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Tourist Attractions of the Northern Cape

Highlights

Tourist Attractions of South Africa

South Africa is a vast and extremely fascinating country that packs a powerful tourist punch. Few countries can match it for variety and diversity in attractions, activities and cultural groups. From art and history to food and wine, wildlife and nature, nightlife, shopping and even places of worship – there is so much on offer to attract, entice and entertain.

The Western Cape with its mountains and oceans offers scenery that has inspired thousands of descriptions. It has great beaches, World Heritage sites, romantic winelands and museums that celebrate a rich cultural heritage. You can’t talk about a trip to Cape Town without discussing the fabulous cuisine and shopping options that draw tourists time and time again.

Gauteng’s brash exterior belies its depth, uncovered at numerous cultural and historical attractions. Places like Constitution Hill, the Apartheid Museum and Soweto feature alongside chi-chi restaurants, funky galleries, shopping malls and fascinating visits to the Cradle of Humankind, where all our stories began.

In Mpumalanga you’ll find a host of nature-related attractions, arts and crafts outlets, country towns, cultural villages and stupendous scenery along the well-known Panorama route. Of course one of the major attractions is the world-famous Kruger National Park.

Limpopo shares this wildlife sanctuary - the size of a small country - and has many of its own nature reserves. It also boasts the fascinating Mapungubwe, where once an ancient kingdom developed a field of influence that spread beyond the continent. Intriguing groups such as the Venda and the Balobedu still practise culturally-rich traditions in the far north of this region.

The North West is all about Sun City, and the Pilanesberg and Madikwe Game Reserves, but don’t forget the mampoer farms and the idiosyncrasies of the Marico, the cultural mélange at Lesedi on the shores of the Hartebeespoort Dam or the little town of Taung where the famous skull of the same name was discovered. From the Margaret Roberts Herbal Farm (De Wildt) to Sol Plaaitje’s house in Mafikeng, there’s much to explore.

Immense skies and enormous spaces characterise the Northern Cape, along with attractions such as the Big Hole in Kimberley, the Loeriesfontein Windmill Museum and the myths and legends as taught by the ancient San. The Augrabies Falls National Park, the Ais/Ais Richtersveld National Park and the Riemvasmaak community all offer interesting experiences and insights.

KwaZulu-Natal has its own brand of uniqueness when it comes to tourist attractions. Here you can visit a Hare Krishna temple in Durban, pay your respects at the Battlefields in the Midlands, come face to face with Zulu culture and celebrate some of the finest beaches along the Indian Ocean coastline. Sunny year-round, the province has great places to shop, eat, and discover.

The Eastern Cape is a place of rich heritage and struggle sites. Here historic monuments find their place alongside fun aquariums and beachside establishments. Malaria-free game sanctuaries and numerous nature reserves thrill adventure-seekers and nature-lovers.

Small towns and homegrown hospitality are the distinctive attributes of the Free State. Visit the Basotho Cultural Village on the way to the spectacular Golden Gate National Park, visit the Choet Visser Rugby Museum in Bloemfontein or the Fertility Caves (outside Clarens). Make your way to the fun galleries of Clarens, feast visually on the sandstone sights of Ficksburg and drink in the fascinating history of the provincial capital, Bloemfontein.

Wherever you go around the country, you’re bound to find a fun attraction, a moving museum, a great place to enjoy the local vibes. Enjoy surfing the Nightjar site for the best attractions on offer in each of the provinces.

Articles & Blogs

Richtersveld Impressions

Valda 9:17pm 16 Sep

By George Brits

We’d been to the Richtersveld before, but in pursuit of yellowfish. It was always a mad dash to get to the at De Hoop, get the fly rods out and start harassing the local fish population. Of course, we’d noticed the landscape, but if your mind is elsewhere you don’t really take it in. Our recollection was vague at best, but we did not really remember anything particularly magical about the place. Nice enough, but not memorable, apart from the fishing that is.

...

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Namaqua National Park – What a Revelation!

Valda 6:22pm 31 Jul

By George Brits 

My wife grew up in the lush sub-tropics of northern KZN, and I spent most of my youthful days traversing the escarpment of the Drakensberg. That’s where our soft spots still lie. In the perpetual tussle between mountains and oceans, the arid west coast has never held much appeal. 

The countryside is just too harsh, its many scars too much of a blight on the landscape. And then there is the coastal pollution. In a landscape that is this marginal, even...

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The Scatterlings of Africa

Valda 3:20pm 18 Apr

Pics Mark Dumbleton, Scott Ramsay, africa media online, istockphoto, courtesy images

We didn’t notice the paw prints circling our tents. 

We were all too busy making out the dusky profile of a brown hyena, loping purposely towards the waterhole for a morning drink, a nightcap after hours of scavenging across the dry plains. 

