The Northern Cape is a very large and sparsely populated region in the west of South Africa. It borders Namibia and Botswana in the north and extends east to the boundary with the Free State and North West Province. The province varies geographically from fields of wild spring flowers in the western Namaqualand region to the Kalahari desert in the north and the semi-arid Karoo in the west.
Perhaps the most important event in the history of the Northern Cape, and even South Africa, was the discovery of diamonds in 1866. This led to the establishment of a mining-based economy in South Africa, and also put the country on the map internationally. It is difficult to over-estimate the importance of this discovery. At present, the South African economy is still heavily resources based, and mining remains one of the largest sectors nationally.
The province still bears testimony to its long history of diamond mining. The prime example of this history is the Kimberley Big Hole, which is the largest man-made excavation in the world, and is easily visible to passengers in aeroplanes passing overhead as an immense puncture in the landscape. The De Beers Hall Museum hosts a display of cut and uncut diamonds, including the “616”, which at 616 carats is the largest uncut diamond in the world. You can also take a tour of a working diamond mine in the Bultfontein Mine.
Besides diamonds and mining, there is also the Vaalbos National Park, which is home to the exceptionally rare Black Rhino. To the north-west of Kimberley is the town of Kuruman, which was used as a missionary centre by David Livingstone. Then there is also the Augrabies National Park, which centres on the dramatic Augrabies Falls on the Orange River. The park is home to baboons, antelope, vervet monkeys and rhino.
One of the greatest attractions of the province is the immense floral beauty on display at the beginning of spring. The key towns in this regard are Calvinia and Niewoudtville. It may well be worth the drive to see the carpets of flowers greeting the sun in spring.
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