Northern Cape Tourism information on national and provincial parks. Characterised by its vast expanses of space and silence, warm sunny climate, friendly people and hospitality, the Northern Cape is a province with a rich culture heritage. Below you will find information on Northern Cape Tourism.
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 back to the beginning of the 20th 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, has 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 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 there. The Magersfontein Battlefield outside Kimberley, with its original trenches and other defenses 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. Barkley West attracts many water-sports 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 also a breeding centre for endangered African herbivores such as rhino, roan and sable antelope and disease-free buffalo.
At Black Rock, visitors can 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 that flows from Gasegonyana (Setswana for “the little water calabash”) – commonly called the “Eye of Kuruman” – which yields 20 million litres of water per day. Moffat’s Mission in Kuruman features the house of missionary Robert Moffat, the church he built, and several other historic 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. Explorer 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. The Witsand Nature Reserve, situated about 80 km south-west of Postmasburg, features a 100-m high dune of brilliant white sand. It stretches for about nine km and is about two km’s wide.
The Roaring Sands site on the farm Doornaar near Groblershoop is a popular tourist attraction. Its high sand dunes, surrounded by typically red Kalahari dunes, are said to “roar” when the wind blows. Along the hand-built irrigation canals at Kakamas 11 waterwheels are still used. 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’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. Kalahari Desert Speedweek, in its third year at the beginning of October 2014, is an annual eight-day speed festival held in a far north-western corner of South Africa where tumbleweeds can roam for days nonstop and the dried-up lake beds are tailor-made for top-speed exploration. It is a proper run-what-you-brung motorsport event where anybody is welcome to enter, and anything with an engine is eligible. Over the years, the event has also become a meeting place for all sorts of eccentric machinery and people. Expect anything from 1940s-vintage Nash sedans limping along in period-correct warbird liveries to finely tuned Italian exotics humming at breakneck speeds, billowing dust clouds in tow. The Orange River displays its impressive power at the Augrabies Falls 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 two-million-hectare 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 the endangered honey badger.
The Namas are the indigenous people of Namaqualand. Their traditional Nama reed huts still abound in Leliefontein, Nourivier and Steinkopf. Namaqualand is famous for a spectacular annual 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 in the blistering heat and dry conditions just as suddenly as they appeared. The small town of Garies is the centre for those setting out to enjoy this show of exuberance in the Kamiesberg. After diamonds were discovered along the West Coast in 1925, Alexander Bay has become known for its mining activities. The town is no longer a high-security 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, which has some 26 species.
More Northern Cape Tourism
At Hondeklip Bay, visitors can dive for crayfish and watch the local fisher folk conduct their trade. Port Nolloth is a centre for the small-scale diamond-recovery and crayfish industries. It is the only holiday resort on the Diamond Coast. The local factory sells fish and crayfish 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 is open 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 4×4 trail, as well as 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 Karoo (Bo-Karoo)
Flanked by the Towerberg, Colesberg is one of the Northern Cape’s most beautiful towns. 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 Norvals-pont 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 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, built to house the people building the Vanderkloof Dam, was turned into a flourishing holiday resort. Visitors can enjoy waterskiing, boardsailing, boating and swimming, or visit the Eskom Hydro-electric Power Station within the dam’s wall. The rare riverine rabbit is found in the Victoria West Nature Reserve.
Near 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 dome-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 and 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 NP van Wyk Louw, well-known Afrikaans author and poet, is also known for its brilliant night skies and cold, biting winters. The South African Astronomical Observatory’s observation telescopes, including the Southern African Large Telescope (Salt), are in Sutherland. The sterboom (star tree), which blossoms in September, is found only in Sutherland. The Tankwa Karoo National Park, on the southern border of the Northern Cape, 70 km west of Sutherland, encompasses the Succulent Karoo Biome, the world’s only arid hotspot, stretches 116 000 km² from the southwestern Cape into southern Namibia. The landscape offers seasonal contrasts of coloured wild flowers and stark desert, set against the backdrop of the Roggeveld Escarpment to the east, Klein Roggeveld to the south and the Cederberg to the west. Its extensive desert plateaus are ideal for viewing game such as gemsbok, Cape mountain zebra, springbuck and bustards.