He flicked his ears. It was just birdsong floating over the dunes, gently probing the silence. Kalahari mornings are quiet, the rising sun sending most animals into the shadows of trees and burrows, where they will spend the day sleeping off...

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Join the Cheetah Watch

Valda 7:08pm 19 Feb

Words and pics Matthew Schurch

Next time you’re in Kgalagadi, use the new #Cheetah Identification Guide for the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park# to identify individuals, then submit your sightings to help the monitoring of the park’s cheetahs.

The Kgalagadi is known as one of the best places in the world to view cheetahs hunting in their natural environment. Over the past eight years, many of the park’s cheetahs have become well known to visitors through the field research of Gus and Margie Mills. Particular favourites have been cheetah sisters Elena and Lisette,...

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Augrabies Falls

Wild Card Magazine 6:30am 7 Apr

Those visiting Augrabies Falls National Park in the Northern Cape were alerted to a "once-in-a-lifetime" experience between 22 and 25 March, as heavy rains bolstered the Orange River's majestic falls. Park manager Frans van Rooyen said the river was currently flowing at about 200 cubic meters per second but would reach a peak of 820 cubic meters. Known as "Aukoerebis" — meaning "the place of great noise" — by local Khoi, Van Rooyen says the sight and sound of the water’s cascading power will not easily be forgotten. The park is located about 120 kilometres west of Upington and hosts a...

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Baby Springbok

Wild Card Magazine 6:30am 31 Mar

Baby Springbok

The months leading up to summer can be a rewarding time to visit the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park — predators frequent the arid region’s waterholes and massive herds of springbok roam the riverbeds. During a November visit to the Kalahari, Katja Soehngen from Germany was fortunate to witness springbok lambing season. As she drove from Dalkeith Waterhole to Mata Mata Rest Camp, Soehngen encountered a newborn springbok struggling to walk with spindly legs. Clumsy and awkward but gaining confidence with every step, the lamb somehow managed the way to his...

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Warona Leopard

Wild Card Magazine 6:30am 24 Feb
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Katstert

Nightjar Travel 2:55pm 17 Oct

Photographed in the town of Nieuwoudtville in a year that was particularly poor for spring flowers, these Katstert bulbs are always there and are still pretty to look at, even if you don’t have the fields of flowers. Dormant in the drier months, the main growth spurt takes place in winter, and flowering in August and September usually depends on whether there has been enough winter rain. 

The genus Bulbinella (family: Asphodelaceae) contains over forty species, each with its own subspecies. The dolorite soil around Nieuwoudtville, internationally recognized as...

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Quiver Tree Forest

Nightjar Travel 2:55pm 10 Oct

This forest of kokerboom trees, or Aloe dichotoma - meaning, regularly forking or dividing in pairs – is on the edge of the Gannabos Protected Area, a wild flower reserve on the road between Nieuwoudtville and Loeriesfontein (-1.230142,19.264042). 

The earliest record of the quiver tree was made by Simon van der Stel on an expedition further north-west in 1685: "The branches of this tree are used by natives as quivers for their arrows. They hollow them out and cover one end with a piece of leather and thus skilfully make from this tree, which they call Choje, a strong...

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Frantic Tortoise Beetle

Nightjar Travel 2:55pm 5 Sep

This Frantic Tortoise Beetle could offer the apocryphal hare some divine retribution. Scurrying around at a frenetic pace on long slender legs, it almost seems to glide across the hot sands of Namaqualand, where this adult was seen in a rare moment of respite. Feeding on plant and animal detritus, it likes to hang out out in coarse gravelly sand, hard silt or at the base of small shrubs.

The waxy bloom that develops under hot, dry conditions apparently assists in retaining water and regulating temperature and may play a part in avoiding predators. Also known as the Koffiepit, it...

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Turner’s Thick-Toed Gecko

Nightjar Travel 5:55am 28 Aug

‘Now, here you see the magnificent, peeling bark of an indigenous Newhouredvilla [Nieuwoudtville ed.] quiver tree and shhh…! If we go a little closer, you may catch a glimpse of the delightful little creature, commonly called Chondrodactylus turneri - of the Gekkonidae family - or gecko, if you prefer. Notice the specialised toe pads: self-cleaning, with extraordinary adhesion, they peel off by lifting upwards from the tips, hah! 

‘We all know geckos lick their eyes instead of blinking, but did you know that their eyes are 350 times more sensitive than ours? Unlike us, they have...

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African Sacred Ibis

Nightjar Travel 2:55pm 1 Aug

Photographed in a field just outside Nieuwoudtville, the African Sacred Ibis used to breed in ancient Egypt during the flood season. Since the 1850s it has not been seen there except in 'ibis' branded merchandise sold by market vendors who believe the bird symbolises good luck. Hieroglyphics show that their ancient ancestors believed that it symbolised Thoth, god of wisdom, who bore the head of an ibis. 

