A-Z OF THE NORTHERN CAPE EXPERIENCE
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. The Northern Cape was voted Africa’s premier sports tourism destination and with world class events such as Bloodhound, Kimberley Diamond Skateboarding World Championships, Kalahari Desert Speedweek, Amageza Ralley, Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon, Under 21 European and Africa Waterski Championships being hosted it is increasingly attracting international participants and events.
Situated in the Augrabies 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 Augrabies 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. The Park with its moonscape-like land is awesome and strikingly beautiful and offers the visitor over 15 000ha of unique riverine ecosystems to explore.
The Northern Cape Province is one of the world's greatest biodiversity hotspots and is legendary among international and local birders alike for the remarkable variety of birds that are found here and nowhere else. It is an indispensable destination for the eco-tourist and there are no other areas in Africa that offer such a high level of endemism in such a uniquely accessible setting. A staggering 47 of South Africa's 58 endemic and near-endemic bird species occur here, as well as 76% of southern Africa's 181. Local and international bird-watchers are inevitably drawn to the region by its scenic and cultural diversity, well-developed infrastructure, high standard of accommodation, and excellent network of national parks and provincial and private nature reserves. A total of 615 bird species have been recorded in the Northern Cape Provinces, and a two-week trip could expect to yield in excess of 300 species. Top 10 Species in the Northern Cape: Ludwig's Bustard, Red Lark, Burchell's Sandgrouse, Black-eared Finchlark, Sclater's Lark, Barlow's Lark, Burchell's Courser, Cape Eagle Owl, Cinnamon-breasted Warbler, Dusky Sunbird.
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.
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 producing 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.
The province is divided into five 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.
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. At first impression the Richtersveld appears to be a lonely, harsh and arid lunar landscape of various shades with little plant life. However, on closer inspection 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.
Each spring the winter plains of the Namakwa region is transformed into a kaleidoscope of color with the arrival of the annual flower season. Day trips and week trips will afford the once in a life-time opportunity to experience this unique natural phenomenon.
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 and the lifeblood to a myriad of farmers and communities. 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.
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 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.
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 is intent on setting the next world land speed record in 2013.
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.