Capital city: Kimberley
Population: 1 million
Surface area: 370 000 square km
Occupying a large stretch of the West Coast of South Africa, the province of the Northern Cape extends east to the North West and Free State provinces, and north to the national border with Namibia and Botswana. Part desert and part coastal plain, the province is renowned for its amazing floral beauty in the spring.
Diamonds were discovered in the vicinity of Kimberley in 1866, and most of the history of the city is based largely on the diamond mining industry that developed from that discovery. One of the most famous landmarks in Kimberley is the aptly named Big Hole, which is easily visible from the air and which is the largest human excavation on record. Another attraction is the Kimberley Mine Museum. The international diamond company De Beers also has a museum in the city, which exhibits a collection of uncut and cut diamonds, including the largest uncut diamond in the world, the “616” (so named because it weighs in at 616 carats), and also the first diamond to be found in South Africa, the “Eureka” diamond. In the city one also finds McGregor Museum and the William Humphreys Art Gallery.
In the vicinity of Kimberley one finds the Vaalbos National Park, which is a small game reserve that is host to the now very uncommon Black Rhino. Then there is also the Bultfontein Mine, which offers tours of a functioning diamond mine.
To the north-west lies the town of Kuruman, a missionary outpost visited by David Livingstone. The town includes a spring named the “Eye of God”, and is also close to the “Wonderwerk Cave” (“Miracle Cave”), where evidence of the use of fire by ancient people has been found.
Situated on the Orange River, the town of Upington has a reputation in South Africa as a hot place. Near to Upington is the Augrabies National Park, in which one finds the Augrabies Falls, a spectacular waterfall system that descends roughly 55m (180ft) into a narrow canyon. However, it should be mentioned that the Orange River is not perennial. The Park includes various desert fauna and flora.
In the northern region of the province one finds the immense Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, which is a so-called “peace park”, as it includes territory from Botswana as well. As one of the largest conservation parks in the world, it is home to many species of fauna and flora.
In the west of the province, the Namaqualand region is a semi-arid district that explodes into floral beauty in spring, once the rains have fallen. The best time to see the flowers is between July and September, but make enquiries first, as the rains do not fall at the same time every year. The towns of Nieuwoudtville and Calvinia lie at the centre of the flower territory.
On the national border with Namibia one finds the isolated Richtersveld National Park. In order to visit the Park, you will need a 4×4 vehicle, as the terrain is not conducive to other types of vehicle. The Park includes a diverse range of uncommon desert flora.