Hotels in and around the Northern Cape province
Quiet expanses of arid beauty define South Africa's most sparsely populated province, the Northern Cape. The Orange River winds its way through this province in a majestic presence all its own, feeding the agricultural abundance around it.
Incidentally, the Northern Cape is also the largest province in the country, and borders both Namibia and Botswana. This prime positioning makes it accessible to travellers, but also to an abundance of wildlife roaming the southern African plains. One of the most exquisite natural jewels of this area is the Namaqualand, which extends along the coastline on the west. This area boasts a breath-taking display of daisies of every colour, shape and size, bursting from the dry ground for only 2 months of the year (around July and September). This spectacle continues to draw people from all over the world just to witness such a natural phenomenon. Kimberley, the capital city of the Northern Cape, is also known for its mineral wealth, and is the home of some of the biggest and most beautiful South African diamonds.
When the Bushmen, or San, migrated from Namibia further south, many of them settled in the dry area of the Northern Cape. Their lives and customs were frozen forever in the form of rock art of the many stone faces of the province; evidence of a well-established society long before the arrival of the Europeans in the 17th and 18th centuries. They left remnants of their stone and iron implements from centuries ago, as well as human remains, attesting to their physical and social stature.
When the Dutch, French and English arrived on the continent, space became a coveted asset, one to fight and even kill for. Eventually, this area became the accepted property of the Afrikaans farmers, called the Boere. Today, it still boasts the highest ratio of Afrikaans speakers in the entire country.
The main Northern Cape airports are situated in Kimberley (the capital) and Upington. Upington is an international airport. The capital city is within fairly close proximity from Johannesburg (470km), Port Elizabeth in Nelson Mandela Bay (750km), Durban (845km) and Cape Town (960km).
The roads in the cities and towns of the Northern Cape are suitable for any vehicle, and are fairly easy to navigate. When travelling in a foreign country, however, a GPS or Satellite Navigation is always advisable. Never pick up hitchhikers or stop in secluded areas to ask for directions.
There are professional taxi services in the Northern Cape and you should contact one of these for transport rather than the minibus taxi service.
The Northern Cape enjoys an exquisitely different appeal. Its vegetation is sparse in some places, but the wildlife is plentiful. As South Africa's largest province, it has much to boast and the diversity is a sight in itself.
If diamonds are a girl's best friend, the Northern Cape is certainly her playground. Kimberley's wealth was discovered in the 1800's as large, top-notch diamonds began to be discovered. The Big Hole in Kimberley is surrounded by an observation deck, from which visitors can peer into its dark depths where over 14 million carats of diamond have been mined.
Part of the Kalahari Desert crosses over the Northern Cape Border. More precisely, this portion is part of the Kalahari Basin. Dark red sand dunes are traversed by a different assortment of animals, best suited to these dry conditions. It is within this desert that many game farms have been established, showcasing some of the country's - and the world' - most impressive animals, birds and plants within their natural environment. These include lions, giraffes, warthogs, meerkatte, and many species of antelope. It may seem surprising that so many types of fauna and flora survive in these conditions, but the Kalahari is unique in that it experiences more than the average rainfall, creating some areas that are, in fact, lush and green. This is truly a splendid sight, and one that has to be experienced by all visitors to this area. Game reserves in the Kalahari include Witsand and Tswalu Kalahari.
Namaqualand is world-acclaimed for the incredible array of daisies that bloom in early spring. These flowers soak the landscape with bright colours, a luminous interruption of the 10 dry months before and after this explosion. Formal tours are conducted through the area during this time. Alternatively, tourists are invited to drive through in a private vehicle at their own pace. This natural marvel has enticed visitors to the area year after year, and is a certain ‘must see'.
The Augrabies Falls National Park is revered for its magnificent waterfall that tumbles 60 metres in a noisy display of natural power. It is in this park that the Orange River Gorge stretches for 18 kilometres, boasting incredible vistas, animal- and plant life, including a fascinating array of succulents and the Black Rhino, which is on the endangered species list. This area is also historically rich, home to ancient fossils and rock paintings, which prove fascinating for visitors and locals alike.
In South Africa, summer is officially between December and March, and winter from June to August. The Northern Cape experiences arid to semi-arid conditions with very high summer temperatures, usually at least 30 degrees Celsius and sometimes over 40 degrees. Winters are cool to pleasant during the day, but very cold at night. Some areas of the Northern Cape even experience snow during most winters.
The Northern Cape is not considered to be a high-risk malaria area. However, if you are planning to visit the surrounding provinces of Mpumalanga or Limpopo, it is wise to consult with a travel clinic before your arrival so that you may begin a course of anti-malarial prophylaxes in advance.
When travelling in game parks and around bodies of water, it is advisable that you apply insect repellent to all exposed skin (including face, wrists and ankles). Sleep under a mosquito net and do not walk in the bush with your legs or ankles exposed.
Because the Northern Cape is particularly hot and sunny, it is vital to wear sun protection (cream, hat and light clothing) at all times.
The water in the towns is treated and safe to drink. In rural areas and game parks, it is wise to be prepared with bottled water, although they may not necessarily make use of borehole water.
When game viewing or embarking on trails, do not approach, pet or feed any animal, regardless of how friendly or curious they appear.
Be aware of your personal belongings at all times, and do not walk around with large amounts of cash or valuable equipment on you.
The Protea Hotel Kimberley is a new 4-star luxury hotel built right on the edge of the world-famous Kimberley Big Hole. This area enjoys a heritage of impressive diamond mining that led to its population and its impact on South Africa's history and wealth.