10 things to do in Kimberley

Posted by Athenkosi Matyalana on 5 August 2013

One could easily change the saying ‘diamonds are forever’ to ‘diamond wells are forever’. Testimony to this is the city of Kimberley. Established in the late 1800s after the discovery of diamonds, the city survived the Anglo-Boer War and remains one of the most beautiful places in the country. Nowadays, the city which was once an oasis for South African history has become one of the lesser-talked about destinations in the country. To break the silence, here’s a list of places to visit and things to do in Kimberley, the diamond city.



1. The Big Hole

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The Big Hole, Kimberley.

Photo by hadsie

In 1866, a 15-year old kid called Erasmus Jacobs picked up a pebble on the banks of the Orange River near Hopetown. The pebble somehow landed in the hands of  Dr A. Atherstone who discovered that it was a .23,25-carat diamond. A couple of years later, an .83,5-carat diamond was discovered in Zandefontein. Suddenly, fortune seekers began pouring in and digging the land. When they stopped on August 1914, they had robbed the ground of 2 722 kilograms of diamonds and left a 214-metre chasm known as the Big Hole. With a surface area of 17 hectares and a perimeter of 1,6 km, the hole forms part of a museum that bears the story of the Diamond Rush in South Africa. A visit to the Big Hole allows you to get an underground experience, a visit to the Old Town and a peek into the diamond vault. With a restaurant, accommodation (find affordable accommodation in Kimberley here) and a few shops around it, the Big Hole is a trip down memory lane worth taking.


Tel: 053- 839-4600, email [email protected], www.thebighole.co.za


R75 for a day tour



2. Sol Plaatje Museum

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Photo from modernoverland.com

The late writer, journalist and activist Sol Plaatje penned Mhudi, the first novel by a black South Africa, when he was living at No 32 Angel Street, Malay Camp in Kimberley. To honour him for his contribution to South African literature, turned the house into a museum. To get a taste of Plaatje’s work in the 20th century, the Sol Plaatje Museum is the right place to visit.


Tel 082-804-3266



 3. Honoured Dead Memorial


Photo from flowcomm

Kimberley was besieged during the  Anglo-Boer War, and some of its residents died trying to protect the city. Cecil John Rhodes, one of the first diamond moguls in the country, commisioned Sir Herbert Bake to design a memorial in honour of the city’s heroes. In 1904, a sandstone m0mument accompanied by a long Cecil cannon (named after Rhodes) was unveiled at the highest point in Kimberley. Known as the Honoured Dead Memorial, the Nerheid-like structure is an aesthetic sight worth visiting.



 4. William Humphreys Art Gallery

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The temporary gallery at the William Humphreys Art Gallery.

Image from Modern Overland

If you’re craving art in the diamond city, there is always the William Humphreys Art Gallery. Opened in 1952 in honour of William Benbow Humphreys,  the art gallery currently houses 247 artworks.  The art gallery is brimming with French, Dutch and Flemish artworks, although the art gallery has shifted more towards Southern African art and exhibitions. With an auditorium that can fit in 101 people, a temporary exhibition, two small galleries and meeting venues, is an experience in art that shaped modern South Africa.


Tel  053- 831-1724/5, email [email protected], www.whag.co.za





5. Kamfers Dam


A Lesser Flamingo breeding colony in Kamfers Dam, Kimberley.

 Photo courtesy of  Winston67

Six kilometres outside of Kimberley, is the Kamfers Dam which supports the largest Lesser flamingo breeding colony in Southern Africa. The wetland which has hosted between 60 000 to 80 000 Lesser flamingos, over 50% of the Southern African population, is an amazing spectacle for the avid birdwatcher. According to Birdlife South Africa, the pan sits on a convergence of Kalahari savanna, grassveld and Nama-Karoo and hosts more than 2000 birds excluding the flamingos. However, untamed sewerage  and housing developments threatened to destroy the pan’s existence and its lifeforms (read: The importance of wetlands). To find out how you could contribute to the preservation of Kamfers Dam and its Lesser Flamingo population visit Save the Flamingo or BirdLife South Africa.



6.Vintage Tram


Photo by DavieVDM

 To allow ambitious fortune seekers to reach Kimberley, a railway line and tram was introduced in 1897. 126 years later, the burnt-orange tram is still around. With its original wooden seats and steering wheels still in place, the train gives 20-minute rides around the Big Hole. Vintage tramrides are a great way to experience Kimberley, past and present.


053-832-7298, email [email protected]


R20 for a 20-minute train ride



7. Haunted corners and Ghost Trail


The haunted corners and Ghost Trail tour explores the spookiest parts of Kimberley

Photo from Kimberley City Portal

 According to legend, ghosts roam the streets of Kimberley at night (read: where to find ghosts in South Africa). The Haunted Corners and Ghost Trail tour which starts begins at the Honoured Dead Memorial, takes you  to  haunted corners of the city like the Kimberley Club (one of South Africa’s best haunted hotels) and Magersfontein Anglo-Boer battlefield.


083-732-3189, email [email protected]


R1 300 per group for five hours



8.Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre


The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre has some breathtaking Khoi/San engravings.

Outside Kimberley on a tiny hill is over 400 rock engravings estimated to be over 1 000 years old from the !Xun and Khwe San People. The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centreoffers an 800-metre trip into the history Khoi/San societies and their creative spirit.  After  the tour, you could grab a few Khoi/San arts and craftworks from the shop at the visitors centre.


Tel:053-833-7069, email [email protected] , www.wildebeestkuil.itgo.com





9.Visit Galeshelwe

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Photo from Sol Plaatjie Municipality

Galeshelwe, an offspring of the Diamond Rush, is one of the oldest townships in South Africa. Started in 1887, the township soon attracted large groups of people from various parts of the world. However, due to the apartheid policies, the township became a dustbowl near the city. Urban renewal programmes like the Green Belt Project have done a ton of good in the township. A cultural tour of the township, known as Poetry on da Bus, includes a visit to the Sol Plaatjie Museum, the home of the late Pan Africanist Congress leader Robert Sobukwe and a local shebeen. Book a place stay in Galeshewe.


Tel 053-832- 0037



10. Mokala National Park


Mountain Reedbuck in Mokala National Park

Photo by Johann Du Preez

Kimberley does not only cater for the history lovers but also takes care of wildlife enthusiasts. Just 80 kilometres south-west of the city is the tranquil Mokala National Park. Made up of the Savanna Biome and Nama-Karoo Biome, the national park is home to wildlife species such as Buffalo, Black and White Rhino and Tsessebe. Mokala is a great place to get out of the city and experience the African wilderness.


Tel: 053-204-0158, email [email protected]     Main image from UCT Geology Honours 1998 via Smashing Lists

Ed’s note

So perhaps Kimberley didn’t find its post-diamond rush Renaissance. Sad as that may be, Kimberley is still unmissable for one reason alone: its history. All the way through town signs point you in the direction of monuments, museums and memorable moments. If you’re a history nut, it’s Nirvana. It’s also a worthwhile stopover for anyone wanting to explore the Northern Cape (read: The Northern Cape -more than a big hole) and is also home to Star of the West, one of South Africa’s oldest pubs.

So next time you find yourself North of The fair Cape, don’t rule this ‘little gem’ out: it may be outdated but it’s far from dead, according to the ghosts anyway. Here’s a list of accommodation options in Kimberley to make your stay a little more comfortable.

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