Five fun adventures in the Northern Cape
Words Fiona McIntosh, pics Shaen Adey
When I think of the Northern Cape, it’s the classic images of colourful daisies that immediately come to mind. But there’s much more to this vast province than spring flowers. Here are five other fun things to do there.
Check out South Africa’s youngest UNESCO World Heritage Site
It’s not the Richtersveld National Park, although this magnificent rocky desert wilderness should also be on your ‘must do’ list. It’s the equally massive Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape. Lying to the south of the park, it is owned and managed by the Nama people, descendants of the Khoikhoi. It was declared a World Heritage Site in 2007 to protect the transhumance lifestyle of the Nama people and the rare botanical diversity of the succulent ecosystem. This is a fascinating place to experience the rich Nama and Baster culture that has developed over nearly 3 000 years in this beautiful, rugged environment.
Take a hike
Of course we can’t ignore the annual floral extravaganza. If you’ve never been to the Skilpad Wildflower Reserve (part of the Namaqualand National Park) in August/September then you really have missed out. All the superlatives in the world don’t do justice to the spectacle. There is great hiking in the coastal section of the park year-round, including the fully supported Silver Sands trail. In Goegap, Springbok’s famous floral wonderland, you drive in past majestic gemsbok and other antelope on the plains. Then you get to wander around spectacular granite ‘koppies’ (hillocks) and quiver trees.
Paddle the Orange River
Rafting down the Orange River is an old favourite - but that doesn’t detract from its charms. There are few better ways to de-stress than relaxing in the tranquil wilderness, camping out on the riverbanks and enjoying the magnificent scenery.
There are few places to beat this sparsely populated province for a sense of space and star-studded skies. The endless vistas make for awesome game viewing. You can to explore the Kalahari or check in at the luxury check Tswalu Kalahari Reserve. This 100 000ha reserve on the edge of the Kalahari Desert boasts a top-notch Relais & Chateaux lodge and fantastic game sightings. Black rhino and African wild dogs are particular features. It is a showcase in conservation and an anchor for local economic development in this remote area of the Northern Cape.
Get some big air
De Aar is world renowned as a top paragliding destination, particularly for cross-country flying. Kimberley, has become something of a skateboarding Mecca since hosting the hugely successful Maloof Money Cup (the extreme pro skateboarding world championships) in October. The event’s creator, Joe Maloof, owner of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings and the famous Palms Hotel and Casino Resort in Las Vegas, rated the competition venue as the ‘best skate park in the world’.