Forgotten Provinces: Northern Cape

Posted by Leila Stein on 7 May 2020

South Africa is full of fantastic local destinations, but often these are neglected for the major attractions like the Kruger National Park or cities like Cape Town. As domestic tourism is expected to increase following the COVID-19 pandemic, this series will highlight some of the provinces often overlooked.

This week we’re exploring the Northern Cape.

For many, the Northern Cape is just the Big Hole and while this is a site to see the beautiful province has so much more to offer.

Much like most of the country, seeing some of the spectacular sites requires quite a bit if a drive, but who doesn’t love a road trip?

Made up of great national parks and small dorps to explore, once we’re free to do so again, get ready to experience the North.

Namaqua National Park 

 

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The West Coast National Park isn’t the only place to see beautiful flowers bloom. The Namaqua National Park gives it a run for its money with its August/September flower season. These pink and orange flowers blanket the park from the sea to its inland regions.

Visitors can drive around, stopping at picnic spots and admiring the view. There are also birding opportunities, go on walking tours through the semi-desert biome, mountain bike along public trails or explore the Caracal 4×4 route, which winds around 200km through the park.

Guests can stay in the park at one of the luxury camping sites, such as the Beach Camp. A glamping experience that put’s you right on the beach surrounded by the beautiful flowers during their bloom season. Otherwise, make your visit a day trip while staying in Springbok, which is 87km away.

Sutherland 

 

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If you’re an astronomy nerd then this has probably already been checked off your list. Home to the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), Sutherland is a great small town experience of the Karoo.

Quite the perfect trip for couples, the quirk of the Karoo mixed with the awesome beauty of the stars at night without light pollution ensures a memorable and unique trip. In winter it also drops below freezing, so visitors will have to snuggle up.

The town have many guesthouses to choose from so accommodation is not in short supply.

The area is perfect for exploring, hiking, biking and 4×4 trails to experience this unique biome.

There is also of course stargazing. While sitting outside admiring the beautiful stars is one option, those who would like to know a little more can join a 20-hour stargazing experience with Sutherland. Using telescopes, novices will learn about the sky that is shining above them.

Tankwa Karoo National Park 

 

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Just next to Sutherland is the Tankwa Karoo National Park, most well-known for hosting the Africa Burn Festival.

If you’re going to explore this otherworldly landscape, it is best to go with a high-clearance vehicle so you don’t miss out on the amazing viewpoints.

From camping out in what feels like the middle of nowhere, far from civilisation, to plant-spotting some of the 615 species found in the park, this is an experience for those who love exploring nature and getting a little dusty.

Read our top Tankwa Karoo activities here.

Loxton

 

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A smaller Northern Cape town, Loxton is a part of the old dutch settler history. Still lined with 100-year old trees, limewater channels and some of the original vernacular Karoo architecture still standing, this town that time forgot is really a step back into the past.

With a few accommodation options, the postcard town is a great stopover on a Northern Cape trip.

Augrabies Falls National Park 

 

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One of the most famous waterfalls in the country, the Augrabies Falls National Park surrounds the falls and stretches along the Orange River.

Called, Ankoerebis by the Khoikhoi, which means the”place of big noises”. The waterfall is six meters high and is a powerful sight.

This ancient landscape is dotted with very old plant species including the Quiver tree, which the Khoi hunters used for their quivers. Go along the viewpoints next to the waterfall and end off your trip with an overall view of the park from the Moon Rock.

The park is near Upington, which could be used as a base from which to visit. There are also accommodation options inside the park from SANParks.

Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park 

An impressive feat of international cooperation, the Kgalagadi Transfrontier National Park straddles South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. With self-drive 4×4 trails available and Sunrise and Sunset drives from the Twee Rivieren, Nossob, Mata-Mata and the Kalahari Tented Camp, there is no shortage of ways to explore this incredible park.

When choosing a time to visit, look out for the perfect times to catch the blue wildebeest, springbok and majestic red hartebees migrations. The park is full of game to try and spy so offers a great alternative to the Kruger National Park.

Visitors can stay inside the camp, with the tented camps offering basic amenities, with some including swimming pools.

Find out our reasons not to miss this one-of-a-kind park here.

Hondeklip Bay 

 

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This beach-side town is not one that tops the usual lists when it comes to seaside holidays, which makes it all the more interesting.

Harder to get to because of the gravel road, this small village is a pristine example of a South African fishing village.

Visitors with permits during the right season can go diving for crayfish along the coast. You can also visit the shipwreck of the Aristea that ran aground in 1945 or drive along dirt tracks winding next to the coastline for spectacular views.

Experience the small village life while staying in self-catering chalets.

Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier National Park

 

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Another border-crossing park, this time just between Namibia and South Africa. This rugged park has dramatic scenery with high mountains, kloofs and of course the Orange River.

This rougher environment means the park is only accessible with a 4×4 vehicle or at minimum a high clearance vehicle.
A truly unique experience of this park is the old Pontoon which ferries passengers and their vehicles across the Orange River. This is the quickest but also the most fun way to cross over into the next country.

Other than driving, visitors can explore on foot as part of walking trails from the Hakiesdoring hiking camp or the Vensterval Trail, a full four-day hike which is only open between 1 April to 30 September.

Image:@theoverlandjournal/ Instagram

 

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