Experience winter holidays in the Northern Cape

June newsletter


Time sure has been flying by. We’re already halfway through 2019 and hope that the first six months of the year are off to a good start for you and your loved ones. 

This month, our newsletter looks at the unique offerings of the Karoo Highlands and the Karoo Oasis routes. The area is renowned for its sheep farming and hospitable culture with plenty of interesting attractions, such as Karoo architecture and corbelled houses, rock art at South African War battle sites, ancient palaeo-surfaces, farm stays and medicinal plants.

The Northern Cape is one of the best stargazing destinations in the world and in the Karoo, there is something for every traveller. Visitors can look forward to vast, quiet and scenic landscapes, friendly local people, traditional food and a whole lot of adventure.

We’ve selected some amazing nature reserves in and around the Karoo to visit this winter – a great time of year to explore, with moderate temperatures making for a pleasant hiking and sightseeing experience. We’ve also profiled some unusual things to do in our province’s capital, Kimberley. Be sure to also check out special Northern Cape travel deals and upcoming events during July and August.

News alert: A warm Northern Cape welcome to Maruping Matthews Lekwene, who was recently appointed as our province’s new MEC for Finance, Economic Development and Tourism. Colin Fortune, the chairperson of the Northern Cape Tourism Board, and our staff would like to congratulate Mr Lekwene on his appointment. We look forward to working together to make our beautiful province a tourism destination of choice for local and international travellers alike.

Interesting Northern Cape

Discover these natural gems along the Karoo Highlands and Karoo Oasis routes, and elsewhere in the province, for an adventure of a lifetime

The Mokala National Park is located approximately 70km south-southwest of Kimberley, and west of the N12 road to Cape Town. The park gets its name from the Setswana word for camel thorn trees, which grow abundantly in the region. Visitors to the park can expect to see species such as roan antelope, sable antelope and tsessebe. For accommodation, there is the fascinating family camp called Lilydale Rest Camp – overlooking the Riet River, with a swimming pool – and Mosu Lodge, a great conference venue with a combination of self-catering, family and luxury units.

The Tankwa Karoo National Park offers a peaceful paradise that’s perfect for adventurers seeking long drives in the brown landscapes of this semi-desert in the Karoo. In spring (depending on seasonal rains), the park is usually transformed and covered by tiny white paper-like flowers that make a perfect feast for the eyes. The park offers a large variety of land tortoises like few other places in the world, and rich birdlife.

The Augrabies Falls National Park was established in 1966 and lies approximately 120km west of Upington. It is named after the majestic 56m-high waterfall within the reserve that is its main attraction. The gorge below the waterfall is about 240m deep on average and runs for 18km, forming part of the Orange River. The waterfall was formerly known as Ankoerebis, which means the “place of big noises” in the Khoi language. The park is known for the quiver tree or kokerboom (Aloidendron dichotomum, formerly Aloe dichotomaAloe dichotoma), from which Khoisan hunters made their quivers many years ago.

The Doornkloof Nature Reserve lies peacefully in the mountainous Karoo of the Northern Cape, outside the small town of Colesberg. The reserve is positioned at the top end of the southern shore of the Vanderkloof Dam – South Africa’s second-largest water reservoir. The 9 388ha reserve boasts kudu, eland, brown hyena, reedbuck, steenbok, duiker and a myriad of bird species.

There is a lot to see and experience in the Goegap Nature Reserve, situated 15km east of Springbok. The reserve boasts more than 92 recorded South African bird species, including ostrich, black eagle, spotted dikkop (spotted thick-knee) and ground woodpecker. The best time to visit this area of the Northern Cape is from late July to October, when the nature reserve is awash with natural splendour – the spring wild flowers put on a colourful show that is unrivalled anywhere else in the world.

