Cape Town – South Africa’s Northern Cape Karoo is unlike anything you’ll ever experience. To the unexperienced eye, this gem might look like a barren wasteland or an eerie CIA testing ground.
This underestimated area, however, is like a mirage that actually turns into the obscure fantasy once you come close enough. It's a place where you can almost literally be among the stars in the sky.
The biggest example of this magical characteristic of the NC is seen in spring, when the dry Karoo becomes a natural flower garden spanning over kilometres of seemingly dry Karoo. The flowers, however, aren’t the only magical thing about this province.
If you’re looking for an amazing breakaway, this is your answer. Take the family and enter the almost alien and vast Northern Cape Karoo of South Africa.
KIMBERLEY DIAMOND DIGGING AT THE BIG HOLE
What: This is a landmark that you and your family simply need to see. The big hole in Kimberley shaped so much of South Africa’s history and the site does well to combine all the history surrounding the area and the hole with fun family activities. One activity even includes searching for diamonds and rare stones yourselves!
How much: Adults – R90; Children – R50
Highlight: Finding a rare stone at then getting to keep it!
KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER NATIONAL PARK
What: This park is not only the largest national conservancy and preserve in the entire southern Africa, it’s also home to one of the most majestic dry-land animals in the world, the Gemsbuck. The reserve spills over into the lower part of Botswana, so have the family passport in order and make the most of this amazing experience.
Where: At the very highest tip of South Africa
How much: Adults – R66 per day; Children – R33 per day
Highlight: Seeing the king of the Kalahari - the black-maned Kalahari lions
What: This area has recently been recognised as a World Heritage site, mostly because of the Nama people who live in the park. The Nama people live a transhumance lifestyle, which means that they migrate seasonally with their livestock from mountains to the river and make sustainable use of the fragile succulent ecosystem in the park in order to live. The park also spills over into Namibia, so you can travel to both countries.
Where: On the border between SA and Namibia
How much: Adults – R64; Children – R32
Highlight: Seeing and meeting the amazing Nama people who live in the park
THE DIAMOND COAST
What: This romantic coastal strip has a very nostalgic and truly unique feel about it. It’s home to an abandoned coastal mining plant in Alexander Bay, shipwrecks and ever-shifting dunes. You can organise to have 4x4 dune rides in the area, which allows you to explore the coast up close and personal.
Where: From Cape Town, drive up the N7, turning off at the R382 for both Port Nolloth and Alexander Bay. Cape Town to Alexander Bay is 790kms.
How much: No cost
Highlight: Seeing the doomed ships on the coast as you go along
REAL KAROO LAMB IN LOXTON, WILLISTON AND CALVINIA
What: If you’re looking for true Karoo lamb, this is about the only place you’ll find the real McCoy. The cold temperatures and distinctive vegetation all add to the unique taste of the sheep that roam here as organically as worldly possible.
Where: Some awesome Bo-Karoo restaurants include Williston Mall, Palhota Taverna (Williston) and Hantam Huis Restaurant (Calvinia)
How much: Various prices depending on what you buy
Highlight: Throwing one of these great Karoo chops on the coals while hanging out with some local sheep farmers.
TOUCH THE STARS IN SUTHERLAND
What: This is a world-renowned site every South African needs to experience. Take the kids to see SALT – the South African Large Telescope, and also do the fun star-gazing experience at Sterland Farm just outside the small Karoo town.
Where: Sterland Farm and stargazing hub, 1km outside of Sutherland, 350km from Cape Town
How much: R80 per person
Highlight: Taking a snapshot of the moon through the powerful telescopes at Sterland.
What: Remember we said the Northern Cape Karoo is like a magical mirage? Well, this transcendent festival is the epitome of what wonders the NC holds. Every year, hipsters and party-hoppers from all over flock to the Tankwa Karoo to light giant wooden sculptures and party like there’s no tomorrow. You have to do it at least once in your life, plus you can take your children to see this spectacular event.
Where: Tankwa Karoo, Northern Cape, South Africa
How much: Adults – R1 059; Children (up to 14) – R183
Highlight: When they set the sculptures alight on the final night
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