The A to Z of the Northern Cape
What makes the Northern Cape such an exciting and extraordinary place to visit? There are so many inspiring experiences that define the largest province of South Africa that we have created an A-Z of experiences to help you choose. We hope these experiences will inspire you and your clients to create an unforgettable Northern Cape holiday experience.
A – Adventure
Adrenaline junkies, adventure seekers and outdoor enthusiasts are spoilt for choice with activities ranging from rock climbing to white river rafting, 4x4 trails, adventure motor-biking, paragliding and fly-fishing.
B – Bloodhound
The province is also playing an integral part in the global BLOODHOUND Project. This international initiative is an attempt to set a new world land speed record by building a car capable of reaching of 1600 kilometres per hour, while inspiring young people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
C – Culture
The people of the Northern Cape lie at the heart of its appeal to visitors. Its proud history and cultural diversity are combined in the open-hearted hospitality of its people. The Northern Cape proudly celebrates the unique cultures that build the landscape of this vast province. Its rich archaeological heritage traces ancient tribes like the San (Bushmen), Nama and Griqua and pays homage to its diverse history. Some of the country’s premier rock art sites with over 400 rock engravings are located between Kimberley and Barkly West The history of this region is deeply rooted in a proud mining tradition and the Old Copper Way presents visitors with the chance to follow in the footsteps of explorers of yesteryear. Museums and memorials provide visitors with the opportunity to explore the historic influences that has shaped the province.
D – Diamond Fields
Kimberley is often referred to as the city that sparkles and is both the capital of the Northern Cape and the heart of the Diamond Fields region. The diamond city was the location for the infamous diamond rush in 1866 and one of the greatest sieges of the Anglo-Boer wars. Today, the incredible Big Hole remains the largest hand-dug excavation in the world and recalls those early days of diamond diggers, who contributed to South Africa being ranked as one of the top diamond production countries in the world. Kimberley’s Diamond District takes visitors back to years gone by with many old buildings, museums and one of South Africa’s most important art galleries lending an historic ambience to the city that thrust its way to prominence during the diamond rush. Visitors can enjoy an underground mine experience in a replica mine shaft, view the Big Hole from a viewing platform or even take a vintage tram ride to the city centre.
E – Eco-Encounters
The province is divided into four regions and boasts a total of six national parks, including two Transfrontier parks crossing into world-famous safari destinations such as Namibia and Botswana as well as six provincial nature reserves, two of the largest rivers in South Africa and three legendary deserts. Each region will capture the imaginations of those who dare to explore it and its ancient mysteries. Take rugged mountains, endless flatlands and undulating dunes. Add to this diverse scenery, stunning plantlife and plentiful game and you have a recipe that will please all 4x4 eco-adventurers. The landscape is uniquely suited for rugged 4x4 adventure trips with the AisAis/Richtersveld Transfortier Park being a must-see destination. Footpaths and hiking trails allow visitors to experience the natural surrounds up close and these abound throughout the province. Guided game walks with armed rangers are also popular in the various private and national parks and reserves.
F – Flora
There are an estimated 5400 plant species in the Northern Cape that occur in six large biomes,namely the Nama Karoo Biome, Succulent Karoo Biome, Savanna Biome, Grassland Biome, Fynbos Biome & Desert Biome. More than 30% of the plants found in the Northern Cape are endemic and most of these occur in the Succulent Karoo along the west coast of South Africa. Many of these plants are rare or threatened, with a very limited distribution. The Richtersveld, at first impression, appears to be a lonely, harsh and arid lunar landscape of various shades, with little plant life. On closer inspection however, and especially during the winter, it is full of beautiful miniature gardens of colour as the flowers display their splendour. Growing in between pebbles or in rock crevices, the highly specialised plants survive and evolve in their own niches ...
G – Green Kalahari
Vast tracts of bleak, shimmering semidesert contrast dramatically with lush green vineyards filling the Orange River’s fertile valleys. The massive body of water meanders through a giant valley of its making, being at its most impressive at the Augrabies Falls National Park, where the deafening fury of a huge torrent of angry water plummeting 56m down a series of granite cataracts speaks volumes for the river’s awesome power. By 1884, the river had been claimed by colonialists, and irrigation and development followed. Today, you can travel peacefully from wine cellars to tearooms in the desert; from a luxurious lodge to the desolation of Verneukpan. Yet, not all is tamed. The mighty Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Africa’s first transfrontier park, comprises almost 3.7 million hectares of sparsely vegetated, red sand dunes and dry riverbeds ...
