The Northern Cape is a place of vast, arid plains, spectacular scenery and big sky. It is mostly desert or semi-desert – but make no mistake, it has plenty to offer. It is home to one of the world’s most spectacular natural floral displays: each year during spring, the area of Namaqualand is transformed into a vibrant carpet of colour by millions of blooming wildflowers.
The Big Hole
The Big Hole in Kimberley is the world’s largest man-made hole. Created by miners during the diamond rush of the 1870s, it has an estimated depth of 214m and a perimeter of 1.6km. Next to the Big Hole is the Kimberley Mine Museum, with a replica of the city from the diamond-rush days. The museum is home to the Eureka Diamond, the first diamond discovered in South Africa, and one of the oldest working trams in the world.
|Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
The |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park spans two countries – South Africa and Namibia. It is a cross-border conservation initiative that is managed locally by the Nama people and South African National Parks. It boasts some of the richest succulent flora in the world, including stem succulents known as the ‘halfmens’. Image © Hein waschefort
Situated in the Kuruman Hills, the Wonderwerk (Miracle) Cave is the site of excavations that provide evidence of earliest humankind. Two-million-year-old stone tools were excavated from the site in 2008. This was the latest in a string of discoveries in this massive grotto that have revealed so much about human evolution.
The Eye of Kuruman
The Eye of Kuruman, in the town of Kuruman, is the biggest natural fountain in the southern hemisphere. It delivers approximately 20-million to 30-million litres of crystal-clear water daily, which supplies the town’s domestic water, and feeds the Kuruman River and two 7km irrigation canals.
Witsand Nature Reserve
The flowing white dunes surrounded by copper-red Kalahari sand make this a spectacular natural wonder. The dunes also emit an eerie rumble as countless millions of grains of sand rub together. Local legend has it that the dunes only roar in months that contain the letter 'R'. The reserve in which the dunes are situated is a scenic park, teeming with wildlife and a spectacular assortment of birds, including Africa's smallest raptor – the pygmy falcon.
The Khoisan people referred to the Augrabies Falls as ‘the place of great noise’. And it’s easy to see why, as the mighty Gariep (Orange) River thunders over the 56m-high falls. The falls form part of the Augrabies Falls National Park, which is rich with endemic plants and animals. One of the unique plants is the quiver tree, or Kokerboom (Aloe dichotoma), from which Khoisan hunters made their quivers.
Southern African Large Telescope
Sutherland – a hamlet in the Northern Cape part of the Karoo – is one of a handful of locations in the world that is ideal for stargazing. It is remote, has high elevation (2 000m), is cold, and the absence of pollution ensures clear, cloudless skies. It is here that the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) focuses its giant eye on the universe. Astrophysicists believe SALT will assist them to look deeper into the universe. This means giant leaps for humankind. Image © Carolina Ödman