South Africa’s Northern Cape is filled to the brim with exciting options for the intrepid explorer
written by Vida Gabe
Exploring the territories of the Northern Cape, South Africa’s largest province, can be a daunting prospect. The 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:
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).
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.
EO1_8533Springbok / photo by Erron Ocampo
ArisGo-8104Oryx / photo by Aristotle Go
EO1_9348Cheetah / photo by Erron Ocampo
IMG_8230_2Lioness / photo by Aristotle Go
EO1_8833The 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
ArisGo-8234Wildebeast / photo by Aristotle Go
EO1_1470Wild Dogs / photo by Erron Ocampo
EO1_0897Warthogs / photo by Erron Ocampo
ArisGo-9017Jackal / photo by Aristotle Go
EO1_1009Bat-Eared Fox / photo by Erron Ocampo
ArisGo-9079Ostrich / photo by Aristotle Go
EO1_1390Mountain Zebras / photo by Erron Ocampo
ArisGo-9232Roan Antelope / photo by Aristotle Go
ArisGo-9256Kudu / photo by Aristotle Go
EO1_2176Female Kudu / photo by Erron Ocampo
ArisGo-9353Giraffe / photo by Aristotle Go
EO1_9072Guinea 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 bottles 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.
EO1_6977photo by Erron Ocampo
EO1_6983photo by Erron Ocampo
EO1_7004photo by Erron Ocampo
EO1_7044photo by Erron Ocampo
EO1_7081photo by Erron Ocampo
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 attractions 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.
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.”
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.
Why Northern Cape should be on your bucket list
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>