H – Hunting
The Northern Cape Hunters’ Association subscribes to and supports strict legislation governing hunting. It protects the wildlife while allowing hunters the freedom to enjoy a sport that brings them close to nature. Countless game lodges and farms, mostly in the western regions from the Kalahari to the Karoo, offer accommodation from rudimentary to opulent safari lodges. Most offer guides and trackers, skinning, cutting, cooling and taxidermy services. Whether you’re trophy hunting, scouting venison for the pot, in search of biltong (a traditional, dried-and-spiced meat), or seeking a brace of guinea-fowl or francolin, you will the find the game to suit your talent and your taste. Widely considered as a hunting mecca, the Northern Cape presents hunters with unparalleled opportunities to track and bring down their quarry.
I – Inkbospan
Inkbospan is one of the many pans found in the Northern Cape, these large flat areas of land are often dry and some of them (the salt pans near the coast) are mined for salt. Verneukpan is the pan on which the world’s last landspeed record was set and Hakskeenpan is where the Bloodhound SSC team are intent on setting the next world landspeed record in 2013.
K – Karoo
The seemingly arid Karoo region quickly transforms itself with the first summer rains into waving fields of grasses with picturesque scenes of grazing sheep and spinning windmills. Visitors are enticed by its distinctive Karoo architecture, impressive churches and desolate valleys between flat-topped koppies (hills). This region offers visitors the traditional warm hospitality of its people combined with superb hunting, hiking and game watching. Take time out to explore the little towns of the Karoo and discover a unique style of architecture. Most of the original town dwellings are simple structures with a prominent covered verandah as protection against the harsh sun. The more elaborate homes have traces of Victorian style, but still maintain a Karoo-like integrity. The usual windmill in the back garden also adds a typical Karoo authenticity to the buildings. Throughout this wonderful part of the great Karoo, you can visit, hunt or hike on game farms and nature reserves teeming with every species of antelope. Here the hardy inhabitants of the Karoo immediately make you feel at home in their beloved countryside.
L – Lift-off
There are many ways to take to the endless blue skies of the Northern Cape and get a birds eye view of the landscape and its creatures. Whether you decide to take a charter plane, helicopter, hot air balloon, microlight or you paraglide, the view from up there is truly breathtaking. Swoop over the Khalahari’s wildlife of float above the roaring Augrabies Falls and the canyon below.
N – Namaqua National Park
Butterflies hover, birds dart and bees shimmy and dance over the springtime flowers of Namaqua. A multiplicity of colour weaves across the valley floor and spills over to the sandy coastline of the parks ‘Groenspoeg’ corridor. This is what you’ll find in the Namaqua National Park during early August and September.
N – Nieuwoudtville
On the Bokkeveld escarpment, Nieuwoudtville is known for its unique vegetation, with the biggest variety of indigenous bulbous plants in the world, and the 100m high Nieuwoudtville Falls on the Doring River. A small town, its warm, sandstone buildings shelter in a well-treed hollow in a flat landscape covered by wheat, heather and proteas. Eight kilometres west of town, Vanrhyns Pass offers majestic views over the Knersvlakte on the descent to Namakwa’s coastal terrace.
O – Orange River
The mighty Orange River is one of the largest rivers in the country and provides a lifeline for this predominantly arid region. The river creates a virtual oasis along its banks and contributes to the vibrant agricultural community of the region. Ten percent of the country’s vineyards are located in the Upington region, which is also home to the award-winning Orange River Cellars, the second largest co-operative cellar in the world. At the Augrabies Falls National Park, the Orange River is at its most impressive as it thunders its way through a ravine and into a pool walled by sheer granite, creating the world’s sixth largest waterfall. The falls derived their name from the Khoi word meaning ‘place of great noise’ which accurately describes the roar as the falls plummet 56m into the ravine. This arid piece of moonscape-like land, awesome and strikingly beautiful, offers the visitor over 15 000ha of unique riverine ecosystems to explore.
