Northern Cape, South Africa

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Northern Cape

The Northern Cape is South Africa's largest province and has a land area of some 361 830 square km. The province is home to a population of approximately 850 000. The capital of the province is Kimberley, and other major towns within the province are Calvinia, Colesberg, Kuruman, Springbok, Upington and De Aar.

The Northern Cape is where Diamond was discovered in South Africa. Erasmus Jacobs was out walking in 1866 when he picked up a nice shiny pebble and put it in his pocket - he didn't know that it was diamond but as soon as he did the word spread. From 1869 onwards treasure hunters from all over the world came to the Northern Cape, in search of diamonds.

The Diamond Fields region, the smallest tourist region in the Northern Cape, is tucked into the upper corner of the Northern Cape. The Diamond Fields area borders the Free State and North West provinces.

Apart from the diamond diggings, the Northern Cape is also noted for its San rock art, 4x4 safaris and the Kgalagadi Wildlife Park. It is a vast stretch of semi-desert land. The distance from the capital, Kimberley, on the eastern border to Springbok (in the west) is more than 900km. It is a large, dry region of fluctuating temperatures and varying topographies. As the most arid part of South Africa it offers visitors am experience that is not elsewhere available.

The odd little towns and villages found among these large spaces and awe-inspiring landscapes, are rich in memories of strange character, diamond thieves and personalities as colourful as the sunsets. As Kimberley tells the story of diamonds, Upington will tell about Klaas Lucas, the Khoi Khoi chief who rules this part of the world. Travelling through the Bo Kaap you'll encounter small towns centred around the sheep farming activities and in the Kalahari you'll find a huge landscape of red-coloured sand dunes and waterways covered by bush.

The Kgalagadi comprises an area of over 3,6 million hectares - one of the largest conservation areas in the world. Red sand dunes, sparse vegetation and the dry riverbeds of the Nossob and Auob show antelope and predator species off at a premium. It is a haven for birds, especially birds of prey.

Top destinations include the Kalahari, Upington, Colesberg, Springbok, Kakamas, Calvinia, Kuruman and De Aar.

The Kalahari - the sun-drenched Kalahari is an often forgotten corner of South Africa. Its vast, ancient landscape undulates misty horizons that remember the beginning of time.

Upington - bound by the Orange River and the Kalahari, Upington is the principal city in the Northern Region, an ideal winter holiday resort with all the modern conveniences on the major routes to Namibia and Kalahari, Augrabies, Fish River Canyon and Northern Cape.

Colesberg - this is a traveller's oasis on the main Cape Town-Johannesburg route, the N1, offering many attractive accommodation establishments and entertaining, educational distractions.

Springbok - Springbok lies about 600km north of Cape Town offering many attractions, historical sites, museums and fine restaurants.

Kakamas - originally built by a church and named after the Khoi word for 'poor pasture', the name today reflects poorly on a fertile valley in the lower Orange River, graced with vineyards, cotton and Lucerne fields.

Calvinia - founded in 1851, Calvinia lies at the foot of the Hantam Mountains and is the region's key growth point and one of the country's largest wool-picking areas.

Kuruman - water, mountains and dense vegetation, the 'oasis of the Kalahari'. Set on the Ghaan Plateau, it is blessed with a permanent and abundant source of water in the form of a mineral spring (The Eye), delivering some 20 million litres a day.

De Aar - De Aar is the second most important railway junction in South Africa and at a time home to Olive Schreiner, the famous author and feminist who wrote Women and Labour.

A great tourist attraction in Kimberley is the Big Hole. Mined to a depth of 215 metres, and with a surface area of about 17 hectares and a perimeter of about 1, 6 km, it is the largest hang-dug excavation in the world. The Kimberley Mine Museum is situated next to the Big Hole and houses the first recorded diamond discovery.

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