This sparsely populated province is larger than Germany and borders Namibia and Botswana. The area was originally settled by Europeans due to the discovery of diamonds, and its capital city became the home of South Africa’s first stock exchange in 1881, and was also the first city in the Southern Hemisphere to install electric street lighting.
Most of the area is covered by the semi-desert regions of the Karoo and Namaqualand, with the large Orange and Vaal Rivers flowing through the province, along which many of the towns and diamonds mines were established. Other smaller rivers flow through the area and there are a few mountain ranges within the primarily dry region.
The area also has a rich archaeological heritage with findings dating back to the Stone Age.
Northern Cape Demographics:
Land size: 372,889 square kilometres
Population size: 1,166,700 people
Population race breakdown: 50.4% black African, 40.3% coloured, 7.1% white, 0.7% Indian/Asian
Languages spoken: 53.8% Afrikaans, 33.1% Tswana, 5.3% Xhosa, 3.4% English, 1.3% Sotho
Top 3 Nature Reserves in the Northern Cape
The Karoo Gariep Conservancy
The nine year old conservancy was founded to aid conservation efforts of the local wildlife, particularly the white rhino and Cape buffalo. South Africa’s national bird, the Blue Crane is a popular feature of the area with hundreds of birds flocking to the area between July and August. Bird watching and stargazing are two of the most popular activities in the area.
The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
The Park lies in the Southern Kalahari Desert and is shared by South Africa and Botswana. 9,600 square kilometres of the 38,000 square kilometre park lies within the South Africa border, although no physical borders exist within the park itself. The Kalahari is home to a thriving eco-system free of human interference, a rare phenomenon which has been studied since the discovery of the area. The park has its own accommodation facilities, 4×4 eco-trails as well as other outdoor activities for tourists.
The Augrabies Falls National Park
The park is named after a 60 metre waterfall which forms part of an 18 kilometre abyss within the Orange River. The area is home to a diverse range of species including the endangered black rhinocerous, birds, reptiles, hippopotamus, giraffes, leopards, bat-eared foxes, and African wild cats. The area is also significant to archaeology as being the site of the discovery of hunting tools made by early man during the Stone Age.
Top 3 Places to go to in the Northern Cape
The provincial capital was established as a result of a diamond rush which began in 1866, with the discovery of the first diamonds in the area. The digging of the Kimberly Diamond Mine, now known as the Big Hole, began in 1871. The Big Hole is rumoured to be the biggest man-made hole in the world with a surface area of 17 hectares, a width of 463 metres and an excavated depth of 240 metres. The mine is no longer operational and there are efforts to list the Big Hole as a world heritage site. Tourism in the area is focused around Kimberly’s mining history and there are several museums and galleries in the area.
The Namaqualand region ranges from Namibia into the Northern Cape and is sparsely populated by the Namaqua people, a Khoikhoi tribe which originally inhabited the area. The arid region spans over 440,000 square kilometres and is divided into two parts by the Orange River. The Great Namaqualand is situated to the north of the river whilst Little Namaqualand lies to the south. The area is popular with tourists in early Spring when it becomes temporarily covered with colourful flowers.
The Nooitgedacht Glacial Pavements
The pavements are a geological feature situated between Kimberly and Barkly West. It is estimated that between 290 and 300 million years ago, during what is called the Karoo or Dwyka Ice Age, plate tectonics near the South Pole resulted in glaciers covering high-lying areas including this part of the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, which has been named the Cargonian Highlands by geologists. The glacial pavements are a form of rock art called rock engravings. The painted figures appear as if they have been etched into the rocks and are often visited by tourists.
The dry heartland is the ideal location to experience the history of diamond mining in South Africa as well as the beginnings of the world’s diamond industry. It also has historical significance, with discoveries aiding towards our understanding of prehistoric cultures and societies.