Open Africa

14 fascinating Northern Cape facts

19 Mar 2017

Remember how in the last post we told you how the Northern Cape is just the perfect province for adventures? Well, the good news is we have plenty of routes to explore in this vast and diverse region.

However, before you go, brush up on your local knowledge with these 14 fascinating facts.

1.       At 372 889km², the Northern Cape is South Africa’s largest province and covers about 30.5% of the country’s surface area. Interestingly, it is also the most sparsely populated with only 1.1million people (2.3% of the national population) calling it home.


2.       It borders two of our SADC neighbours – Namibia in two regions (Karas and Hardap) and Botswana in one (Kgalagadi).


3.       Apart from that, it also shares borders with 4 South African provinces – the North West, Free State, Eastern Cape and Western Cape.


4.       It is home to no less than SIX national parks – each unique in their conservation focus and highlights. They are: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (desert beauty and gorgeous dark-maned lions), Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park (breathtaking scenery and endemic vegetation), Mokala (antelope a-plenty and meerkats), Augrabies (a thundering waterfall), Namaqua (flower season) and Tankwa Karoo (peace, quiet and digital detox).


5.       With more than half the population being fluent in Afrikaans, it’s no surprise that this is the language you will hear spoken most often, followed by Tswana, Xhosa, English and Sotho.


6.       Kimberley, which is now the capital, was once a sought-after destination for treasure seekers from all over the world. During the 1870s it was the centre of South Africa’s fevered diamond rush, with the famous Big Hole being the most impressive legacy left by these expeditions. It is said that between 1871 and 1914, up to 50 000 miners dug into the glittering earth with picks and shovels, leaving a hole with a surface area of 17ha and a width of 463m. An estimated 2 720kg of diamonds were removed during this time.


7.       The Northern Cape is home to two minority population groups and first peoples of Southern Africa – the Namas in the Richtersveld region and the Khomani San in the Kgalagadi region. Both their cultures are being fiercely protected in this area and visitors are welcome to learn more when visiting Kuboes Village in the Richtersveld and the Bushmen Living Museum.


8.       The province has some of the most extreme weather conditions in the country – it gets blisteringly hot in summer with temperatures ranging between 34°C and 40°C on a January afternoon, and bitterly cold in winter with an average minimum of -6°C.


9.       Spring time (August – October) is arguably the best time of year to visit as the whole world is blanketed in wild flowers, giving a surprising softness to the otherwise arid earth.


10.   The Augrabies Falls are one of the Northern Cape’s best-known natural features. Dropping 56km, this waterfall is especially spectacular when the Orange River is in full flood during the rainy season.


11.   Mining and agriculture are the province’s main industries.


12.   “We got to a better life” is the Northern Cape’s motto, translated from the Nlu language (Sa ǁa ǃaĩsi 'uĩsi) of the Khomani people. It was given by Elsie Vaalbooi of Rietfontein, one of the language’s last speakers.


13.   In fact, South Africa’s national motto "diverse people unite" (ǃKe e ǀxarra ǁke) also originates from the Northern Cape, derived from the extinct /Xam language.


14.   If you think the Cango Caves outside Oudtshoorn are impressive, perhaps it’s time you visited the Wonderwerk (Miracle in Afrikaans) Caves in the Kuruman Hills. A World Heritage Site, this impressive cave system extends about 140m into the base of the hill and contains up to 6m of archaeological deposits reflecting human and environmental history throughout the earlier, middle and late stone ages.

What part of the Northern Cape will you be discovering first?


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