This is the best of the North-West. From food and accommodation to entertainment and activities, it’s all covered.
There are few more magical experiences than a hot air balloon ride as the sun appears over the horizon. As you drift lazily with the wind, enjoying the panoramic views, the early morning serenity and tranquillity is punctuated only by the occasional chirping of birds and the frequent burst of flames into the hot air balloon. The legendary Bill Harrop has been flying happy customers on magical balloon rides since 1981. On landing you are awarded a “Citation of Bravery”, personally signed by Bill, followed by a delectable breakfast.
Skeerpoort Country Base, Border of Gauteng and North West Province. (011)705-3201 http://www.balloon.co.za.
The Magaliesberg Canopy Tour is an adrenaline-pumping Tarzan and Jane style eco-adventure through the Magaliesberg Mountains, the second oldest mountain range in the world. Cabled slides are joined to platforms that have been built into the rocky cliff, thirty metres over the canopy floor. You slide along the zip lines at high speed in a zig-zag pattern, surrounded by spectacular beauty. The trained guides simultaneously educate you on the flora and fauna of the region. It is safe for kids and the elderly and promises great fun.
Rietfontein Farm JQ 348, Rustenburg (014)535-0150 www.magaliescanopytour.co.za
There is plenty of game-viewing in the North-West but two of my personal favourite reserves are Pilanesberg Game Reserve and Madikwe Game Reserve. Although they are two of South Africa’s lesser-known game reserves, they rank amongst the largest in the country. Both offer thousands of hectares of malaria-free bushveld, with some of the best Big 5 game viewing and most luxurious lodges in the world. Self-driving is permitted in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve but not in Madikwe Game Reserve.
Madikwe Game Reserve, Zeerust (018)350-9938 www.madikwegamereserve.co.za
Pilanesberg National Park, Bojanala, (014)555-1600, www.pilanesbergnationalpark.org
Adventure-seekers will love Hartebeespoort Dam. It offers a wide range of outdoor activities, from a variety of land and air pursuits to water sports, including para-gliding, hiking, jet-skiing and quad-biking amid the picturesque surroundings. If you prefer more relaxing activities, go for a sundowner cruise, take a ride on the Hartebeespoort Aerial Cableway or visit the numerous art galleries and animal sanctuaries in the vicinity.
Plot 3, Melodie, Agricultural Holdings, Hartbeespoort, (072)241-2654 www.hartiescableway.co.za
The Cradle of Humankind
Go back in time at the Cradle of Humankind, one of eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa. It is world-famous as the place where humankind originated and lies on the border of Gauteng and the North-West province. The first hominid was found here in 1924 by Professor Raymond Dart of the University of the Witwatersrand. Maropeng is the official visitor centre and focuses on the development of humans over the past few million years. You can also explore the Sterkfontein Caves which are world-renowned for their fossil finds including “Mrs Ples,” and “Little Foot”.
Maropeng Visitor Centre, R563 Hekpoort Road, Sterkfontein (014)577-9000 www.maropeng.co.za
Van Gaalen Kaasmakerij
For a more cheesy experience, you can visit the Van Gaalen Cheese Farm where you can observe the age-old Dutch method of making ‘Boerenkaas’ and buy some to take home. Educational tours are available, and the farm houses a restaurant and accommodation in two self-catering cottages, if you would like to stay over.
Van Gaalen Kaasmakerij, Skeerpoort, North-West, (012)207-1289 www.vangaalen.co.za
Silver Orange Bistro
Savour contemporary South African cuisine at Silver Orange Bistro, a country-style bistro situated on a family-owned citrus farm in the Hartbeespoort area. With an emphasis on local ingredients and clean flavours, it is regarded by many as one of the best restaurants in the North-West Province.
R513, Hartbeespoort, (082)378-2948 www.silverorangebistro.co.za
Be inspired by the East at The Orient Hotel, an intimate 5-star boutique hotel rich with Oriental treasures – think Maharajah’s beds, Aladdin’s carpets and Arabian nights. It is technically in Gauteng but very close to the North-West border. The décor is inspired by the owners’ travels over the years and many of the striking features of the hotel are original antiques from the East that have found new homes in The Orient. It is also home to the Art Nouveau styled Restaurant Mosaic, which is headed by one of South Africa’s top chefs, Chantel Dartnall. Here, you can indulge your palate with her acclaimed seasonal degustation menus.
Francolin Conservation Area, Crocodile River Valley, Elandsfontein, Pretoria. (012)371-2902 www.restaurantmosaic.com
Sun City is probably the North-West’s main claim to fame. It is much more than a casino and more of an all-in-one family entertainment destination. Golf, safaris, water sports, adventure sports, kids’ entertainment, a range of accommodation to suit different budgets and many great restaurants – Sun City has it all.
Rustenburg, North West (011)780-7810 www.suninternational.com/sun-city
Sparkling Waters is a 3 star and AA Highly Recommended Hotel & Spa situated in the heart of the Magaliesberg Mountain Range. The rooms are situated in sub-tropical gardens and are spacious and comfortable. There is an award-winning spa on the premises and the Magaliesberg Canopy tours is also part of their offering. Breakfast and dinner are included in the rates making the resort great value for money. The Sunday lunch at the resort is a popular weekly event attracting visitors from all over.
Rietfontein Farm JQ 348, Rietfontein, www.sparklingwaters.co.za
Jaci’s award-winning accommodation is amongst the most child-friendly safari lodges in South Africa. It consists of two lodges situated close to each other on the banks of the Marico River – Jaci’s Tree Lodge which boasts a number of wonderfully secluded lodges built on stilts high among the trees and Jaci’s Safari Lodge which comprises luxury tents. The tents stay open during the day allowing guests to enjoy the view. It is tranquil and peaceful with no artificial noise to shatter the peace. Be sure to spend some time at the luxurious tree hide where you can put your feet up and watch the wildlife for hours on end.
Jaci’s Lodges, Madikwe Game Reserve (083)700-2071 www.jacislodges.com
Get some retail therapy at this 10-hectare shopping, eating and entertainment area at Hartbeespoort Dam. It includes an African craft market selling handmade curios, huge gardens, a home décor centre with 28 different stores, kids’ play areas with jumping castles, jungle gyms, sandpits and other activities and restaurants and cafes for different palates. It also has a snake and reptile park. Chameleon Village, 2 km west of the Hartbeespoort Dam wall on the R104. (072)326-7125 www.chameleonvillage.co.za.
Welwitschia Country Market
Shop at Welwitschia Country Market, a charming flea market featuring 40 shops, 4 restaurants and fun for the whole family. Stalls offers a wide range of wares including clothing, African arts & crafts, books, novelties & curios, leather ware, jewellery, furniture, and lots more.
Damdoryn Crossing, Hartbeespoort Dam (083)302-8085 www.countrymarket.co.za
This article was first published in SAA Sawubona magazine.