Being the largest province, covering one-third of the nation’s landmass, the Northern Cape is not an easy region to travel.
It is dominated by heat, empty spaces, aridity and huge travelling distances. Its main attractions are the desert, its wildlife, diamonds and flowers. The Northern Cape is off the beaten track, but the tourist will be rewarded with stunning panorama’s and complete silence.
It is a land of many diverse cultures, of frontier history and brave missionaries. It also has countless challenges for the adrenaline junkies, hikers, hunters and 4×4 adventurers. It has impressive parks with endless game and one of the most unique flora in the world. And yet many would-be-travelers to this province ask what can we do, what can we see?
The capital and the only city of the province. Kimberley is in the centre of South Africa with two national roads leading to it, the N12 (Cape Town via the N1 to the south and Pretoria/Johannesburg to the north) and the N8 going east to west.
In 1871, diamond deposits found on a hillock dubbed Colesberg Kopje on the farm Vooruitzicht, owned by the De Beers brothers, led to a mad scramble for fame and fortune and the world’s largest, hand-dug excavation, the colossal Kimberley Mine or Big Hole.
Today, it is a prosperous, thriving metropolis with Victorian buildings that complement the more modern buildings of the CBD. Lacking the furious pace of South Africa’s larger urban giants, it is perhaps the country’s most innovative town.
Upington, the pricipal Town of the Green Kalahari, enjoys a summer rainfall and a hot climate. An ideal winter holiday resort, its facilities are excellent and the countryside contrasts semidesert reds with the emerald and olive greens of fertile vineyards. The town is accessible, offers excellent accommodation and has a well-developed commercial infrastructure.
On the Kalahari-Namaqua-Namibia (Nama-kwari) route to and from Johannesburg and Cape Town, it is the gateway to Namibia, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Augrabies Falls NP.
The Augrabies National Park is where the mighty Orange River is at its most impressive as it thunders its way through a ravine and into a pool walled by sheer granite, creating the world’s sixth largest waterfall. The park is essentially a scenic park but various animals and indigenous trees can be seen. Do not plan on just nipping in to see the main falls as there is much more to be seen, experienced and done in the rest of the Park.
Countless game lodges and farms, mostly in the western regions, from the Kalahari to the Karoo, offer accommodation from rudimentary, to opulent, fly-in, superbly appointed and equipped lodges. Most offer guides and trackers, skinning, cutting, cooling and taxidermy services and the cameraderie you need to unwind.
In the west, the brief winter rains in August and September set alive Namaqualand. Between July and September Namakwa sheds its drab facade and showers the world with flowers of every hue. Nature sheds any pretence at barren aridity and runs riot with tones and rainbow hues of rich and splendid brilliance. From a harsh desert the land transforms into a magnificent display of wild flowers.
Further up north you can explore South Africa’s only mountain desert, Richtersveld NP. The incredible Richtersveld mountain desert is a must for anybody who enjoys spectacular scenery mixed with a variety of rare plantlife.
Hauntingly beautiful and seared by a blistering sun, the lava mountains and sandy plains form southern Africa’s largest mountain desert park. It is a stunning, hot, dry and forbidding place, you can explore it from the comfort of your 4×4 or paddle the Orange river, taking in the awe-inspiring, seldom-seen purity of an unspoilt wilderness.