Cradle of Humankind and Hartbeespoort Dam
Just a short westward drive out of Joburg you'll find yourself in the heart of the Magaliesberg Mountains, in some of the most serene and beautiful natural surroundings that will rival most places in the country. When you feel like you need a break from the fast-paced hustle and bustle of Jozi, it makes perfect sense to unwind in the outdoors, and few places will be able to satisfy your craving for nature as well as the Magaliesberg.
Lying south of the Magaliesberg Mountains, The Cradle of Humankind, and the Hartbeespoort Dam essentially form one tourist area, even though they have over the years been split into smaller units, such as the Crocodile Ramble and the Magalies Meander, and promoted as such. We prefer to define a tourism destination in terms of its broader ecological or geographical characteristics, and because all the areas mentioned here fall within within the proposed Magaliesberg Biosphere Region, we treat this area as one tourist destination - the Magaliesberg Tourist Area.
There is no doubt that the Cradle of Humankind is the tourism jewel in this Area, and its surrounds deserve far more tourists than it receives at present, especially because of its scientific importance as the place where mankind actually originated. Since 1999 this area has been classified as a UNESCO world heritage site. As a result, over the last 6 years a significant amount of money, time and care has been invested in the area to make sure that it's not only a fantastic place to spend a day or weekend, but also that it'll be around for many years to come.
The core of the action in the Cradle of Humankind, The Maropeng Visitor Centre, is the first place that you should visit. It’s a good idea to pick up a combination ticket at the Visitor Centre, which allows you full access to both Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves nearby. The Maropeng Visitor Centre is an award-winning establishment that caters for all age groups. There are 2,500 square meters of exhibitions that can be viewed from an exciting underground boat ride, and which guide you through the world of fossils, ancient stone tools up to 1 million years old, and how humankind was born. There is also a big emphasis on interaction at Maropeng, which makes it perfect for youngsters as well.
Leave Maropeng and head to the nearby Sterkfontein Caves. These caves are where the famous 2.1-million-year-old skull of "Mrs. Ples" was discovered, and informative trips are taken down into the caves at regular intervals. The restaurant at the Caves is a good spot to grab some lunch and plan the rest of your day as well. If you’re interested in some of the world’s most largest and most popular animals, be sure to stop in at a wildlife or nature park where you can get up close to a selection of animals.
The Cradle of Humankind is also home to a number of fascinating wildlife and nature opportunities, exciting activities, and superb restaurants to suit most tastes and budgets. The beauty of the area also demands that people do not rush in and out of the Cradle of Humankind on the same day, but that they take time to stay overnight in one of the many superb accommodation options available here.
We invite you to read our article " Explore the Cradle of Humankind,"
The Hartbeespoort Dam
Living a hectic life in the City, even though it is the City of Gold, there is always a necessity to get away from it all - just for a short break. Ideally this should be to somewhere where there's plenty to do and great places in which to stay. And also which is not too far away.
Well, this is what the Hartbeespoort Dam is to many urbanites from Joburg and Pretoria.
The Hartbeespoort Dam, lies at the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountain range in North West Province, and is a popular destination for people from Joburg and Pretoria. All water sport activities may be enjoyed including para-sailing, windsurfing, water and jet skiing. However, the water quality is at times not up to specification, and so angling and swimming is not always recommended. For the more adventurous, hang-gliding or hot air ballooning are available, but for those preferring a more relaxing day, the village of Hartbeespoort, which is situated along the shores of the dam, offers markets, an aquarium, private zoo, a snake park and a cableway to explore.
Accommodation in this part of the Magaliesberg region is plentiful, with everything from rustic campsites, to budget-friendly Bed and Breakfasts and even decadent, luxurious lodging. In recent years, planning a few days out of the city has never been easier and visitors are offered a number activities, accommodation options, and restaurants. The adjacent Cradle of Humankind (above) also offers lots of accommodation and plenty of things to do.