North West South Africa
This bold,big sky terrain stretches over 116,000 square kilometres and
narrates in its vast sweep the enchanting tales of prehistoric hominids,
war heroes and literary greats. There's the glitter of Sun City, the historic
route of Mafikeng and prolific game viewing to be enjoyed in any one of
its 13 game parks.
North West South Africa
'heavy with atmosphere, so strangely and darkly impregnated
with that stuff of life that bears the authentic stamp of South Africa'
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The North west Province will leave even the most seasoned traveller dizzy in the wake of endless itinerary options on offer.
This bold,big sky terrain stretches over 116,000 square kilometres and narrates in its vast sweep the enchanting tales of prehistoric hominids, war heroes and literary greats. There is the glitter of Sun City, the historic route of Mafikeng and prolific game viewing to be enjoyed in any one of its 13 game parks.
The North Wests boundaries extend north of Kimberley up into the arid stretches of the Kalahari and south of Botswana, while the north-easterly tip meets those of the Limpopo and Gauteng provinces. The eastern and central topography is dominated by the Magaliesberg mountain range and to the south the boundary lines close at the Free State and Northern Cape Province.
History buffs will want to travel to the provincial and commercial capital Mafikeng, to explore the ethnographic and Anglo-Boer war records that account for persistent conflict over land.
There are numerous guest houses, hotels and bed & breakfasts in and around the city that offer a good base from which to investigate the museums, forts and monuments of the area.
Before trigger happy settlers arrived on the scene Mafikeng was home to the Barolong Chiefs, who settled along the banks of the river and named it Mahikeng 'Place among Rocks'. It was the same Barolong tribe that was enlisted to fight on the side of the Boer forces during the Mafikeng siege.
The siege is one of the tales of battle to emerge prominently from the
conflicts of the Anglo-Boer war. It was the tenacity of spirit that marked
out the British garrison stationed at Mafikeng, under the command of Robert
Baden Powell, which held out for 217 days against the onslaught of the
Capturing these accounts in his diary at the time from within Mafikeng, journalist, author and founding member of the ANC, Sol T Plaatje described the grim realities of war. To learn more about this important figure in South African history you can visit his residence, newspaper office and printing works in Mafikeng.
Magaliesberg Mountain Range
The Magaliesberg mountain range is a 120km stretch of inspiring profusion of sheltered gorges, mountain pools and bushveld vegetation. The craggy projections of the range that peer out over the terrain have been dated back more that 2,000 million years.
It is no surprise therefore that a hominid fossil was discovered in the region at the Sterkfontein Caves, now a Unesco World Heritage Site. The discovery was made in 1947 by paleontologist Robert Broom, who found the half-ape half-human skull dubbed 'Mrs Ples'. One hour guided tours of the site are conducted on the half hour from Tuesdays to Sundays.
The Magaliesberg can be enjoyed over a few days from the comforts of
a hotel or guesthouse in the area, some of which are rated among the best
in the country and promise some serious pampering in idyllic surroundings.
Hot air balloon safaris and the Magaliesberg Express steam train provide creative alternatives to exploring the spectacular scenery, and tours of art studios and boutiques that have sprung up in the quaint old mining town of Magaliesberg can be enjoyed at leisure.
If you prefer to hike then the Magaliesberg is a perfect spot. There are highly rated hiking routes which include, weekend trails, moonlight trails and sunrise trails, prior arrangements have to be made for permits.
If you want to experience a highly rated, malaria free game reserve then Madikwe is a must visit. North of the province on the Botswana border this conservation success story began only a few years ago when ecologists motivated for the 75,000 hectares of land to be used as a game park to encourage tourism in this beautiful area.
Known as Operation Phoenix, 8,000 large mammals, including the big five, were relocated to the park. What really put Madikwe on the map though was the successful return of the endangered Wild Dog.
A complete holiday destination in its own right Madikwe is a delight with a vast canvas of ancient landscape comprised of red inselbergs or rocky hills. Bushveld and Kalahari savannah converge in the undulating vistas that can be explored through self drive or guided game drives. You can enjoy the burnt orange sunsets from one of the 17 lodges within the reserve. Entrance to the private game park is however restricted to overnight guests.
Pilanesberg National Park
For a day trip to a game reserve Pilanesberg National Park is a great choice. Located close to Gauteng this vast park boasts a unique ecosystem in addition to the big five attraction. a volcanic eruption some 1,200 million years ago created a geological structure that appears as concentric circles extending outwards, referred to as the 'Alkaline Ring Complex'
When visiting Pilanesberg National Park you can enjoy the sights on self-drive or guided game drives provided by the park, or sit quietly in one of the numerous hides and picnic sites scattered throughout the rugged terrain. It is thanks to Operation Genesis, the largest game translocation of its time, that has enabled healthy populations of lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and Rhino - black and white to roam the park. A variety of accommodation options can be found on the outskirts of the reserve, from middle of the range to luxury lodges.
Sun City and the Palace of the Lost City is located right next to the Pilanesberg National Park, the resort is a man-made indulgence at its extreme. A few days could easily be lost to golf, casino and a hundred other entertainment options up for grabs in this internationally acclaimed complex.
To sum up Sun City this is how it describes itself:
'pure fantasy where your every desire is met. There are four world class hotels located within the resort, including the magnificent Palace of the Lost City that glitters like a jewel beneath the African sun, brilliant in its rain forest surroundings and luxurious in its detail and design'.
In sharp contrast to the frenetic pace of Sun City are the rustic, dusty stretches leading to the Marico district. The area was made famous by the stories of the celebrated South Africa author, Herman Charles Bosman, who was inspired by the landscape.
Nothing is more authentically South African than mampoer - distilled peach brandy made in the area. You can visit the local distillery in the town of Groot Marico (big Marico), actually a small town named after a big river, and learn more about the evolution of this powerful brandy. A weekend stay in one of the guesthouses or lodges provides a good springboard to other attractions in the area.
You will no doubt want to return to the North West to rediscover the generous offerings of history, culture and conservation that makes up this wonderful province of South Africa.