The Northern Cape is South Africa’s largest province yet the least populated. The capital, Kimberley, is known for diamonds and the largest man-made hole on the planet. Other major towns include Upington to the north, Springbok to the west and Sutherland in the south.
Roads throughout the region are well maintained and if you are looking for peace and tranquillity, we recommend you visit one of the many interesting towns or game farms. The western boundary of the Northern Cape lies along the Atlantic Ocean where diamonds are washed up onto beaches.
The cold nutrient-rich waters bring huge volumes of fish, sufficient for large colonies of Cape Fur Seals, Gannets and Penguins to establish breeding grounds. If star gazing is your thing, then the Northern Cape’s sky will have you mesmerised.
Safari options, 4x4 trails and off-road biking routes are abundant throughout the area. Weaver’s nests along the roads often house up to 500 birds and their weight can buckle sturdy telephone poles.
South Africa’s first nation, the Khoisan group, occupied this area for millennia, leaving behind their rock paintings as a legacy. Several mission towns were established to convert the Khoisan, many of which still exist and can be visited.
The Northern Cape is unspoilt landscapes, fresh air, clear night skies, friendly people, and quaint towns.
Things to Do and See
The Bloodhound Project is a British-run initiative launched a few years ago to build a vessel that would break the 1000mph (1600kph) land speed record. The site where the attempt will be made in 2016 is at Hakskeen Pan, in the far north of the province .
Augrabies National Park is one of South Africa’s national treasures. In the park are the Orange River Gorge and the 56m Augrabies (meaning Place of Great Noise in Khoi) waterfall, thunderous when the river is in flood. Several animal species are resident in the park including the Black Eagle, Cape Otter and inquisitive Meerkat.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park is an amalgamation of two border parks, one in South Africa, the other in Botswana. Here you are given the opportunity of glimpsing the black-maned Kalahari lion and if very fortunate, the secretive leopard. The park is a photographer’s dream with barren red sands stark against any animals crossing them.
Note: Two camps are closed for renovations, re-opening October 2016
The Richtersveld National Park in the extreme west of the province is Africa’s only mountain desert. Africa’s deepest canyon, the Fish River Canyon, is found here too. One of the park’s oddities is the halfmens (translated as half plant, half human) a cactus species that resembles the human body shape. Only 4x4 vehicles can enter the park.
Orange River Rafting is a super fun way of negotiating the massive Orange River and enjoying the Richtersveld National Park scenery and is safe for children.
The coastal town Kleinzee is part of the restricted diamond mining area owned by the De Beers Companies, but visitors are welcome to take conducted tours of the mine, 4x4 tours along the beaches to see the shipwrecks along this treacherous part of the coast and visit the massive Cape Fur Seal colony nearby .
If only to say you have visited a one-horse town once in your life, remember to stop – if you see it – at the small, friendly town of Pofadder (Puff Adder)
Kimberley’s Big Hole and mine museum are definitely worth a visit. Kimberley has South Africa’s only drive-in bar, at the historic Halfway House hotel. The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre just outside of the town contains over 400 San rock engravings.
The Orange River Wine Cellars in Upington offer wine tastings and cellar tours.
The dunes at the Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve have two unique characteristics: on extremely dry and hot days (December to February), the dunes emit eerie sounds. This phenomenon is known as the Roaring Sand. Lightning strikes the dunes regularly, causing silica to melt into odd-shaped forms known as fulgurites.
Springtime in Namaqualand transforms the barren surroundings into Carpets of colourful Wild Flowers. This is one of nature’s wonders and a must for anyone visiting the area between late August and late October.
The South African Large Telescope (SALT) is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere. It is located outside Sutherland, a town best known for being one of the coldest in South Africa and almost zero light pollution. Tours of the SALT facility are possible.
Many fossils have been discovered at the Salpeterkop Caves near Sutherland.
Where to Eat
Most towns have small hotels or eateries in which to buy a meal, the emphasis being mainly on quantity rather than quality but engaging with the establishment owner and kitchen staff will make every meal memorable.
If opting for farm accommodation or any of the guest houses en route, you are most likely to experience a hearty meal.
Where to Stay
There are hundreds of hotels, guest houses and safari camps spread throughout this region, all manner of accommodation, from farm-style living to absolute luxury, depending on where you visit.
AirFlights to Kimberley & Upington are via Johannesburg or Cape Town. Springbok has a small airstrip, as does Kleinzee and Sutherland. Private chartering can be organised for flights to and from these towns.
Car: Car rentals are available in Kimberley, Upington and Springbok.
Taxis: Taxi services operate in all towns listed above.
Did you know?
The Northern Cape is referred to as the Diamond Province.
The Augrabies waterfall is the largest in South Africa.
The Northern Cape encompasses three deserts and two of the largest rivers wind their way through this region.
Boesmansgat, near the town of Kuruman, is the 3rd deepest freshwater sinkhole in the world and is where the 1996 world record of 288m free dive was set by Nuno Gomez.
Several international and national paragliding records have been set in the Karoo town of De Aar.