Picture source: Flicker/SA Tourism

Northern Cape tourism sector boom

Assets unique to the Northern Cape include wonderful spring flower displays, spectacular arid areas and brilliantly clear night skies for star-gazers. Heritage tourism is another important niche. SteamNet 2000 and the Railway Museum at Kimberley Station maintain and protect fascinating rail assets.

A Northern Cape Steam Rail tourism route might be an attractive opportunity for the right investor. 

There are no fewer than six national parks and five provincial reserves in the province, each showing off distinct geographical and biological features. Most of the province lies in the Nama-Karoo Biome and the annual display of spring flowers is spectacular.

The north-western portion of the province is known as the Green Kalahari, much of which is taken up by national parks. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park (with Botswana) encompasses 3.7-million hectares, making it one of the biggest conservation areas in the world. The Kalahari Red Dune Route is a network of guesthouses, reserves and farms to guide the visitor to the great park. The rushing waters of the Augrabies Falls National Park provide another popular attraction.

The Kalahari in the north-east is home to many of the province’s biggest mines, but also to great numbers of raptors, vultures and owls. A specialist raptor route has been developed. Birders can look out for 50 species, including the Booted Eagle, the Pygmy Falcon and the Bateleur. Tours of the area’s vast open-cast mining operations can be arranged.

A new route under development in the region is the Heritage Route tracing the footprints of the early missionaries to Southern Africa and will include Kimberley and surrounds, Kuruman and surrounds and the Robert Moffat Mission.

Hunting is a lucrative subsection of the tourism sector that is proving extremely popular in this region and brings valuable economic development to these rural communities.

The Diamond Fields region contains the spectacular Big Hole, the Mokala National Park and portions of the famed South African War or Battlefields Route. The Magersfontein War Memorial is an iconic attraction on this route where you can visit the graves, Burgher monument and Boer trenches. The town of Kimberley is itself an extremely popular attraction and offers fine examples of Victorian architecture and the world-class McGregor Museum, Sol Plaatje Museum and the famed William Humphrey Art Gallery.

The Karoo region encompasses the south-eastern portion of the province. While most of the region is dry, the Vanderkloof Dam is a major tourism asset. Many of the region’s small towns are geared to cater to tourists drawn to the magic of the Karoo’s open spaces and features famous Karoo towns such as De Aar, Britstown, Hanover, Victoria West and Carnarvon. The latter is especially of importance as home to the SKA. Other tourist attractions are the unique Karoo architecture, South African War sites, rock art, ancient Paleo surfaces, farm stays and the famous Karoo lamb.

The Namakwa region is famous for its flowers, but it also hosts the South African Astronomical Observatory, several historic mission settlements, the Namaqua National Park (on the West Coast) and the awe-inspiring Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. Springbok and Calvinia are the two major towns in this huge district, which is also the only Northern Cape region with a coastline and soon to be the home of a new small harbour.

The decision by UNESCO to inscribe the Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape as a World Heritage Site has great significance for the tourism industry in the Northern Cape, and for the prospects for ecotourism in general. This 160 000-hectare landscape lies on the border between South Africa and Namibia. The park achieved another a major international accolade when it was included in the Rough Guide’s Top 10 for 2016.

Investment opportunities

General opportunities for investors in the tourism sector include:
  • nature and game reserves
  • adventure tourism
  • upgrading of accommodation facilities
  • new attractions and entertainment features (theme parks)
  • improve air transport networks.

Adventure sports at Kimberley: the possible establishment of an adventure sports resort in the Big Hole Precinct, Kimberley.

Steam train: reviving steam train tourism (“Gems on Track” is the working title) could be done along a variety of routes including routes out of Kimberley to Belmont and from De Aar to Victoria West.

Eco-resort at Boesmansput: development of a diver training facility would form part of the plan at this popular fresh-water cave diving site. An eco-lodge is envisaged and a conference facility.

Wildebeest Rock Art Centre: more than 400 pieces of rock art would form the cornerstone (together with the nearby Nooitgedacht Glacial Paving) of a world-class heritage and archaeological site. Developments would include the creation of a performance arena (for the depiction of San Bushman culture) and facilities for game viewing and photographic safaris.

To discuss these opportunities, click here to contact the Northern Cape Department of Economic Development & Tourism.