P – Paragliding
Soar on thermals that rise from the baking earth to the cooler cobalt skies supplying an ideal lift for paragliders.On a good day, it feels as if you can fly for ever. Many of the world’s records have been set in De Aar and Kuruman where flights of up to 350km have been recorded. The Fly De Aar aerodrome site launches predominantly by winch, although mountain top launches are also possible.
P – Pepperpot
The six-sided structure, unique in South Africa, has become the symbol of Fraserburg. It was built by Adam Jacobs in 1861 and its bell was rung whenever fire broke out. In addition to this it rang nightly at 9pm (a sad fragment of South African history) as a curfew when all coloured people were expected to be out of the town. Even after the curfew was no longer required, the bell continued to be rung at this time until the 1950s.
Q – Quiver Tree Forest and Hiking Trail
About 8km south of Kenhardt on the main route to Cape Town is a quiver tree (kokerboom) forest made up of between 4000 - 5 000 quiver trees. The Kokerboom Hiking Trail winds through this unusual forest.
R – Riemvasmaak
Best accessed with a 4x4 vehicle, the rugged rocky scenery seems as if it is from another planet. This spectacular area with its towering granite canyons is owned and run by the community of Riemvasmakers. It was one of the first land restitution projects in South Africa and has much to offer the intrepid traveller. Besides 4x4 adventures, visitors can enjoy bathing in a natural outdoor hot spring, absailing, river rafting, san rock art viewing and guided tours. Traditional dances and meals can be arranged and accommodation is in comfortable chalets that are perched on the edge of cliff walls.
S – Stargazing at Sutherland
At Sutherland fans of astronomy will find the best star-gazing on earth at the South African Astronomical Observatory where visitors can book tours to experience the dramatic grandeur of the galaxy.
T – Take the Tram
The only tram service in South Africa runs several times a day between the City Hall and the Mine Museum, in Kimberley. This vintage tram - introduced in 1887 - was refurbished to enhance the tourist experience of historical Kimberley. Its route between the City Hall and the Big Hole includes historical buildings and places of interest. Tel 053 832 7298
U – Upington
The vibrant town of Upington is the second biggest town in the province and the centre of a strong agricultural community. The entrance to the Eiland Holiday resort features an avenue of date palms measuring 1041 metres, which makes it one of the densest and longest palm avenues in the Southern Hemisphere. Upington airport has three runways, the primary one measuring 4,900 metres (the longest civilian runway in the Southern Hemisphere and one of the few able to land a space shuttle) and offer connecting flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg.
V – Vanderkloof Dam
The Vanderkloof dam is the second biggest dam with the highest dam wall in South Africa and a holiday resort ideally suited to families. When the dam is full, it stretches a 100km long and is perfect for most watersports including sailing, skiing, and windsurfing. Dam tours can be undertaken, giving you insight into the history and workings of the dam. On the northwestern shore is the 6 200 hectare Rolfontein Nature Reserve. The reserve is home to eland, gemsbok, red hartebeest, Burchell’s zebra, white rhinocerous, kudu, springbok, grey duiker, bat-eared fox, baboon, vervet monkey, aardvark and aardwolf.
W – White Water River Rafting
For an exhilarating experience, tackle the Orange River in inflatable rafts or canoes. The banks of the Orange River create a stark contrast to the hot and arid landscape of the Richtersveld. The gently flowing river keeps you cool during the heat of the day, making this the ideal getaway for friends, family or team building. Numerous companies offer river adventures ranging from 4 – 6 days. Camping sites are erected on the banks of the river.
W – Wine Experiences
The Orange River Cellars are made up of five wineries situated in Upington, Kakamas, Keimoes, Grootdrink and Groblershoop. The grapes originate from 794 producers along the Orange River which stretch over more than 300km form Groblershoop to Blouputs. The cellars offer an extensive range of wines from dry white, natural sweet and dry red, as well as dessert wines.
X – !Xaus Lodge
!Xaus Logde is the only fully-catered luxury lodge within the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Set on red dunes in the heart of this wilderness, you can sit on your deck overlooking a large slat pan and watch as the animals drink at the waterhole below. The lodge is run by a private concessionaire on land that was returned to the Khomani San and Mier communuities.