South Africa

Kalahari & Diamond Fields Accommodation

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Kalahari - San for 'a place without water'

The Kalahari and Diamond Fields region of the Northern Cape borders Namibia, Botswana, the Freestate and the North West Province. The name Kalahari come from the San word meaning 'a place without water'. Some parts of the Kalahari Desert have gone without water for years and are flat featureless plains. But there is usually water beneath the surface, and the flat plains are broken up here and there by mountain ranges, amongst them the Langeberg and Korannaberg ranges. The Kalahari is at the far north-eastern tip of the Northern Province and is a boundless expanse of red earth. The daytime temperatures are extremely hot and the nights can be freezing cold.

In 1866 a young boy names Erasmus Jacobs found a white pebble on the banks of the Orange River close to where it joins the Vaal River. His discovery was to lead to the great South African diamond rush for he had found a diamond that was later to be called Eureka! Shortly after that a huge 83 carat diamond was acquired from a Griqua shepherd by Schalk van Niekerk. This diamond became known as the Star of Africa. Prospectors still sift the gravel beds of the Vaal and Orange rivers for diamonds, though their finds are now few and far between.

Just outside the town of Kimberley in the Diamond Fields region of the Northern Cape, two de Beer brothers had diggings on a farm which they had purchased for £50. By 1872 more than 50000 prospectors had crowded into the little shanty town that later was to become Kimberley. Most of the miners in those days made do with tents or shacks made from wood and corrugated iron ù similar to the informal settlements that can be seen today outside South Africa's big cities. The sites later developed to such an extent that they are now known as the Big Hole and the de Beers Mine. Today Kimberley has become a modern city and is the diamond capital of the world. The city is full of interesting period houses and museums and visitors should not miss a visit to the Big Hole and the Kimberley Mine Museum where there is a replica of the town as it was during the diamond rush.

Several important battles took place around Kimberley during the Anglo-Boer War and the town was besieged by Boer forces. Boer trenches can still be seen in the area and Kimberley's museums house uniforms, weaponry and equipment used during the war.

The Kalahari and Diamond Fields region town of Upington is a beautiful green oasis situated on the banks of the Orange River. The town is ideally situated as a stopover for travelers from Johannesburg or Cape Town heading towards Namibia. The Fish River Canyon, located just across the Namibian border, is a very popular destination for the adventurous hiker. Further to the north along the Botswana border lies the vast desert wilderness of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. These regions can be very hot during the summer months, so visitors are well advised come during the winter months when the temperatures are milder.

The Augrabies Falls National Park is situated about 80 kilometres to the west of Upington in the Kalahari region of the Northern Cape and the Falls ranks among the world's greatest cataracts. During exceptional floods the flow here exceeds that of the mighty Victoria Falls and is considered by many geologists to be the world's most interesting example of weathered granite. The park adjoining the Falls is home to the dassie, also known as the rock rabbit. Resembling a giant guinea-pig, the dassie's nearest relative is probably the elephant.The town of Kakamas is situated just a few kilometers from the Falls and is the perfect stopover for visitors. The town has widespread irrigation schemes and boasts eleven working water wheels. Kakamas has become a major farming area and produces export quality grapes and peaches.