Acknowledgements: Northern Cape Tourism Authority (NCTA)
It is almost unbelievable how a desert landscape is transformed into a rainbow of color and life but this is exactly what happens each spring when the wild flowers bloom all over the Namakwa region. Some of these flowering plants are rare and only found here.
Namakwa Region Spring Flowers, Northern Cape
The Flower Route takes visitors on a tour of the various plants including the wild flowers when in bloom around July through September.
Another color that is associated with the province is copper and many of the little towns scattered throughout the region were ‘born’ when folks looking to strike it lucky settled in an area to stake a mining claim.
Adventure is found on water and land, with river rafting on the Orange River, 4x4 adventures in the mountains or classic donkey rides on a Nama cultural visit.
Copper was first discovered in 1685 by the Dutch leader and explorer Simon van der Stel and from that day forward mining of this mineral became integral to South Africa’s economy. The first commercial mine in the country was a copper mine and was opened in 1852.
Diamonds were discovered in the early 1900’s and mining started in the 1930’s. Miining is still ongoing today. The ‘Diamond Coast’ extends from Hondeklip Bay to Alexander Bay and permits are required to enter most of this area.
As with the rest of Africa, adventurous and very brave souls headed off into the unknown to spread their faith and Christianity. These missionaries had to find their own way around, find food, water and shelter and then find a way to convert the Nama people to Christianity. The Nama folk believed in polygamy and worshipping their ancestors.
Mission stations are still operational around the towns of Pella, Leliefontein, Komaggas, Matjieskloof, Concordia and Steinkopfand. Each has a unique story to tell of how it was established and by whom.
Near Sutherland, on the South African Astronomical Observatory’s site, stands the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT), which is the largest single optical telescope in the southern hemisphere, with a hexagonal mirror array 11 meters across.
Left: Southern African Large Telescope (SALT); Right: Tour of the Research Telescopes
SA Astronomical Observatory, Sutherland
It is similar to the Hobby-Eberly Telescope (HET) in Texas. SALT was made possible through a partnership between South Africa, the United States, Germany, Poland, India, United Kingdom and New Zealand.
Tours are available but booking is essential. Only 20 people are allowed on the tour at one time.
Fully guided tour – includes the visitors center and guided tour of selected research telescopes including SALT
Monday to Friday: 10:30am and 2:30pm
Saturday: 11:30am and 2:30pm
For fees -- contact the SA Astronomical Observatory SALT website: www.salt.ac.za
Basic tour – self guided tour of the visitors centre and a basic guided tour of the SALT
Weekends and Public Holidays: 8am to 4pm every hour on the hour.
For fees -- contact the SA Astronomical Observatory SALT website.
Includes viewings through two visitor telescopes, the 16” Meade and 14” Celestron.
The research telescopes are not available at night.
Very strict rules apply to visits at night which are conducted Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.
For fees -- contact the SA Astronomical Observatory SALT website.
South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO), Sutherland, Namakwa, Northern Cape
How to get there – courtesy of South African Astronomical Observatory
Route to Sutherland
Sutherland is situated 360km from Cape Town along the N1 and R354. The Sutherland road (R354) is opposite the Matjiesfontein turnoff (about 235km from Cape Town). This road is long and winding, and takes you right into the town of Sutherland.
The turnoff to the SAAO is halfway into the town on the right (Fraserburg Road). About 14kms from Sutherland you will find our main gate. Pass through the gates and follow the road to the Visitor Centre where you can park and meet the tour guide.
Many of the towns in the sparsely populated Northern Cape province are spread far apart, so if someone says this town is near that one then consider the distance to be substantial, not next door.
85 km (53 miles) north of Port Nolloth
Security permits were required in past years to enter the area and the town because of the diamonds that were mined here. Diamonds were first discovered in 1925.
The town is located 170km (105 miles) from Calvinia on Route 27. It is named after Ou Brand (Old Burn) a farmer who settled here in the 19th century.
Located 70km (43 miles) east of Nieuwoudtville near Brandvlei. It lies at the foot of the Hantam mountains on the Oorlogskloof River and was named after John Calvin, a religious reformer in the area. The town was founded in 1851.
It is the fastest growing town in the Hantam area. Hantam is a Khoi word for ‘where the red bulbs grow’. It is one of South Africa’s largest wool producing regions.
The area includes Soebatsfontein and is a coastal town 104km (64 miles) from Springbok. It is a favorite amongst the locals as a fishing and diving vacation destination. The bay was once a harbor that received copper brought down by ox wagon from Springbok before it was exported. Port Nolloth has replaced it but the Hondeklip Bay Harbor still serves fishing boats and diamond mining boats.
Kleinzee and Koingnaas
Kleinzee is about 100km west of Springbok and Koingnaas is about 100km south of Kleinzee. They are located on the Diamond coast and permits are required to visit the area. Permits must be obtained at least five days in advance.
The town is located 120km (74 miles) southwest of Brandvlei and 63km northeast of Nieuwoudtville and it is believed that it was named after a Jewish traveling salesman called Lurie.
The area includes McDougal’s Bay and lies 140km (86 miles) north west of Springbok. It was first used as a small vessel harbor and small scale diamond recovery region.
The town, found 70km (43 miles) from Calvinia on the R27, is best known for its vegetation and for the fact that it has the largest variety of indigenous bulbous plants worldwide. The Vanrhyns Pass lies only 8km (5 miles) from town and offers incredible views of the Knersvlakte on the way to the Namakwa coast.
Essentially a mission station run by the Roman Catholic Father of Pofadder, Onseepkans is a town that lies 49km (30 miles) north of Pofadder on the Namibian border. In 1909 a prospector decided to settle on the Orange River, and it didn’t take long for other settlers to realize that they could farm along the river and today citrus, Lucerne, beans and other crops are grown here.
Pella lies 130km (80 miles) east of Springbok on the N7 highway and is essentially a mission station. It was founded by the London Mission Society in 1814 and became a haven for the Khoisan people who were driven from Namibia. Unfortunately a drought in 1872 caused a mass exodus from town but the Roman Catholic Church revived the town in 1878.
Pofadder lies 165km (102 miles) east of Sprinbok on the N7 highway. Much like Pella, it was founded as a mission station in 1875.
These include Kuboes, Lekkersing, Sanddrif and Eksteenfontein and are all found close to Alexander Bay.
The area of Springbok includes the towns of Carolusberg and Komaggas and lies 550km (341 miles) north of Cape Town on the N7 highway. Springbok was founded in the late 1800’s thanks to its water supply and copper mining. A walking trail around town includes the Blue mine and wonderful views.
Best known as the home to the South African Astronomical Observatory, Sutherland lies 120km (74 miles) north of Matjiesfontein on Route 354.
South African Astronomical Observatory, Sutherland, Northern Cape
South African Astronomical Observatory Website: http://www.saao.ac.za/home/
Sutherland is also home to the endangered Riverine Rabbit, the Sterboom (star tree) and is the birthplace of the Afrikaans author and poet NP van Wyk Louw. Sutherland is probably the coldest place in South Africa.
The town was founded in 1768 when Johan Abraham Nel planted an Almond Tree honoring the birth of his son and in 1845 Johann H. Lutz started a mission station here, calling it Amandelboom (Almond Tree). In 1883 the town’s name changed to Williston after Colonel Hampden Willis. It is located 120km (74 miles) east of Calvinia.
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