Over the years this bird made pools safe for villagers to bathe in, by feeding on the water snails that carried bilharzia. Because of the ibis’ sacred cultural and historical...

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Anatolian Sheep Dogs

Wild Card Magazine 10:35am 8 Jul

What’s a dog doing among the daisies of Namaqua National Park? It’s the solution to an age-old problem of protecting livestock from wild predators. The park’s Elanza van Lente told us how farmers in the region used to set traps for leopard, caracal and jackal. Unfortunately, the traps were killing other species half the time – animals like porcupine, aardwolf, steenbok, and even tortoises. The solution is the Anatolian shepherd dog. This large mastiff-like breed has a strong protective instinct and has been used in Turkey for centuries. The dogs are raised with the flock and come to view...

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Cheetah kill

Wild Card Magazine 11:55am 3 Jun

Wild Card member Jasper Hulley photographed this cheetah kill and was lucky enough to have the sighting all to himself! If you want to see cheetahs hunting, the Auob riverbed in the Kgalagadi Transfontier Park is the place to go: several times a week a springbok is killed here by a cheetah, usually a female with cubs. Jasper says this springbok stood no chance as it had a broken leg. Interestingly, research shows that the big cats often go hungry. About 75% of hunts are unsuccessful as prime-aged springbok are usually fleet enough to get away. The springbok that cheetah manage...

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Tsamma

Wild Card Magazine 11:55am 29 Apr

Melons in the dry Kalahari desert? It’s not a mirage! The tsamma (Citrullus lanatus) is a round melon that is an ancestor of our watermelon. After the summer rains tsamma vines trail across the dunes and the melons ripen towards midwinter, turning from light green to yellow. The flesh is pale and dense, like the white of a watermelon where it meets the rind. Many animals will feed on these melons, but striped mice especially love the seeds, which are rich in oil and proteins. The tsamma consists of 90–95% moisture and is an important source of water in the arid Kgalagadi. What does a...

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Feeding Hornbill

Wild Card Magazine 10:03am 4 Mar

Gotcha! Karen van Damme snapped this southern yellow-billed hornbill just as it captured its meal. These hornbills are omnivorous and will snack on insects, small rodents, seeds and fruits. Watch one feeding and you’ll notice that this bird has a way of picking up food with the tips of its bill, then tossing it backwards to swallow. A bit like someone trying to swallow a distasteful pill!

These birds abound in northern parks like Kruger, Mapungubwe and Kgalagadi, and are always worth watching. You may notice pairs perched on a clearly visible branch, high up in a tree, as they make...

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Sociable Weavers

Nightjar Travel 11:00am 7 Jan

Mom, I’m hungry! In the Northern Cape, sociable weavers breed at any time of the year, averaging 4 broods a year. This number can be much higher under repeated predation. Their most common enemies are snakes, and in particular the Cape cobra. One of these can wreak havoc if they manage to break into a colony. Sociable weavers help out with the care of younger siblings, and sometimes even unrelated little ones. Colonies are therefore inhabited by extended family trees, stretching over many generations. 

Even if the 'facts' don't interest you, these guys are still highly...

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Nightjar Travelled

Nightjar Travel 7:00am 7 Jan

The Nightjar Team hard at work watching a colony of sociable weavers. Although some birds build bigger nests, nothing matches these little guys for the size of their colonies. Some of these colonies house over 100 pairs. Pygmy Falcons are the most common co-inhabitant, but a range of other birds, including finches, lovebirds, Barbets and Chats, also use these nests - and for good reason. During hot summer’s days, the outside chambers offer cool relief from the scorching sun, while at night the central chambers remain cosy and warm.

Stay tuned for the result of all this 'hard work'!...

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Drive Safely!

Nightjar Travel 10:40am 18 Dec

We picked up a SanParks pamphlet on our recent travels, and simply had to share the message on it... especially after what we found standing in the middle of the road! 

If your travels take you on less travelled roads these holidays, please be on the lookout for smaller road users. Meerkats, in particular, are vulnerable to fast moving vehicles. Instead of running when a car approaches, they sometimes freeze in panic; especially the babies. Adults are reluctant to abandon the young ones, resulting in multiple fatalities. 

So there you have it... travel far and wide,...

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Bat Eared Foxes

Erik Brits 4:40pm 17 Dec

This rather bedraggled cub was part of a family of five that were caught in a downpour on the harsh plains of the Northern Cape. We found them next to the roadside on the road between Pofadder and Kliprand, and suspect that their burrow got flooded out.

Bat-eared foxes are predominantly monogamous and the male carries most of the parenting duties after lactation, which lasts 14 to 15 weeks. From then on males groom, defend, huddle, chaperone, and carry the young between den sites.

Bat-eared foxes are insectivores and use their large ears to locate their prey, which consists...

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