South African Holidays in North West

Hot Air Ballooning in Pilanesberg National Park.

Capital: Mafikeng
Population Mafikeng: 6900
Provincial population: 3,6 million
Area: 116 320 km2
Percentage of total area of South Africa: 9,5%
Percentage of GDP produced in North West Province: 5,56%
Principal economic sectors: Mining (platinum, gold and diamonds), agriculture (maize,sunflowers), animal husbandry and tourism

The North West, like the Free State, is a "big sky" province. It consists of classic bushveld terrain, with several key features, each very different from the other. In the 1920s, a discovery of world-shaking proportions was made in a district in the North West. A student working in the Taung area was given what looked like a fossilised baboon skull that had been unearthed in a lime quarry, showing attributes of both humans and apes. From this specimen, paleoanthropologists the world over believe the theory that humankind originated in Africa.

The North West is also home to the famous luxury resort of Sun City. The resort is an easy two-hour drive from Gauteng, and offers a long list of wonderful diversions, such as casinos, live shows, a man-made sea world, and two championship-quality golf courses. The resort has a variety of accommodation options, the most luxurious of which is at the Palace of the Lost City, an utterly sybaritic extravaganza of five-star pampering and luxury set in magnificent landscaped gardens which attract visitors on their own account.

Next to Sun City is an excellent "Big Five" game park called the Pilanesberg National Park. Its proximity to Johannesburg and Pretoria makes it a convenient choice for visitors in Gauteng who have not had a game experience or who are short of time. However, there is another major park in this province, the top rate Madikwe game reserve which is often a choice for repeat visitors who have been to the Kruger National Park and wish to sample another region.

The park is situated on the old route into Botswana and there are many tall tales told about the journeys north through there. The best place to hear them is at the bar in the small town of Groot Marico. It was here that author Herman Charles Bosman lived and taught at the local school. After lessons, he would write hilarious anecdotes about his fellow citizens and their drinking habits, with a wry fondness. It's worth trying to get a copy of some of his work. While in Groot Marico, you can do a mampoer (similar to moonshine) tasting trip. Although it's not the provincial capital, Mafikeng is the largest city in the province. It boasts a variety of contemporary African building in Tswana designs and colours.

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