Cradle of Humankind: Go back to you roots

2014-10-05 15:00

Our series on SA’s World Heritage Sites continues this week with the Cradle of Humankind in Gauteng. Denise Slabbert offers the lowdown on how to make your stay a memorable one

The excavation sites

North West


How to get there

The best place to start your journey of exploration is at Maropeng, the official centre for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.

The Maropeng Visitor Centre is located on the R400, just off the R563 Hekpoort Road. From Randburg, head along the R512 Malibongwe Drive towards Hartbeespoort. Pass the Lanseria turn-off and turn left on to the Kromdraai Road.

There are a few routes you can take to get there from Johannesburg and Pretoria, and there are detailed maps available on the Maropeng website. For those who have a good relationship with their GPS, try longitude 25.967098 and latitude 27.662507.

The trip should take you about 45 minutes from Johannesburg and, depending on traffic, about an hour from Pretoria.

Opening times and what it will cost

Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves are open from 9am to 5pm every day.

Admission fees for Maropeng: Adults R145; children (ages 4-14) R88, but children under the age of four get in free. Pensioners pay R85 and students R95.

Admission fees for Sterkfontein Caves: Adults R150; children (ages 4-14) R88, but kids under four get in for free. Pensioners pay R85 and students R95.

If you buy a combination ticket, it costs R215 for adults and R155 for children (aged 4-14). There are no special pensioner or student rates for the combination tickets.

Note that if you buy your tickets online, you get 10% off the going rate.

No pets are allowed at Maropeng or Sterkfontein, apart from service dogs.

Please note that only the Sterkfontein Caves are readily accessible to the public. The Swartkrans and Cooper’s Cave are available only for special events (see the Maropeng website for more details).

What is there to do?

You can book yourself or your group on a private tour at a minimum fee. It’s a good idea to book in advance. For those with a keen interest in the history of Maropeng, you can book a tour conducted by a scientist – this is at an additional cost.

There are regular special events, so check the Maropeng website for updated information (and subscribe to their newsletter), from stargazing safaris to walking tours of the Swartkrans, and talks from various experts and scientists, including Brendon Billings, the “Bone Detective”.

Highlights of Maropeng

The Tumulus building: On the path to the Tumulus building, you can visit the site of a real archaeological excavation. You will also find messages carved into rocks that will give you information about our past and the formation of the universe.

The underground boat ride: A fun boat adventure that takes you on a trip back in time through the various stages of our earth’s creation.

Original fossil display: This exhibition changes regularly and includes original fossils and discoveries on loan to Maropeng from various institutions in sub-Saharan Africa.

Highlights of Sterkfontein Caves

Explore the caves: Go on a tour of the Sterkfontein Caves, which date back more than 4?million years. You need to wear comfortable shoes and clothing. Don’t do this tour if you are even slightly claustrophobic or suffer from asthma. There’s lots of walking and climbing of stairs. The tour lasts approximately one hour.

Sterkfontein exhibition: Don’t miss the scientific exhibition centre with information and visual representations of the most important and fascinating finds from Sterkfontein and around Africa.

Where to eat

Choose from three restaurants at Maropeng.

The Tumulus Restaurant is on the first floor of the Maropeng Visitor Centre (said to have the best views of Gauteng). The restaurant offers light meals and drinks, and there is also a famous carvery lunch on Sundays. It’s a good idea to book beforehand on 014?577?9000.

The Market Place restaurant is located in the Market Place (great shopping too) as you approach the Visitor Centre, and offers light meals and coffees.

The Maropeng Boutique Hotel has a light lunch menu prepared by the talented chefs at the hotel.

You can choose to eat at the Sterkfontein restaurant at the Sterkfontein Caves, where you can relax before or after taking a tour of the caves. Basic fare such as toasted sarmies and good coffees are available.

There are a few restaurants worth trying outside the Maropeng complex.

Roots restaurant at the Forum Homini Hotel: This fantastic restaurant is perfect for special occasions and offers fine dining in the heart of the Cradle. The Roots dining concept, put together by executive chef Adriaan Maree, offers contemporary, modern cuisine with a home-grown twist. Saturday brunch is very popular, as are the wine tastings on Friday evenings. Visit: or call 011?668?7000.

Le Sel @ The Cradle is another gorgeous restaurant offering wide views of the bushveld. It’s set in a privately owned game reserve, so you can view the game as you sip on a glass of bubbly.

The restaurant is open on Thursdays (lunch), Fridays (lunch and supper) and Sundays (breakfast and lunch). Visit: for more information, or call 011?701?3801.

Places to stay

If you are looking at luxury accommodation, you can stay over at the four-star Maropeng Boutique Hotel, which is part of the Maropeng complex.

The Forum Homini Hotel is a five-star establishment with “cave-style” accommodation (think a designer Flintstones theme) in lovely grounds.

There are 12 standard luxury suites. The Honeymoon Suite is quite popular. Visit

De Hoek Country House is not too far away and the Valley Lodge in Magaliesburg is known to be good value for money in the area. Visit

There are a number of family-friendly hotels and lodges to choose from in the Muldersdrift area, including Misty Hills Country Hotel (, the cottages at Apricot Hill (, and numerous guest houses and farm stays, including Hollybrooke Farms (

If you’re in the mood for camping, there are self-catering chalets and camping spots at Die Appelboom Farm (, Lovers Rock ( and Stoney Ridge Campsite (

You can also stay over at the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve in a rest camp with equipped chalets.

Need to stock up?

If you need to stock up for your self-catering weekend getaway and forgot to do so before you left home, you can pop into the Cradlestone Mall. It should be your one-stop shop for all groceries and requirements. Visit

Fun attractions (in the region)

.?Visit the Nirox Sculpture Park when it’s open. Check on the website at The next exhibition opens this month.

.?Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve: Great for a family outing. There are a variety of animals to see at this reserve, including an animal crèche. Game drives are on offer and you can also head off to visit the Wonder Cave, which is on the property.

.?There are trail rides on offer at Shepherd’s Fold Stables in the Elandsdrift Valley (bordering the Cradle) for those who want the outback experience.

.?Gilroy Brewery in Muldersdrift is a great place to

taste local beer and browse around the Ngwenya Glass Village.

.?You can also go on all types of adventures with In the Gorge Adventures, including 4x4 trails, archery, clay-pigeon shooting, mountain biking and paintball.

.?Goblin’s Cove Restaurant and shop are worth a visit for some creative inspiration.


For more information on Maropeng and the Cradle of Humankind:

Telephone: 014?577?9000


Hotel: 014?577?9000

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