A Dozen Northern Cape Escapes

augrabies road

Road trips through the Northern Cape – SA magic at its best.

KIMBERLEY- DIAMOND CITY

kimberley

Kimberley is the kind of city you acquire a taste for, once you delve deep into its history as a rough ‘n tumble diamond mine. When you hear the legends of Barney Barnato, the ‘kopje wallopers’, Cecil John Rhodes and the Big Hole, and you visit the Kimberley Mine Museum, you’ll feel the historic afterglow of the Diamond City. Ride the old tram, let your guide tell you about the Kimberley Siege during the South African (Anglo-Boer) War and visit the site of the Battle of Magersfontein outside the city. Now that the mines are closed, Kimberley is concentrating on its tourism assets – including a very popular Ghost Trail – and has become a wonderful destination for family trips.

Contacts:

Kimberley Tourism

Tel: +27 (0) 53 832 7298

KGALAKGADI TRANSFRONTIER NATIONAL PARK

kgalagadiTry an off-the-cuff booking at this park, and you’ll see how difficult it is to find a chalet at short notice. That’s because the Kgalakgadi Transfrontier National Park, north of Upington, has a large and faithful following of visitors who book years ahead for their time in the red sand dunes.

Whether it’s majestic gemsbok standing proud on the hillsides, large sweeps of springbok crossing the plains, squadrons of pygmy falcons chasing down sociable weavers or those marvellous black-maned Kalahari lions walking into the wind, this is one of the most special national parks in South Africa.

Contacts:

South African National Parks Reservations

Tel: +27 (0) 12 428 9111

UPINGTON & THE RIVER VILLAGES

kakamasWhat other town in South Africa pays homage to the humble donkey, or the hardy camel that carried policemen hundreds of kilometres deep into the Kalahari in search of robbers and vagabonds like the infamous Scotty Smith?

Upington and the villages to the west (Keimoes, Kakamas and Kanon Eiland – all part of the Quiver Tree Route) owe their existence to the mighty Orange (Gariep), South Africa’s Mother River. And the table grape, soetwyn and specialist cognac industries that have flourished in this region open its doors to visitors most days of the week.

Upington is also Adventure Central for overlanders, where you change tyres, fuel up and buy last provisions before heading into the Green Kalahari area.

Contacts:

Green Kalahari Tourism

Tel: +27 (0) 54 337 2800

PELLA, POFADDER & AUGRABIES FALLS

pellaWhen the floods hit this part of the Northern Cape every few years, the Augrabies Falls National Park is full of visitors wanting to see the huge sprays of water. But the best time to visit Augrabies is when the raging waters have subsided and you can view the falls at their most majestic.

Down the N14, heading west, stop off at the Pofadder Hotel and visit the nearby Pella Mission, a desert oasis with a vibrant community and a very interesting cathedral that looks like the set of an old Mexican cowboy movie.

Contacts:

Pella

Culture Overnight Rooms

Tel: +27 (0) 54 971 0040

Oase in die Wildernis Holiday Resort    

Tel: +27 (0) 54 971 0193

Pofadder Hotel

Tel: +27 (0) 54 933 0063

Augrabies Falls

South African National Parks Reservations

Tel: +27 (0) 12 428 9111

SPRINGBOK & GOEGAP NATURE RESERVE

springbokSpringbok is the info centre for daisy tourism in spring, but it’s also a year-round base for travellers wanting to visit the succulent fields and quiver tree forests of places like the Goegap Nature Reserve, on the outskirts of this Namaqualand town.

The Springbok Lodge & Restaurant will provide you with good food, decent accommodation and invaluable information on the area. Browse through their excellent book section. Remember to pop in to the old copper village of Okiep and learn about the time General Jannie Smuts laid siege to the British garrison stationed there.

Contacts:

Goegap Natural Reserve:

Tel: +27 (0) 27 718 9906

Springbok Lodge & Restaurant:

Tel: +27 (0) 27 712 1321

RICHTERSVELD: THE PARK & THE PEOPLE

richtersveldWelcome to one of the best-kept secrets of South Africa: the Richtersveld. Here it’s advisable to drive something reasonably hardy, pack lots of camera batteries and memory cards, preferably one of the excellent information books on the area and prepare to be amazed.

The otherworldly atmosphere of the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and the villages of Khuboes, Lekkersing and Eksteenfontein will charm you. Budget at least a week (with an option to extend for another week) for your visit to this area, part of which has now been declared a World Heritage Site.

Contacts:

World Heritage Site:

Contact person: Gert Links

Tel: +27 (0) 72 186 8938

DIAMOND COAST

diamond coastThis is the coast of mists and mystic adventures, the land of diamond divers, copper transporters, crayfishers and tales of secret German U-Boat landings during WWII.

