Northern Cape: Choose Your Own Adventure

South Africa’s Northern Cape is lled to the brim with exciting options for the intrepid explorer

 

written by Marbee Shing-Go

 

Exploring the territories of the Northern Cape, South Africa’s largest province, can be a daunting prospect. e land is impressively vast and open, totaling 372,889 square kilometers in land area with a population of just over a million. Yet for all that, it’s not hard to stumble headlong into an adventure at the Northern Cape, which provides a variety of exciting options for anyone willing to take their pick. Here we list some of the activities you can take up when traveling to this beautiful province:

 

A clan of meerkats at dusk. Popularized by Timon in the Disney movie The Lion King, meerkats live in an underground network of burrows. Anticipating meerkats as soon as the sun is up is regular activity at Tswalu Kalahari during winter mornings / photo by Aristotle Go

 

Go on a game drive

 

Game drives are a quintessential part of a South African adventure. Visitors get on an open game-viewing 4×4 vehicle and drive across a game reserve like the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park or Tswalu Kalahari, in the hopes of spotting animals in the wild. Passengers are accompanied by a guide or game ranger (who’s responsible for driving the vehicle) and a trained spotter (who’ll be on the lookout for animals and track them when needed).

 

It takes skill, guts and science to track a black rhino. Our trackers’ (David and Zulu) expertise and persistence led us to spot this black rhino, an endangered species, but protected in Tswalu Kalahari. A subspecies of the black rhino, the Western black rhino was declared extinct in 2011 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Poached to the brink of extinction, the black rhino is one of the most dangerous, and most difficult animals to track. / photo by Erron Ocampo

 

 

Often, game drives can be tailored to a particular interest. For example, if you’d like to see some meerkats or seek out a pride of lions, all you need to do is tell your guide and he or she will try to accommodate you. Game drives usually last for three to four hours and take place early morning before sunrise or just before sunset when the heat isn’t stifling. Night drives are also popular and are great for spotting some nocturnal creatures.

 

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Springbok / photo by Erron Ocampo
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Oryx / photo by Aristotle Go
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Cheetah / photo by Erron Ocampo
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Lioness / photo by Aristotle Go
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The kori bustard is Africa's heaviest flying bird and males can weigh up to 18 kilograms. Females are half the size of males / photo by Erron Ocampo
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Wildebeast / photo by Aristotle Go
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Wild Dogs / photo by Erron Ocampo
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Warthogs / photo by Erron Ocampo
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Jackal / photo by Aristotle Go
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Bat-Eared Fox / photo by Erron Ocampo
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Ostrich / photo by Aristotle Go
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Mountain Zebras / photo by Erron Ocampo
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Roan Antelope / photo by Aristotle Go
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Kudu / photo by Aristotle Go
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Female Kudu / photo by Erron Ocampo
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Giraffe / photo by Aristotle Go
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Guinea Fowl / photo by Erron Ocampo

 

Sample some wine

South Africa is one of the top ten producers of wine in the world and a visit to the Northern Cape begs for some wine tasting at the Orange River Cellars. Established in 1965, the Orange River Cellars comprises five wineries situated in the northern parts of the Northern Cape. With over 700 producers situated along the Orange River across a distance of more than 350 kilometers, it is the largest wine cooperative in South Africa and the second largest in the world based on the amount of tons harvested.

 

 

At Orange River Cellars’ head office at Upington Winery, you can sample wines to your heart’s content and purchase bo les at incredibly reasonable prices. The winery offers a wide range: from dry reds and whites to naturally sweet wines, bubblies, and even sparkling grape juices. Don’t miss out on trying their dessert wines though, particularly the Red and White Muscadels, which have already garnered awards in numerous competitions.

 

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photo by Erron Ocampo
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Visit Augrabies Falls

To fully appreciate Augrabies Falls’ title as the “Place of Great Noise,” you need to imagine the Orange River in full flood and the deafening roar of water as it thunders down a 56-meter high waterfall. Situated in Augrabies Falls National Park, the Falls are just one of many a ractions at the park where visitors trek to enjoy the magnificent view and catch a glimpse of the park’s endemic and indigenous plant and animal species. Explore for a while and you might stumble across some klipspringers or springboks grazing or find a quiver tree (Aloe dichotoma) in bloom.

Other popular activities offered at the park include going on game drives, hiking trails, and river rafting on Grade 2 and 3 rapids along the Orange River.

 

Augrabies Falls / photo by Artistotle Go

 

Fly up high on a hot air balloon

Viewpoint is everything when you’re in a se ing as breathtaking as the Northern Cape and what better place to catch the best views than from 1500 feet above ground level, while cruising along in a hot air balloon? Though balloon trips for large groups can be arranged from the bigger cities like Johannesburg, small groups of two or three can look for Andrew Hockly who’s based in the Northern Cape and has been doing trips since 2007. Says Andrew, “It’s definitely fantastic to do and anybody who’s been in a balloon will tell you of its value.”

Inflating a hot air balloon / photo by Aristotle Go

 

Launches usually take place at sunrise and last for approximately an hour. All trips start off with a safety check to determine the strength and direction of the wind, while passengers warm up with a hot beverage and go through a preflight briefing. Champagne is served inflight or upon landing, and passengers receive a certificate of accomplishment at the end of every ride / photo by Erron Ocampo

 

 

 

Stop by the Big Hole

At Kimberley, Northern Cape’s capital, the Big Hole is the undisputed attraction. This gaping pit, hand dug during the 1870s by miners looking to capitalize on the diamond rush, is 215 meters deep with a surface area of 17 hectares and a perimeter of 1.6 kilometers. From 1871 up until the cessation of mining operations in 1914, the site yielded 2722 kilograms of diamonds, giving Kimberley its stature as the Diamond City. Visitors to the Big Hole can go on an underground tour through a once-operational mine shaft or take in a display of glittering diamonds at the Kimberley Mine Museum. For those who prefer their adventures above ground, a viewing platform allows you to see the Big Hole from above while the Old Town gives a glimpse of life in Kimberley’s past. Those looking for gifts and souvenirs can also go shopping at any of the city’s numerous jewelry and craft stores.

 

The Big Hole / photo by Erron Ocampo

 

Why Northern Cape should be on your bucket list

 

Enjoying the sunset / photo by Artistotle Go

 

If you’re longing for an authentic South African experience, look no further than the Northern Cape, where game reserves are aplenty and Bushmen welcome a visit if you stop and check out their crafts. It’s a place like no other—where sightings of wildlife can happen at any moment, and even a sunset’s beauty can take you by surprise. With a landscape so breathtaking you’ll feel like you just stepped into a postcard, and quite possibly the nicest people you will ever come across, this South African province easily makes our bucket list of places you’ll want to go to—over and over again.

 

For arrangements and bookings on activities in the Northern Cape, contact Ed Smith of Tata Ma Tata Tours at (+27 82) 535 8830, email <[email protected]> or visit <tatamatata.co.za>

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