Experience the Northern Cape, South Africa

The 2019 academic year has just begun and the Province of Extremes has a lot to offer to schools looking to take the teaching experience out of the classroom and onto new ground.

The Northern Cape is home to a number of leading research and educational facilities, ranging from science and astronomy to history, mining and archaeology. South Africa’s largest province is heaven for learning and arousing curiosity in both young and old.

Historical attractions such as the open-air Kimberley Mine Museum allow learners to immerse themselves in the history of diamonds and mining in South Africa, and learn more about the tools used by early miners, while Sutherland is home to a globally renowned astronomical observatory that lets visitors with an interest in science explore the galaxies of far-away planets.

Here’s what school groups can look forward to when planning a trip to the Northern Cape ...

The Big Hole and Kimberley Mine Museum

Kimberley is home to the Big Hole – the largest hand-dug excavation in the world, dating back about 150 years to when diamonds were discovered in the area. Today, the capital city of the Northern Cape is often referred to as the “City of Diamonds”, paying homage to the diamond rush that once took place in the region and shaped its history as we know it today.

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Learn about the history of diamonds in South Africa. (Image: Northern Cape Tourism Authority)

Visitors to the Big Hole and the Kimberley Mine Museum can participate in guided tours that tell them more about the history of the city, the multifaceted story of diamonds and the first people who sought them, as well as the tools these miners used and the wealth the diamonds generated. They can also get a fascinating bird’s-eye view of the Big Hole from above.

Visitors have the chance to go underground in a recreated mineshaft to get a keen sense of what digging for diamonds meant in the 1800s and to view historical artefacts, photographs and memorabilia. They can also walk around the open-air museum or “old town” to get a sense of how the old-time miners lived, the transport used at the time and what the miners did to relax.

An outing to this well-presented and interesting attraction is perfect to inspire learners with an interest in history, geography and science.

There’s plenty more to see and discover in Kimberley, such as the many old Victorian buildings that complement the town’s more modern buildings, museums and churches.

For bookings and information, contact +27 (0)53 839 4600 or email info@thebighole.co.za.

Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre

The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre is situated 16km outside of Kimberley and is a community-based public rock art project of the !Xun and Khwe communities. It’s a Provincial Heritage Site.

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Fascinating rock art found at the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre. (Image: Northern Cape Tourism)

Rock art has a long history in South Africa and forms an integral part of the country’s archaeological wealth. San and Khoe people, researchers and other stakeholders cooperate in conserving the more than 200 engravings at the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre.

School groups are encouraged to visit, and can look forward to seeing Khoe-San rock engravings and paintings in different styles that are estimated to be at least 1 000 to 2 000 years old. There is also a 25-minute film that introduces visitors to what the site has to offer.

Trained community-based guides take visitors on tours to see the engravings of animals such as elephants, rhinos and hippos, as well as eland, explaining the meanings behind them and drawing attention to their significance. There’s also the option of an audio tour with commentary on all 10 stations at the site.

Guided school tours take place seven days a week at R15 per learner and R35 per educator. There’s also a shop stocking books on rock art and related topics, CDs and San craftwork, with the proceeds benefiting the !Xun and Khwe crafters and artists from the surrounding communities.

For bookings and information, contact +27 (0)53 839 2747 or email dmorris@inext.co.za.

The South African Astronomical Observatory in Sutherland

The Northern Cape is home to an observation station of the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) – one the most advanced research facilities in the world.

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The Southern African Large Telescope. (Image: Northern Cape Tourism)

Sutherland might be a relatively remote location, but the observatory is a must-visit for anyone interested in the wonders of space – school groups included.

The famous Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), the largest single-optical telescope in the southern hemisphere and among the largest in the world, is located at the observatory.

SALT is funded by partners from South Africa, the US, Germany, Poland, India, the UK and New Zealand and is known as “Africa’s giant eye on the universe”.

Fully guided tours of selected research telescopes, including SALT, start at the visitor centre. Bookings for school visits need to be made three months in advance and take place on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and on every third weekend of the month, at R50 per learner.

For bookings and information, contact +27 (0)23 571 2436 or email edubookings@saao.ac.za.