The Northern Cape is home to some of the country’s most sought after tourist spots, as well as some of the most starkly beautiful untouched landscapes in the country. It is the largest province in South Africa, stretching across the land at 372 889km². While it is the largest province, it is the most sparsely populated, with only 2.3 percent of the population living in the small towns found there.
Although it might seem like a ‘one horse town without the horse’, there is a bustling tourist industry with accommodation in Springbok being popular during the Namaqualand daisy season. Below are some interesting facts about this enigmatic province, the perfect place for adventurous at heart.
The Northern Cape borders Namibia in Karas and Hardap and Botswana in Kgalagadi. In South Africa, it shares a border with the North West, Free State and the Eastern and Western Cape. This makes it easily accessible both locally and nationally, driving the tourist industry immensely.
Because of these borders, there are several routes you can choose to reach the stunning province with ease, stopping off at the Springbok Inn chalets before continuing your journey to one of the other towns or attractions. You will find points of entry in towns such as Alexander Bay, Gemsbok, McCarthy’s Rest and Middelputs.
The Northern Cape is known as the Diamond Province, and for good reason. It is home to Kimberley, and in 1867, the first diamond in South Africa was discovered near Hopetown. Since then, almost 95 percent of South Africa’s diamonds have originated from the Northern Cape province.
The Big Hole in Kimberley is where the diamond mining took place from 1867 and 1914, resulting in the biggest man-made hole in the world. It is 240 metres deep, filled with stunning turquoise water where the mine used to be. There is an interesting open air museum where you can see the ‘Old Town’, a replica of what the mining town in Kimberley used to be like. There is also an underground mine tour for the braver few who do not mind small spaces.
In Sutherland, a town in the Northern Cape, you will find the South African Astronomical Observatory and SALT (South African Large Telescope). It is the single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, and has had a hand in some unique discoveries.
There are guided day-tours of the observatory during the week. You may not be able to see SALT in action during the day-tours, but you will be allowed to look through smaller telescopes and view the sky. If you want to see something truly spectacular, there are night time trips stargazing sessions that you can take part in. These night time adventures have a strict ‘no flashlight’ policy so your stargazing is not inhibited by synthetic lighting.
The Northern Cape is home to no less than six national parks, more than any other province. These parks include a wide array of flora and fauna to please any outdoor lover:
Any one of these parks are sure to offer an exciting adventure to those who enjoy immersing themselves in nature. The Namaqualand National Park is particularly unique and beautiful to behold during the flower season. Stay at one of the hotels in Springbok and capture gorgeous blankets of daisies and other wildflowers.
The Northern Cape is home to two minority groups, both of which could be considered as the ‘first peoples of Africa’. These groups are the Namas in Richtersveld region and the Khomani San in the Kgalagadi region.
Both cultures are fiercely protected in the areas, with the Kuboes Village in the Richtersveld offering education to those who wish to learn more about these highly private and remarkable cultures. There is a Bushmen Living museum that also offers an educational and insightful afternoon of learning for those whose families want to experience a different culture while holidaying or road tripping.
The Northern Cape is a place that is full of natural beauty, with a desert-like landscape that comes alive with unique flora and fauna all year round. You will be able to see historical landmarks such as the Big Hole in Kimberley, experience different cultures in the Kuboes Village in the Richtersveld and stargaze uninterrupted in Sutherland. There is arguably no other place like the Northern Cape, making it the perfect destination for travellers who prefer to travel the road less taken.