The Rolfontein Nature Reserve is roughly 16km north of Petrusville in the upper Karoo, the land of infinite skies and unending horizons. Rolfontein borders on the Vanderkloof Dam. The reserve is a stretch of 8 000ha of mountainous terrain, Karoo plains, small dolerite koppies and densely wooded mountain kloofs. Visitors can picnic in the reserve, or overnight in the basic tented camps. Here, you can also look forward to hiking the 4km Pied Barbet Trail, while taking in the scenic beauty of the surrounding area.

Destination Insider

Winter in the province of extremes means different things to different people, from snuggling under a duvet in front of the fire to taking advantage of the cool weather to go hiking in one of our sprawling mountain ranges. There’s so much to do in the Northern Cape with your family this season!

Try a spot of stargazing in Sutherland

Sutherland is regarded as one of the world’s prime stargazing destinations. This small town in the heart of the Karoo desert is known for its clear night skies, and for its quiet summer evenings and snowy winter nights. Above all, it is the astronomical heart of South Africa, with a million stars reflecting the universe’s distant planets and galaxies.

Sutherland is also home to an observation station of the South African Astronomical Observatory, which is strategically positioned in the region due to its pollution-free air that renders cloudless nights for most of the year, as well as its semi-desert setting and its high elevation above sea level.

Various day and night tours are offered by trained and knowledgeable guides in Sutherland. Depending on the season and the month, these tours can range between two and four hours in length. During the cold winter months, June and July, shows take place between 6pm and 8pm.

Be inspired at Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre

The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre is situated 16km outside Kimberley and is a community-based public rock art project run by the !Xun and Khwe communities. Rock art has a long history in South Africa and forms an integral part of the country’s archaeological wealth. San and Khoi people, researchers and other stakeholders cooperate in conserving the more than 400 engravings at the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre.

For a moving tour experience, stop at this provincial heritage site dedicated to the preservation of the !Xun and Kwhe’s history and traditional ways of life.

Here, there are more than 400 examples of rock art and engravings spread over a small hill on land owned by the !Xun and Khwe San people. A guide will then take you on an 800m walkway that weaves up and over the hill, giving commentary on the rock art along the route. You’ll learn about the lives, culture and traditions of the San living in Platfontein.

Visit the Big Hole and Kimberley Mine Museum

Kimberley is home to the Big Hole – reputedly 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.

Visitors to the Big Hole and the Kimberley Mine Museum can participate in guided tours that tell them more about the city’s past, 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 miners of the period lived, the transport they used and what they did to relax.

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

Go on a township tour in Galeshewe

Galeshewe is no ordinary township! It was founded as “Number 2” location in 1878, making it Kimberley’s oldest township and one of the oldest in the country. In 1952, Number 2 and its surrounds were officially renamed Galeshewe, after Kgosi Galeshewe, chief of the Batlhaping people, who fought many battles in his lifetime against the British colonial government, including the notable Phokwane Rebellion near Kimberley in the 1870s.

The Galeshewe Centre features colourful wall murals depicting in detail some of the many events that have shaped Galeshewe into what it is today, including a painting showing a mother with her baby on her back, both shot and killed in the Mayibuye Uprising.

Galeshewe is a community with friendly people who can easily switch between Afrikaans, Setswana and English with no problems at all. Its residents embrace visitors and are always ready to draw from their rich history and share it with visitors.

Hop on the Old Tram for a vintage ride

The Old Tram service in Kimberley runs several times a day between the City Hall and the Mine Museum. This vintage tram, introduced in 1887, was recently refurbished to enhance tourists’ experience of diamond rush-era Kimberley.

In 1985, it was decided to reintroduce a tramway between the historic City Hall and the Big Hole for tourists. So Car Number 1 was restored, complete with its original wooden seats, and today visitors can take a trip down memory lane and be transported into a bygone era by the gentle sway and foot-operated warning bell of the tram as it passes Kimberley’s most historic sites.

The tram’s current route passes through the first few buildings of the open-air Mine Museum, where the trip begins, and continues halfway around the Big Hole before returning, rounding up a 15-minute trip.

