Let’s start by getting this out of the way right off the bat. Yes, the North West province is where Sun City is. Although there is far more to the province, this mega theme resort attracts local visitors and tourists by the thousands every month. It’s certainly worth a visit – so perhaps go there first and then take your time exploring everything else the province has to offer.
This means that the Bojanala region of North West is a good place to start your exploration of the province. Sun City, the game parks of Pilanesberg and Madikwe, and the Hartebeespoort Dam fall within its boundaries. Its proximity to urban Gauteng means day trips can be easily accomplished.
The Pilanesberg National Park and Madikwe Game Reserves are both Big 5 sanctuaries that offer game viewing in a number of ways. You can choose to travel in a vehicle, on foot, on elephant back or even from an air balloon. Both have a wide spread of bush lodge accommodation.
A spot of culture and heritage can be found at the Mphebatho Museum near the Pilanesberg Game Reserve’s Bakgatla gate. The museum showcases the heritage of the Bakgatla-Ba-Kgafela people.
The Hartebeespoort Dam Snake and Animal Park and plenty side-of-the-road shopping attractions complete the itinerary in this area.
More wildlife encounters can be had at the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, situated about 15 minutes from Hartebeespoort Dam. Here you will not only see cheetah, but also caracal, antelope and wild dog. The Elephant Sanctuary in Magaliesberg offers educational encounters with these big beasts. The Barberspan Bird Sanctuary (outside Delareyville) is a great place for lovers of avian species, of which there are over 350.
There’s not a huge amount of tourist activity going on in the small towns, but you will come across a few gems as you drive around the province. The town of Taung (in the Bophirima region) is an important archaeological site. This was where the Taung Skull was discovered in 1924. The Blue Pools and Buxton Quarry are now popular tourist attractions.
If history and heritage is your thing, make your way across to the Central Region of the North West. Here you’ll find the town of Mahikeng (or Mafikeng) with attractions like the Mafikeng Museum and Maratiwa House, a past residence of the historical figure, Sol Plaaitje.
Moving from history to folklore takes you to one of the highlights of a trip to this part of the world - a visit to the town of Groot Marico. The local townsfolk still appear to have stepped straight out of one of the Herman Charles Bosman novels set here. You can’t leave without tasting the traditional – and extremely alcoholic - mampoer (moonshine).
Rustenberg is one of the main towns in the area, boasting the Rustenberg Museum that will provide fascinating insights into this part of the world. You can also visit the Dutch Reformed churches in town and view a statue of Paul Kruger.
For those who enjoy pioneer history, a trip to the Dr Kenneth Kaunda region could be worthwhile. There are also numerous national monuments and museums in Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom that celebrate Voortrekker history.
Turning your attention to adventure activities, you’ll find hiking trails, quad biking and horse trails.
The tourism industry is quite underdeveloped in the lesser-known regions of North West and you have to scratch below the surface to find interesting experiences.
However, the attractions of Sun City, Madikwe, Pilanesberg and Hartebeespoort really do offer fantastic holiday options for the whole family.