The Northern Cape is South Africa’s most western semi desert area bordering Namibia and Botswana. When driving south-west from Johannesburg, the Northern Cape starts once you reach Kuruman. This is home of the The Eye – the biggest natural fountain in the southern hemisphere. This area is a vast semi desert area with extreme temperatures, punctuated with the simple stone buildings with large verandahs and wind pumps.
There are three national parks of note in the Northern Cape. The Richtersveld Transfrontier Park is the driest area in South Africa and was formed in 2003 by the Namibia and South Africa governments. It contains 30% of South Africa’s succulent plants. Lizards are easily found baking in the sun, and leopards are said to roam the rocky outcrops.
Augrabies, in Khoi means ‘place of great noise’ and the world’s sixth largest waterfall this given the Augrabies Falls National Park its name. Visitors can explore the park on foot, following one of the hiking trails, or by canoeing in the Orange River area.
The third park, Kgaladi Transfrontier Park was formed by uniting South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok Park and Botswana’s Gemsbok National Park. Its 3.7 million hectares are home to gemsbok (oryx), springbok, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest and eland. It is also famous for the black-maned Kalahari lion, cheetah leopard, porcupine honey badger and 55 reptile species.
Kimberley is famous for diamonds. Once a hill, the Big Hole became the largest hand-dug excavation in the world after diamonds were discovered in 1871. Visitors can have an underground mine experience and step back in time in Old Town. Kimberley is also where Cecil John Rhodes started mining as a teenager. He eventually became the Prime Minister of the Cape Colony and Chairperson of De Beers.
Another interesting character of the area is Sol Plaatje, who translated the works of Shakespeare into Setswana and was one of the founding members of the ANC.
There were also many Anglo Boer War battles fought around Kimberley between 1899 and 1902. The Magersfontein and McGregor Museums are dedicated to the battles and the hardships of this war, fought over possession of land and the natural resources.
The area is dotted with Khoisan Rock art and rock gongs in the low rock ridges that dominate the area.
The Namaqwa borders the South Atlantic Ocean and the Western Province. The 103 000 ha Namaqua National Park has some of the most diverse fauna in the world, with 40% found nowhere else. After the first good rains in July, the desert awakens with a burst of flowers and usually lasts until September. Some of the most noticeable trees are the huge quiver trees, named after the San use of the tree to make arrows and quivers.