The Northern Cape
South Africa's largest province, home to both the Kalahari and the Karoo deserts (which should give you an idea of the harshness of the region) and by far the least-populated area, the Northern Cape is also visited least and particularly beautiful. This is swashbucking, four-wheel-drive country, where vast star-filled night skies vie only with desert for the most rewarding time-out experience in the country.
The Northern Cape's major parks, Ai Ais/Richtersveld and Kgalagadi – both of them transfrontier in the sense that there are no boundaries with neighbouring countries Namibia and Botswana – provide outback, remote and harsh landscapes that are the backdrop for excellent game viewing.
The Namaqualand undergoes something of a revolution when in spring it alters from vast stretches of semi-desert into an en masse burst of blooms, the likes of which are indescribable to those who have yet to see it.
In the Northern Cape, one is most aware of the fickle and impenetrable essence of nature. The spring flowers are dependent on a certain type of rain, at a very specific time or they fail to flourish. Almost every lodging, whether bed and breakfast, guest farm, campsite or self-catering establishment at which you stay will come with a plea to use water sparingly, as it is in short supply. And the landscape is a constant reminder of a future where water is a commodity.
From the cold and windblown shores of the Atlantic Ocean on its western boundary to the capital of Kimberley, on its eastern border, the province is characterised by stretches of dry country and rocky outcroppings, whilst in its northerly reaches, the last remaining true San people live.
Other highlights include:
the thundering falls at Augrabies Falls National Park
Witsand Nature Reserve
the settlement of Riemvasmaak
the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) in Sutherland
Karoo architecture in towns like Victoria West and Loxton
the quaint towns of Nieuwoudtville, Loeriesfontein, Calvinia and Carnarvon
the most northerly wine making region in the country, on the banks of the Senqu (Orange) River
the Red Dune Route
the roaring dunes of the Kalahari
the quiver tree forest of Gannabos
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Northern Cape Accommodation
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