travel back in time with a visit to this awesome building, surrounded by beautiful gardens and immersed in nostalgia. The museum was originally a hotel and health resort built at the request of Cecil John Rhodes, and now houses a collection of impressive displays, including a geological exhibit of rocks, fossils and minerals, as well as the Ancestors Exhibition, which allows a fascinating insight into the development of humankind. The main museum is in Atlas Street in Kimberley, but there are a number of other historical sites under its administration.

 

The Cenotaph and Cape Corps Memorial

The Cenotaph, designed by famous local architect and painter William Timlin, was built to honour the 400 Kimberley men who gave their lives in World War I. Names of those who died during the Second World War were added later. The Cape Corps Memorial was built to celebrate the men who were members of this famous corps, based in Kimberley. The centrepiece is a German field gun that was captured from the Turks in 1918. The memorial was unveiled by General Smuts in 1934 and was recently moved to be next to the Cenotaph.

 
Shopping
 

The bigger cities all offer the usual shopping malls with large retailers selling clothing, shoes, medicines and groceries, to name but a few. Shopping malls also offer restaurants and fast food outlets, as well as pharmacies, bookstores and cinemas. The capital city of Kimberley is well known for its many jewellery shops, being the diamond capital of the world! The jewellery is often individually crafted offering a unique reminder of your trip to South Africa.

Kimberley is home to a number of flea markets, including the Dunluce Arts and Crafts market open four times a year, as well as the monthly market held opposite the Oppenheimer Gardens. Most tourist attractions also have small curio shops selling attractive African handcrafted pieces.
 
Climate
 

The Northern Cape is a dry region with changing temperatures according to the topographies, and its weather is typical of its desert and semi-desert landscape. Summer temperatures range between 33°C to 36°C, although highs of up to 40°C have been known in December and January. Winter months between June and August bring cooler temperatures of 22°C with cold evening temperatures sometimes dropping below zero. Winter snow can often be seen on the mountains around Sutherland, known to be one of the coldest towns in southern Africa.

The annual rainfall is never high, causing dry, desert-like conditions. The western regions enjoy winter rainfall, heralding the start of the Spring Namawa flowers from late August to the end of September. The central and eastern parts get summer rain from December to February, often accompanied by heavy thunderstorms, allowing for hot summer days and cooler balmy nights.