Northern Cape Tourism
15 Villiers Street
Telephone: 053 832 2657 (International: +27 (0)53 832 2657)
Northern Cape Tourism Routes
Kalahari Red Dune Route
Winding through the Kalahari – from just north of Upington all the way into the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park – the Red Dune Route drifts from guest house to game farm in a pleasurable combination of unlimited hospitality and arresting scenery.
The locals say that once you’ve felt the red sand of the Kalahari between your toes, your heart will always return to this desert wonderland.
The Kalahari Red Dune Route showcases the Kalahari through a wide range of activities including duneboarding, camel riding and 4×4 trailing for the adventurous, and game drives, guided walks, birding expeditions and other eco-inclined activities for nature-lovers. For visitors attuned to culture and history, the route offers the opportunity to experience regional customs and folklore, sample traditional cuisine, and meet the warm and welcoming people of the Kalahari.
Accommodation options are as diverse as the landscape, and vary from camping to homely bed and breakfasts to luxury lodges. All in all, the Kalahari Red Dune Route offers something for everyone.
The Richtersveld is a vast and unforgiving environment; stark and dramatic, yet strikingly beautiful. This route is for the self-sufficient 4×4 traveller only and it is highly recommended that you travel in a convoy as you traverse this largely uninhabited part of the Northern Cape.
It is a mountainous desert situated in the north-west corner of South Africa. To its west is the cold and rough Atlantic Ocean, while the remarkable Orange River, the largest river in South Africa, winds along its northern border. The Richtersveld has the highest diversity of succulent plants in the world (4 849 species, of which 1 940 are endemic), as well as eerie coastal mists, alluvial diamonds and truly indigenous cultures.
While many people already know about the Richtersveld National Park, few realise there is an equally large protected area to the south, previously called the Richtersveld Community Conservancy. This area is the last refuge of Nama people living what is known as the transhumant lifestyle – to migrate seasonally with their livestock from mountains to the river and so make sustainable use of the fragile succulent ecosystem. In recognition of this vanishing lifestyle, and of the rare botanical diversity it helps protect, the conservancy has been declared the core of a new World Heritage Site – one of only eight in the South Africa. Each small village in the Richtersveld has distinctive features and characteristics. The traditional culture of the inhabitants should be explored and enjoyed. Visiting these hospitable and friendly people is an essential part of any trip to the area.
The |Ai |Ais-Richtersveld National Park is unique in that it is a contractual park – jointly managed by the local community and South African National Parks. Stock farmers may continue to graze their livestock in the park, thereby maintaining a centuries-old tradition.
Namakwa Coastal Route
The Namakwa Coastal route is a rugged nature experience along the unexplored north-west coast of South Africa’s Northern Cape. These shores have remained virtually unknown to the public at large as it is within the restricted and previously forbidden diamond mining areas.
The route runs along the coast from “Groenrivier” mouth until Port Nolloth and is ideal if you are looking for peace, tranquility and adventure. However many of the roads on the route are not accessible to ordinary saloon cars and more suitable for 4×4.
If coming from the south (Cape Town) the route starts in Namaqua National Park. Basic accommodation and/or camp sites are available all through the route.
On one side, breathtaking scenes of the Atlantic Ocean include occasional sightings of dolphins and whales, while on the other lies the endemic wildlife of the enraptured veld.
North of the Namaqua National Park you will enter the previously restricted Namaqualand Mines area. The valuable mineral treasures hidden within its sands have made these restrictions necessary but diamonds are not the only treasures. This sandveld has been jealously guarded and while still largely unspoilt and crime-free is home to many indigenous plants, animals and insects.
The coastline, with its flowing dunes and mysterious shipwrecks, has been opened to the fortunate few who come in a 4×4 or can participate in organised guided tours.
Kimberley Diamond Route
The Diamond Route comprises a series of properties – owned by companies traditionally associated with diamond mining, namely De Beers, E Oppenheimer & Son and Ponahalo Holdings – that have been set aside for conservation and tourism. Many have accommodation, ranging from luxurious lodges to camping, and offer a range of wildlife and outdoor activities.
The route was designed to rehabilitate and conserve six hectares of land for every hectare a company mines, as a way to redress the balance between the use of natural resources and sustaining the ecosystem.