Walk through history at Duggan-Cronin Gallery 

The Duggan-Cronin Gallery is a photographic museum located in Egerton Road, Kimberley.  Alfred Duggan-Cronin was an Irish miner who moved to Kimberley in 1897 to work on the De Beers compounds. He bought his first camera seven years later and began documenting the lives of the mineworkers, building up a vast photographic record of the era.

Today, the museum is one of many in the Northern Cape to be housed under the McGregor Museum umbrella. Inside is a collection of photographs taken by Duggan-Cronin, Aubrey Elliot, Jean Morris and Alice Mertens.

The images on display at the gallery depict the lives of indigenous people in South Africa in the years between 1919 and 1980. The captured images illustrate, in detail, the traditions, everyday rituals and dress styles predominant at the time, many of which have vanished in the 21st century.

Visitors can also expect to ponder the material culture of the various Southern African peoples documented, including their beadwork, costumes, pottery, woodcarvings and iron tools.

Winter specials

Orange River Winter Wilderness Paddle

Enjoy going on guided Orange River wilderness trails, discovering the remote areas of the Richtersveld while sleeping under starlit skies. This luxury wilderness experience is ideal for schools, families and corporate groups, as you paddle the mighty Orange (Gariep) River and explore.

Cost: R6 500 per person (minimum group of six, maximum group of 20, unless by prior arrangement)
Includes: All meals, qualified and experienced guides, nature park fees, takeout logistics, luxury rafting, tented accommodation
Excludes: Passport, visas, beverages and personal expenses, transport to and from base camp
Validity: Until October 2019

Kalahari Winter Safari

On this luxury guided Kalahari wilderness trail, you can discover the Kalahari on a tagalong basis in your car or join our vehicle. It’s a wilderness experience not to miss as you search for the Kalahari lion, cheetah, oryx and more.

Cost: R9 500 per person (minimum group of four, maximum group of 20, unless by prior arrangement)

Includes: All meals, qualified and experienced guides, nature park fees, tented accommodation (upgrade on availability for own expense)
Excludes: Beverages, personal expenses, transport to and from Upington
Validity: Until October 2019

Gemsbok Rally 2019

Want to go full throttle in your adventures? Then make time to see stunt bikes and fun racing at the Gemsbok Rally, happening in Upington from 26 to 28 July 2018.

The event, which attracts motorcycle and car enthusiasts from around the country, also features a drag-race competition and an antique car show. There’s also good food on offer and the chance to win prizes.

Namaqua Flower and West Coast Safari

This luxury guided flower wilderness trail will enable you to discover the Namaqualand and her beauty in your own car or in the tour operator’s vehicle. View the wild flowers along the West Coast and the Namaqualand, and explore the hidden gems this rugged coastline has to offer.

Cost: R8 500 per person (minimum group of four, maximum group of 10, unless by prior arrangement)

Includes: All meals, qualified and experienced guides, nature park fees, tented accommodation (upgrade on availability for own expense)
Excludes: Beverages, personal expenses
Validity: September to November 2019

Game drives at Dronfield or Benfontein reserves

You’ll be picked up in Kimberley and taken to one of these beautiful nature reserves, where you will be treated to a game drive lasting up to four hours. Transfers to and from the reserve are included in the price.

Cost: R300 per person for game drive (including entry fee and bottled water)
R650 per person for game drive and bush braai (including entry fee, game drive, bottled water and meal)

Validity: Until 31 January 2020

Rafting through the Richtersveld

Join our four-day Orange (Gariep) River rafting trail through the Richtersveld. This is a low-impact river rafting adventure and is suitable for people without any previous rafting experience. The rafting adventure starts at the Growcery Camp, which is 22km from Vioolsdrift, and ends at Aussenkehr Farm.

10% discount on the following dates: 26 to 30 September 2019
Adults: R950
Children (15-17 years): R745
Children (12-14 years): R650
Children (5-11 years): R550