Many come to see Kimberley’s main attraction – the Big Hole, but the small city also offers an abundance of museums and historical sites that shouldn’t be missed.
Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre
Why you should visit: More than 400 rock art engravings by indigenous tribes have been preserved on a small hill, a short distance outside of Kimberley. The engravings are estimated to be between 1 000 and 2 000 years old. They are thought to be the work of the tribe’s shaman – medicine man – calling for much-needed rain. Today, the site gives visitors a fascinating insight into Africa of years gone by.
Visitors can join a guided tour led by one of the rock art custodians.
How to get there: It’s about a 10-minute drive from Kimberley, on Barkly West Road, Barkley West.
How much does it cost: R35 per adult. http://www.wildebeestkuil.itgo.com/
Why you should visit: Aspiring archaeologists, history buffs, nature lovers and the curious traveller should make the two-hour detour from Kimberley to the Wonderwerk Cave. This vast cave, set in the Kuruman Hills, extends 139 metres into the earth and is a National Heritage Site.
The cave gives a glimpse into the plant, animal and human life that lived in it millions of years ago. There are also rock paintings and engraved stones visible in the cave. A guided tour will help explain more about the significance of the area.
How to get there: The cave is 43km from the little town of Kuruman and a two-hour drive from Kimberley.
How much does it cost: Enquire at the gate or at the McGregor Museum in Kimberley for entrance fees to access the cave.
Why you should visit: From mid-July 1871 to 1914, 50 000 hopeful miners dug down into the site of the Big Hole, which at the time, was still a rather flat hill. Digging with hands, picks and shovels, they excavated an impressive 2 772 kg haul of diamonds. It’s little surprise that the frenetic activity eventually caused the hill to collapse, creating the Big Hole we find today. After mining operations ceased in 1914, the Big Hole became the city’s most famous tourist attraction, right in the centre of the town. Currently, it is filled 40m deep with water. It remains one of the largest cavities excavated by human hands anywhere in the world.
Next to the Big Hole is the Kimberley Mine Museum, depicting life in the town’s 1800s heyday. Visitors can explore the Big Hole with a site guide, travel underground in a reconstructed mine shaft authentic to the period, learn about the lives of the diggers and buy diamonds for cheap(er).
How to get there: Find it on Tucker Street, slap bang in the centre of Kimberley.
How much does it cost: R100 per adult.
William Humphreys Art Gallery
Why you should visit: Art lovers should browse the William Humphreys Art Gallery, showcasing a multicultural collection of South African art, including drawings from the Old Dutch and Flemish Masters, 17th-century European paintings and a mix of contemporary South African art. Nestled in the Oppenheimer Gardens, the museum is one of only three national art museums in South Africa. (The other two are the Iziko Museum in Cape Town and the National Museum in Bloemfontein.) Works and collections are rotated regularly. However, it is closed on Sundays.
How to get there: Find it at the Civic Centre on 1 Cullinan Crescent.
How much does it cost: R5 per adult.
Why you should visit: Housed in a building erected in 1897 and once used as a sanitorium, a hotel and convent school, the McGregor Museum moved here in 1971. Today, this multidisciplinary museum showcases varied displays of natural and cultural history, zoology, archaeology, palaeontology and geology collections, the Siege of Kimberley, a Hall of Religions and the renowned Ancestors Gallery, taking visitors through the three million-year-old history of humans in the Northern Cape. Other notable museums are the Duggan-Cronin Photography Gallery, the Magersfontein Battlefield Museum and the transport and aviation museums.
How to get there: The McGregor Museum is on 5 Atlas Street in Belgravia.How much does it cost: R30 per adult.