Begin at Port Nolloth and the nearby McDougall Bay, book a tour of the Kleinzee coastline with its old wrecks on the beach, its stretches of white dunes and succulents growing in strange places and visit the tiny seaport of Hondeklip Bay to the south.

South Africa’s Diamond Coast, where fortunes are still being made and legends are still being forged, has become a great destination for travellers on the hunt for unusual experiences.

Contacts:

Port Nolloth

Bedrock Lodge

Tel : +27 (0) 27 851-8865

Kleinzee Tours:

Tel: +27 (0) 27 807 2999

Hondeklip Bay

Die Honnehok Self Catering Chalets

Tel: +27 (0) 27 692 3041

NIEUWOUDTVILLE & LOERIESFONTEIN

nieuwoudtvilleOut of daisy season, Nieuwoudtville is a succulent centre and a wonderful village to spend your weekend in. While you’re in the area, either staying at a local b&b or on a farm, go north and visit Loeriesfontein, where more than 25 massed windpumps stand together at the Fred Turner Museum. En route you will pass a quiver tree forest where, at the bookends of the day, the soft sunlight turns the tree bark into pure golden tones.

Contacts:

Nieuwoudtville

Tel: +27 (0) 27 218 1336

Loeriesfontein

Tel: +27 (0) 27 662 1001

CALVINIA, WILLISTON & LOXTON

calviniaCome to Calvinia and play a round of desert golf in the dust, visit the world’s woolliest sheep at the local museum, find the baker who collects antique junk and don’t be surprised if you see the local doctor tooling about in a golden Rolls Royce. This is a town that also sports the world’s tallest postbox and is known for its eccentric residents.

And just when you thought you’d seen it all, try the Williston Mall down the road. It seems this part of the world is where creative people fly their flags – must be something in the water.

Loxton is a little saner, and the evenings are probably the most peaceful you’ll find anywhere in the Republic of South Africa. The three Karoo towns, moving from the Hantam to the Highlands, are very popular with urban refugees.

Contacts:

Calvinia: Hantamhuis

Tel: +27 (0) 27 341 1606

Karoo Hoogland Tourism Office:

Tel: +27 (0) 23 5711265

Die Ark b&b, Williston

Tel: +27 (0) 53 391 3659

Loxton Info

Tel:  +27 (0) 53 381 3102

TANKWA KAROO: THE PARTY & THE PARK

afrikaburnIf you want to see creative (most young) South Africans in a peaceful space, more importantly if you want to be part of the best of SA right now, then come on down to the Afrika Burn festival in April.

There’s nothing for sale here, you bring all you need to consume, and prepare yourself for some of the most amazing floats you’ll ever see outside of the Rio Carnival or the New Orleans Mardi Gras. And come ready to party – all night long.

Not far from this spot is the Tankwa Karoo National Park, where the drawcard is utter quiet and open landscapes and very comfortable chalets. Try combining the two experiences if you can.

Contacts:

Tankwa Karoo National Park

Park Management:

Tel: +27 (0) 27 341-2389

SUTHERLAND STARS & FRASERBURG FOOTPRINTS

sutherlandIf you can manage to get up to the Observatory hill where they keep the giant star-watchers outside of Sutherland village, you will feel an atmosphere that exists nowhere else in this country. Somehow, it doesn’t take much imagination up here to feel you can reach out and touch the heavens.

And when you come across the giant Bradysaurus footprint made more than 251 million years ago on a farm riverbed outside the nearby town of Fraserburg, you’ll be equally amazed.

Both towns have good accommodation options and the locals welcome visitors in their midst.

Contacts:

Karoo Hoogland Tourism Office:

Tel: +27 (0) 23 5711265

CARNARVON, VANWYK’S VLEI & KAROO ARRAY

SKACarnarvon is known for its corbelled houses, its annual fly-in, its unusual amount of in-town windpumps still whirring away and the old British blockhouse looming down from a nearby hill.

Nearby, less than 90km south, are the first seven constructed dishes belonging to the Karoo Array Telescope complex. Also simply called ‘Meerkat’, there might one day be thousands of these radio dishes all across this valley, keeping tabs on time and outer space.

To the north of Carnarvon lies Van Wyk’s Vlei, which is simply great to drive to and back. You’ll pass typical Karoo landscapes along the way and, at the end of the day, be able to say you visited one of the most far-flung little outposts in the Karoo.

Contacts:

Carnarvon Info

Tel:   +27 (0) 74-683-8510

carnarvon

 

 

 

 

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