Experience the Northern Cape, South Africa

Main centres: PostmasburgGriquatownCampbellOlifantshoekDibeng (Deben), KathuDaniȅlskuilKuruman

Region: Colloquially known as the Ghaap Route, it is located in what was formerly known as the Griqualand West region.

This fascinating heritage route covers everything from a famous archaeological site and historic towns to amazing architecture and a vast nature reserve known for its unusual white sand dunes.

The route comprises a series of heritage sites, including some dating back three billion years, as well as the Witsand Nature Reserve, with its white sand dunes standing in stark contrast to the surrounding red Kalahari sand dunes. 

Visitors will be drawn to fascinating historical and geological sites in and around towns such as Postmasburg, Griquatown, Campbell, Olifantshoek, Dibeng (Deben), Kathu, Daniëlskuil and Kuruman.

Location and history

The heart-shaped Ghaap Plateau is a main attraction in the region, situated in the central interior of the Northern Cape. The plateau is about 1 130m above sea level, and extends about 150km from east to west between the Harts River Valley and the Kuruman Hills. Billions of years ago, the plateau was submerged under the sea.

Boreholes revealed the existence of rich underground water resources, which contributed to development in the region. 

The existing Griqua towns on the Ghaap plateau were incorporated into the then Cape Colony in the early 1900s, and new “white” towns started growing, along with better roads and railways.

Around 1920, the West End diamond mine was established in Postmasburg and numerous fortune-seekers flocked to the area, prompting a mini-diamond rush similar to the Kimberley one, albeit on a smaller scale.

Things to do on the Go! Ghaap Route

There is a lot to do on the Go! Ghaap Route, including learning about the various ethnic groupings who have called this area home – including the San, Tswana and Griqua people – and, in the 1800s, the missionaries, explorers and travellers who once roamed this vast region.

Natural splendour

Known as the “oasis of the Kalahari”, Kuruman is an interesting destination for the curious traveller to visit.

The town is home to a famous natural geological feature known as the Eye of Kuruman, said to be one of the biggest natural springs in the southern hemisphere. The Tswana name for the fountain is Ga-segonyana (“calabash”), from which the local municipality derives its name. The first European to discover the spring, in 1801, was English artist Samuel Daniell, who was part of the Truter-Somerville expedition to meet the southern Tswana people.

This natural spring delivers about 20-million litres of clean, clear water daily to Kuruman. It also supplies water to the Kuruman River and two 7km canals – even during the dry season.

Heritage sites

The Wonderwerk Cave is an archaeological wonder believed to be at least two billion years old. The large cave is located 45km south of Kuruman and 43km north of Daniëlskuil.

Research conducted by archaeologists at the cave, which extends 140m horizontally into the base of the Kuruman Hills, suggests the presence of early human activity. Visitors to this preserved heritage site will get to see fossils dating back hundreds of thousands of years, Stone Age axes and cleavers, painted ostrich-egg shells, and San rock paintings.

The Kuruman Hills are also worth visiting when touring this route. They are known for their large quantities of blue asbestos or crocidolite, which prompted mining in the Ghaap region from the 1930s until 1980. This was halted after the serious and often deadly health risks of asbestos mining were discovered.

Eat and sleep

Linksfontein Safari Lodge is located on the Ghaap Plateau near Campbell, approximately 115km from Kimberley. The lodge is some 22 000ha in size and is home to about 38 different animal species, including kudu, giraffe and steenbuck.

There are nine en-suite double bedrooms with air-conditioning facilities; indoor and outdoor barbecue areas; a swimming pool; and an assortment of outdoor activities. Linksfontein Safari Lodge also offers safari game drives, a spa and a conference venue.

For information, contact +27 (0)87 1353 405 or email info@linksfonteinsafarilodge.co.za

Highlights on the Go! Ghaap Route

Kuruman Charity Run: The annual Kuruman Charity Run is one of the biggest annual motorbike runs in the region. The three-day event features mass rides, bike stunts and a music festival.

For more information, keep an eye on the Desperados MCC Facebook page or phone Selao at +27 (0)73 172 1616.

Kgalagadi Jazz Festival: The Kgalagadi Jazz Festival is a highly anticipated music festival that takes place at the Mothibistad Stadium in Kuruman every year. The festival puts the province firmly on the map with a line-up that features local legends on the jazz music scene.

For more information, contact +27 (0)60 840 2943 or visit the Kgalagadi Jazz Festival Facebook page.

Moffat Mission museum: The missionary church was restored in 1938 to mark its centenary, and visitors can view a cast-iron printing press that was used to print the first Bibles translated from English to Tswana by Robert Moffat. There's also a cemetery where missionaries and their children were buried, as well as an ox-wagon that was used to transport timber from hundreds of kilometres away to build the church.

For more information, contact +27 (0)53 712 2645.

Download the Open Africa 'Cape of many Routes' write-up below