Diamond Diggers Route | 215km

Big Hole of Kimberley.


...sprung up virtually overnight following the discovery of diamonds at Colesberg Kopje in 1871. Tens of thousands of fortune-hunters rushed to the scene, and soon the hillock had been replaced by a hole which was to become the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. Mined to a depth of 215 m, Kimberley Mine has a circumference of 1,6 km and a surface area of about 17 ha. When the mine was closed on 14 August 1914, it had yielded 14,5 million carats (2 722 kg) worth of diamonds.

Guests on a South African holiday should visit this town, well-known for the Big Hole. The mine can be viewed from a platform close to the Kimberley Mine Museum . Situated adjacent to the Big Hole, the large open-air museum consists of numerous original and reconstructed buildings, as well as other relics from the diamond-digging days, and provides a picture of life in early Kimberley. A novel way of getting around is to take the Kimberley Tram, which runs between the City Hall and the museum. The restored 1914 tramcar is the only one of its kind still in operation in South Africa.

At the Bultfontein Mine, a working mine run by De Beers on the city's southeastern outskirts, visitors can take underground and surface tours and see the Diggers' Fountain. Among the city's many architectural treasures are the City Hall, built in 1899 in Roman Corinthian style, De Beers House (the international headquarters of De Beers), and Dunluce. Dating back to 1897, the Edwardian-style Dunluce was elaborately decorated with ornate wooden decorations on the gables and wrought iron-work.

The several museums are worth exploring on a South African holiday, among them the McGregor Museum, built in 1897 by Rhodes, Dunluce (part of the McGregor Museum), Rudd House (a period museum portraying the life of the diamond magnates) and the Alexander McGregor Museum, with its extensive collection of rocks and minerals and displays on the archaeology of the Northern Cape. The William Humphreys Art Gallery houses a fine collection of South African art, while the Duggan-Cronin Gallery is an ethnographic museum with an invaluable collection of photographs chronicling the cultures of southern Africa's indigenous peoples.

The Honoured Dead Memorial is a reminder of the four-month siege of Kimberley during the South African War. The monument was commissioned by Cecil John Rhodes in memory of those who died during the siege and was designed by the renowned architect Sir Herbert Baker. Mounted on the stylobate of the monument is Long Cecil, a field gun manufactured in the De Beers workshops during the siege. Kimberley was once home to two great South African political figures.

The house where Sol Plaatjies, a founder member of the African National Congress and a distinguished journalist, lived in what was then known as the Malay Camp has been declared a national monument. Also of historic interest is the house where Robert Sobukwe, founder and first President of the Pan Africanist Congress, lived following his release from political imprisonment on Robben Island.


The !Khu and Kwe peoples of Platfontein are San, but originate from Angola and Namibia rather than South Africa. In the 1970s, the men were recruited by the South African Defence Force in its struggle against Swapo in Namibia and were deployed in bases in western Caprivi and Bushmanland. When Namibia gained its independence, large numbers of the San soldiers opted to move to South Africa rather than remain in Namibia.

They were resettled in military tents at Schmidtsdrift, where for nine years they endured harsh conditions, with few opportunities to earn an income. Following a land claim by the Bathlaping Tswana, the government bought the farm Platfontein where the San were moved once again. Various employment and skills development projects have been initiated, among them the production of crafts. Guests on a South African holiday can purchase a wide range of traditional crafts, paintings, textiles, ceramics and tinwork in the shop at Platfontein.


...is one of several sites in southern Africa where the floor over which glaciers moved some 345 to 280 million years ago is preserved. During this period, vast ice sheets that had formed on the highlands of southern Africa and the adjoining parts of the Gondwana supercontinent began moving under their own weight. At Nooitgedacht the parallel and slightly divergent striations made by rock fragments carried in the glaciers as they moved across the Ventersdorp lavas (dating back over 2 500 million years) can clearly be seen, and are orientated in a northeast-southwest direction.

These 'glacial pavements' were later used by San shamans to execute rock engravings. The Nooitgedacht engravings depict many geometric patterns, but there are also engravings of human figures, antelope, rhino and elephant.


...on the northern bank of the Vaal River, was originally known as Klipdrift. After the discovery of rich alluvial diamond-bearing gravels, thousands of hopeful diggers set up camp at what became known as Canteen Koppie. While a dispute ensued over possession of the area, the diggers declared their own republic. Attempts by ZAR President MW Pretorius to exercise jurisdiction over the area were ignored, and the dispute was only settled when Britain annexed the territory of Griqualand West on 27 October 1871.

In December 1871, Sir Henry Barkly, Governor of the Cape, was also appointed Governor of Griqualand West and Canteen Koppie was later renamed in his honour. Most of the diggers left when diamonds were discovered on the farms Bultfontein, Vooruitzig and Dorstfontein in early 1871. Some diggers, however, persevered, and the search for diamonds still continues in this region, both by hand and with modern earth-moving equipment.

In addition to its place in South Africa's diamond history, Canteen Koppie is also an archaeological treasure-house, and finds have included implements dating back to the Earlier Stone Age and the fossilised remains of numerous animals.


...on the western bank of the Vaal River, was originally known to the Khoikhoi as Chaib, a name meaning 'place of the kudu'. On a South African holiday, visit this village, which developed around a mission station with the biblical name of Hebron. It was the discovery of alluvial diamonds in 1869 that drew large numbers of prospectors and fortune-seekers to the area.

A diamond-diggers' camp soon sprung up on land owned by a trader, PF Windsor, after whom the camp was named. Although alluvial diamonds are still mined by a few diggers, the churned-up river gravels bear testimony to more hectic days.


...is an important railway junction, and is also the main centre for the Vaal-Harts irrigation scheme. Situated on the banks of the Vaal River, the town grew around an irrigation scheme developed by a syndicate on the western part of the farm Grasbult to supply fresh vegetables to the diggers on the diamond fields. The town itself was established in 1884 and named after Sir Charles Warren, who was appointed in 1877 to oversee the allocation of mineral rights and land in Griqualand West.

The discovery of diamonds on common grazing land attracted another diamond rush and thus mining continued until 1926. Warrenton is also the main commercial centre of the Vaal-Harts irrigationscheme, which covers 36 950 ha and is one of the largest of its kind in the world. The scheme consists of a diversion weir on the Vaal River, from where water is fed into a 180-km-long canal system to water the fertile valley of the Harts River. A variety of agricultural crops such as wheat, maize, groundnuts, lucerne and cotton are grown under irrigation in the valley.

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