The Northern Cape
- Tourist Information & Activities
Northern Cape Province, South Africa
Cape Accommodation Images © South
THE NORTHERN CAPE,
Home to the ancient San people,
the Northern Cape is about wide-open spaces, an utterly beautiful coastline
and a number of unique national parks offering the tourist a very different
experience of the South African landscape. This province boasts a colourful
history and a variety of cultural tourist attractions and is particularly
well known for its incredible annual floral display that takes place
The Northern Cape lies to the south of the mighty Orange River and comprises
mostly desert and semi-desert. The landscape is characterised by vast
arid plains with outcroppings of haphazard rock piles. The cold Atlantic
Ocean forms the western boundary. This region covers the largest area
of all the provinces in South Africa yet has the smallest population.
The last remaining true San (Bushman) people live in the Kalahari area
of the Northern Cape. The whole area, especially along the Orange and
Vaal rivers, is rich in San rock engravings. The province is also rich
The first people of the
Northern Cape were the San, who were gradually pushed out of the area
by the arrival of Europeans, and other African tribes. The Dutch came to the area to mine for copper under the
famous Cape governor Simon van der Stel. Mining has always defined
the history in this part of the world and, when diamonds were discovered
in Kimberley, unprecedented growth took place in the province under the
leadership of men such as Barney Barnato and Cecil John Rhodes. In
1899, the Northern province was the scene of the Anglo-Boer War, where
Kimberley was one of the first towns to be besieged by the Boers.
Apart from a narrow strip of winter-rainfall area along the coast, the
Northern Cape is a semi-arid region with little rainfall in summer.
The weather conditions are extreme cold and frosty in winter, and extremely
high temperatures in summer. Sutherland, in the Hantam Karoo, is one
of the coldest towns in southern Africa with an average winter minimum
is -6º Celsius. In winter, snow often blankets its surrounding
GETTING TO KNOW THE NORTHERN CAPE
The Northern Cape’s sheer size, clear skies, flamboyant sunsets,
brilliant starry nights and incredible silence is powerfully intoxicating.
This is the kind of place you want to take in slowly.
Major attractions in the area:
Created in 1991, the Richtersveld National Park is situated in northwestern
Namaqualand. Here, the landscape is rough and unforgiving. Some of
the more rugged landscapes have been given names such as Skeleton
Gorge, Devil’s Tooth and Helskloof (hell’s gorge). This area is
home to the fascinating Nama people – who are mainly sheep
or goat-herders and live a simple life in these harsh surroundings.
The Richtersveld is popular with 4x4 enthusiasts and nature lovers.
The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, together with the Gemsbok National
Park in Botswana, is Africa's first transfrontier game park, known
as the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It is one of the largest nature
conservation areas in southern Africa, and one of the largest remaining
protected natural ecosystems in the world. The Park provides unfenced
access to a variety of game between South Africa and Botswana, and
has a surface area of more than two million hectares.
Falls National Park
One of the lesser-known game parks in the country, it is here, on
the Orange River, that Africa’s second largest waterfall thunders
down into a granite gorge in a spectacular display. Adventure activities
are par for the course at this attraction, including rafting, hiking
and cycling as well as canoe trails.
• Flowers, Flowers
During August and September, the area of Namaqualand is transformed
into a brilliant carpet of wild flowers. The area is world-famous
for its transformed landscape and floral beauty – and photographic safaris
to the area are very popular with both local and international tourists.
Nowadays, it can be said that the Namaqualand experiences something
of a `gold rush’ during peak season.
• Rock Art
The province is rich in San rock art paintings that date back to time
immemorial. The San were hunter-gatherers who lived off the desert,
and their rich heritage has been preserved in numerous paintings found
in caves all over the Northern Cape region.
• Diamond Digging
Kimberley boasts an excellent museum called the Kimberley Mine Museum.
Part of the museum includes the viewing decks into the Big Hole, as
well as a number of historic buildings. The old shops, bars, restaurants,
churches and banks appear almost exactly as they were during the diamond
digging days. Known as a `living museum’, a visit here is like
stepping back in time to the days when Barney Barnato and Cecil John
Rhodes were kings; and diamonds were there for the picking.
• The Big Hole
The famous five-hundred-metre wide cavity that sits at a depth of around
240m was dug manually by pick and shovel by diamond miners, and is
known to be the largest man-made excavation sight in the world. This
hole remains the major attraction for visitors to this part of the
The capital city's railway station is in Florence Street, close to
the city centre. South Africa’s famous and luxurious Blue Train stops
over in Kimberley, en route to Cape Town or Johannesburg and passengers
can board or disembark at Kimberley’s quaint station. The Kimberley
Tram Service - a vintage tram dating back to the turn of the century,
carries passengers from the City Hall to the Mine Museum, daily.
Missionaries, Robert Moffat and his wife Mary arrived in the Kuruman
area in 1820. Their aim was to convert the local people to Christianity,
and Moffat was the first person to attempt translating the Holy Bible
into Tswana, one of the indigenous languages. They built a mission
station, which has now been revived as an educational centre and retreat.
Not too far from Kuruman, lies the Wonderwerk Cave. A keen
stomping ground for archaeologists and the like, the site is said
to be home to human life dating back nearly a million years. The
area also includes precious artefacts, fossils and San Rock art.
• The Kalahari
The Kalahari is home to endless spaces and huge African skies. This
arid wasteland gets its name from the San word `kglagagadi’, which
means ‘thirsty land’. The almost lunar landscape boasts
a wide variety of unique flora and fauna.
The Northern Province is littered with small towns that are fast growing
in popularity with the arty set. Places such as Nieuwoudtville, Calvinia,
Poffadder and Springbok are definitely worth a visit, especially for
their warm-hearted local hospitality.
• Orange River
For adventure-junkies, canoeing down the Orange River is one way
to get an adrenalin rush in this part of the world. Not quite `white
river rafting’, the Orange does offer a number of aggressive
rapids to add to the roughing-it ambience. Trips down the river can
last anything from two to six days and are organised by a number
of accredited operators.
• Pella Mission
Pella Mission is truly in the middle of nowhere. Approximately 150km
from Springbok, Pella boasts a striking yellow cathedral that was built
by French missionaries in the late 1880’s. The cathedral is still
in use, today, and a central focus for the religious community in the
Information courtesy of South African
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