It’s a quick hop, skip and jump over the Gauteng border to the Bojanala region of the North West province and all its delights, which include the Hartbeespoort Dam water mecca, the “something for everyone” Sun City, the scenic calm of the Magaliesberg and big-five game viewing in the Pilanesberg.
The principal town in Bojanala is Rustenburg, a name that indicates the town’s restful environment at the foot of the Magaliesberg. Nowadays, with two prosperous platinum mines on the Merensky reef in its vicinity, the town is often referred to as “Platinum City”. It is also headquarters to the influential Royal Bafokeng, who live in the area and have extensive interests in the mining.
The Magaliesberg, an ancient range of mountains, is all the more remarkable for rising out of the predominant flatness of the region. This is a location of forests, streams, country-style restaurants and craft shops, excellent hiking, abseiling and rock-climbing. An increasing number of spa resorts have appeared on its landscape, making the most of its scenic tranquillity.
South of this range is the Hartbeespoort Dam, its shores surrounded by recreational and adventure facilities. A cableway offers wonderful views of the surrounds, while at ground level there are elephant and bird sanctuaries to visit, a reptile park, a cheese factory, a cultural village and arts and crafts and curio shopping.
The “oasis” of entertainment that is Sun City, suddenly appearing in the bushveld, constantly features on the itineraries of international visitors to the country. This casino resort has cleverly survived the establishment of gambling properties closer to Gauteng’s big cities by changing its focus to family entertainment.
Features such as the Valley of the Waves, a Superbowl, two 18-hole golf courses, an Adventure Playground, video arcades, shops and eateries provide recreation for every age group. The resort backs onto the Pilanesberg National Park, lodged in the remains of an extinct volcanic crater and restocked with game, including the big five mammals. With a range of accommodation, including some very upmarket lodges, it has become one of the country’s most popular safari experiences.
Other towns in Bojanala include Brits in the heart of a citrus-growing area, Broederstroom, Ga-Rankuwa, Koster with some interesting caves in its environs, Kroondal with a distinctly German feel, and Swartruggens.
Look out for
Lesedi Cultural Village – At this village, the tourist is exposed to traditional homesteads of the Xhosa, Zulu, Pedi, Ndebele and Basotho groups. Local families resident in these homesteads can be seen engaged in traditional activities, such as arts and crafts production. Special features of the attraction include an Ndebele village and craft market, a song-and-dance show called the Giant Ingoma, a feast of African dishes served in the Nyama Choma restaurant, and overnight stays in traditional beehive huts, but with the addition of modern facilities.
The Cradle of Humankind – The Maropeng Visitors Centre in this world heritage site makes use of interactive and hi-tech displays to tell the story of the location where man first walked upright. The highlight of the experience comes right at the beginning, with the boat ride through time. Couple this with a tour of the Sterkfontein Caves, where archaeologists are still engaged in digs for hominid fossils. Underground tours run every half hour and last 45 minutes.
Pilanesberg National Park –Thousands of head of game are to be found in this 55 000-hectare game reserve, including the big five. A 200-kilometre network of well-maintained dirt roads and a group of luxury lodges make the park a comfortable self-guided safari experience. Guided tours are on offer too, and more novel means of game-viewing are on elephant back, by hot-air balloon or quad bike. The creation of Pilanesberg involved an ambitious game relocation programme called Operation Genesis.
Sun City – A spectacular setting, four luxury hotels, including the legendary Palace of the Lost City, a vast convention centre, golf, water sports, gambling and entertainment all day long have kept Sun City on the list of most desirable tourism spots in the country. New attractions keep appearing, such as zip-sliding, quad-biking and wakeboarding, while the line-up of big names in stage entertainment continues to grow.
Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre – Here you can witness the fastest animal on land at top speed. Three times a week the centre exercises its cheetahs by having them chase a high-speed lure. This breeding programme, established by Ann Van Dyk, has succeeded in breeding 800 cheetah cubs since 1971, including the king cheetah. This is despite the mammal being notoriously difficult to raise in captivity.
Kgaswane Mountain Reserve – This 5 300-hectare reserve above the town of Rustenburg has a population of more than 800 antelope and small predators. It is particularly known for its breeding herd of sable antelope and breeding colony of Cape vultures. A series of hiking trails, some overnight, are open to the public.
Van Gaalen se Kaasmakerij – Food-lovers definitely need to stop over at the Van Gaalen cheese factory for an arresting array of local cheeses. Regular tours of the cheese factory are scheduled for day visitors.
Hot-Air Ballooning is a popular activity in Broederstroom. If you’re up bright and early, a balloon safari is a wonderful way to view the Magaliesberg mountains and the scenic beauty of Bojanala.
Margaret Roberts Herb Farm close to Hartbeespoort Dam is an attraction for those who enjoy nature. Here, you can learn all about the healing powers of South Africa’s indigenous plants and buy organic products formulated by the legendary Margaret Roberts.
Historic attractions in the area include Paul Kruger Country House Museum, Saulspoort Mission Station, Hervormde Church Square, the SS Mendi Memorial and many others.