Combined the route makes up 250 000 hectares across South Africa and Botswana. These properties give people a chance to commune with the diversity of nature – from cultivated gardens to mopani woodlands and riverine forests to savannah grassland and the sandscapes of the Kalahari.
Kokerboom Food & Wine Route
The Kokerboom Food and Wine Route highlights some of the attractions that can be found along the stretch of the Orange River, including activities, accommodation, restaurants and sightseeing.
Where the Kalahari and the Nama-Karoo deserts meet, the Great Gariep River (Orange River) flows, bringing life to the typically arid worlds on both sides, and turning the area into an oasis. It is here that travellers can experience the Kokerboom Food and Wine Route.
The route takes the traveller into one of the most interesting and beautiful areas of South Africa’s Northern Cape province and embraces the towns and settlements of Keimoes, Kanoneiland, Kenhardt, Augrabies, Upington and Marchand. The Kokerboom Food and Wine Route has something for everyone.
The route is located in an arid zone, with stifling hot summers (up to 45°C) and chilly winter nights. The Great Gariep, known more commonly as the Orange River, winds through the landscape and brings it life. This river was once called “God’s gift to the Southern African thirstland”. The greenbelt along the river’s banks contrasts sharply with the rising rocky cliffs. Irrigation schemes have stretched the greenbelt into the desert, making acres of vineyards and other agriculture possible.
Ten percent of South Africa’s vineyards are found in the Orange River valley and southern Kalahari.
Karoo Highlands Route
Ever yearned for a space so vast that the horizon continues into the future? Or to see the stars so clearly you feel that you touch them? The Karoo Highlands Route is where you can experience such uniqueness. The area is renowned for the hospitality of its farming community.
Whether you’ll be admiring the inimitability of the corbelled houses or looking back in time at the Gansfontein Palaeo Surface, your heart will surely be touched by this region as never before.
The Karoo Highland Route is situated in the southern part of the Northern Cape in South Africa. The route covers the small Karoo towns of Nieuwoudtville, Calvinia, Williston, Sutherland, Fraserburg, Carnarvon, Loxton and Victoria West and forms the heart of the Great Karoo. The Karoo is the home of peace and tranquillity where you can recharge your batteries, while exploring the wide open plains dotted with koppies (hills). This is a place where a huge telescope allows you to look back to the beginnings of our universe 13-billion years, and where pre-dinosaurs roamed the Earth and the first people gazed up to the heavens.
People have lived on this massive plateau, the largest of its kind outside Asia, for about 500 000 years. The Khoi and San people who left their legacy as art on the rocks gave the Karoo its name. The place’s name comes from karusa, a Khoi word which means dry, barren, thirst land. This aptly describes this region where water is scarce. It is an ancient, fossil rich land, with some important archaeological sites, as well as the largest variety of succulents found anywhere on Earth: there are more than 9 000 plant species in the Great Karoo.
The route offers plenty of interesting attractions, such as Sutherland’s astronomical observatory, Carnarvon’s Karoo Array radio telescope, Karoo architecture and corbelled houses, Anglo-Boer War sites, rock art, ancient palaeo surfaces, farm stays and medicinal plants.
Quiver Tree Route
The Quiver Tree Route contrasts stark fawn arid land and verdant green vineyards. The Great Gariep, known more commonly as the Orange River, winds through the landscape and brings life to the surrounding parched earth.
The river was once called “God’s gift to the Southern African thirstland”. The greenbelt along the river’s banks contrasts sharply with the rising rocky cliffs. Irrigation schemes have stretched the greenbelt into the desert, making acres of vineyards and other agriculture possible. Ten percent of South Africa’s vineyards are found in the Orange River valley and southern Kalahari.
The route includes the towns and settlements of much of the Green Kalahari and include Keimoes, Kanoneiland, Kenhardt, Augrabies, Upington and Marchand. The Quiver Tree Route has something for everyone. In addition to visiting the popular Augrabies Falls visitors can relax in hot springs, river raft, go on 4×4 trips, hike, bird watch, sample local delicacies and wines, touch the unique kokerboom (quiver tree) and even take a leisurely donkey cart ride through town.
The kokerboom is a botanical symbol of this part of the world. Along the route one can experience dry, rugged mountains, desert adapted animal and plant life, red Kalahari dunes, stifling summer temperatures at day, and freezing desert temperatures at night.