Kimberley's Diggie
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Places in and around Kimberley

For further information about Kimberley
please contact
Kimberley Tourism at
or by phone at +27 (0)53 832 7298 or fax +27 (0)53 832 7211.

Interesting Places In Kimberley

The Big Hole was originally a little kopje in 1871 where a diamond was found. As people heard about it they came to stake their claims. Today the Big Hole is part of a Museum complex that receives many thousands of visitors each year. There is a gift shop as well as a restaurant / pub at the museum.
The Diggers Memorial was erected in honour of diggers past and present.  This fountain you will find in the Ernest Oppenheimer Gardens. The gardens are a memorial to the late Sir Ernest Oppenheimer,  a mining magnate. He was the first mayor of Kimberley when Beaconsfield and Kimberley were combined into a city in 1912.
This memorial commemorates those who lost their lives defending Kimberley during the 124 day siege of Kimberley at the start of the 1899 - 1902 Anglo Boer War. "Long Cecil", the gun named after Rhodes and built in the De Beers Workshops during the siege, stands on the stylobate of the monument.  
The City Hall was built in 1899.  It was completed just before the start of the Anglo- Boer War.
Established in 1881, and a national monument since 1984.  Some of its more famous members were Cecil John Rhodes, Barney Barnato, Sir Ernest Oppenheimer and Harry Oppenheimer. Renovated and upgraded to 4/5 star standards in 2005.
DE BEERS HEAD OFFICE - Stockdale Street
Originally the headquarters of Barney Barnato's Kimberley Central Diamond Mining Company, this is now the international headquarters of De Beers Consolidated Mines Ltd, which was established in 1888 by Cecil John Rhodes. This building has been a national monument since 1985.
Diamonds from all over South Africa are sorted daily inside this building. Since diamonds are best sorted by gentle natural light, the building has windows only on the south side to prevent direct sunlight from entering. The building is not open to the public.
Steam train enthusiasts will have a field day when they visit the Beaconsfield Marshalling Yards.  There are a few steam locomotives in beautiful condition still to be seen.
Situated half way between Kimberley city centre and Beaconsfield, "The Half" was, and still is, a drive-in pub (believed to be the only one remaining in the world). Legend has it that the original "driver" was Cecil Rhodes on his horse, en route between his mining interests in Kimberley and Beaconsfield. Another legend has it that when instructed by the municipality to erect a 6ft [2m] wall around the front of the premises, the then owners of "The Half" dug a 6ft deep trench and erected the wall in the bottom of that. (Apparently these both fall into the category of "urban legends" - but they make good yarns to tell visitors!)
One of the country's oldest pubs, "The Star" still operates near the Kimberley Mine Museum. It was built in the early 1870s from wood and iron and granted its first liquor license in 1873.  The Kimberley tram stops on request outside the pub for those who wish to take a closer look, or to partake of a little light refreshment. This pub was declared a national monument in 1990.

The Northern Cape's Dynamic Past

(With thanks to David Morris of the McGregor Museum, Kimberley)

In a long history stretching back thousands of years different groups of people have come into interaction in the Northern Cape. Through the colonial frontier period considerable complexity was added to the mix. But partly because of environmental extremes between arid and better watered areas, different lifestyles such as hunting and gathering, herding, and farming, practiced by people of different cultural background, have persisted alongside one another. Many people here trace their roots back to a broadly Khoisan past. In remote northern and western parts of the province there are a few old people still speaking nearly extinct San and Khoekhoe languages such as N/u and Nama. In the north eastern regions of the province SeTswana cultural influences have predominated for perhaps almost a millennium, while groups of Xhosa lived and traded in the Karoo frontier and along the !Garib (Orange River) from the late eighteenth century. The history of the Northern Cape Griqua is part of the same frontier story when "forgotten frontiersmen" including "Bastaard" and white Trekboer herders moved inland from the Cape and established new territorial claims across these wide pastures. Missionaries and traders came and were party to the interactions - and conflicts - between these various groupings. The discovery of mineral wealth changed forever the way people envisaged what is now the Northern Cape. The copper mines, then the diamond diggings, attracted huge influxes of fortune seekers and migrant workers.

Early in the twentieth century, photographer Alfred Duggan-Cronin was inspired by the cultural mix that was Kimberley to venture into its sub-continental hinterland recording the rural tribal life that was linked into this area through this history. His photographs are a unique snap-shot of a period poised between what was old and what was new. The Duggan-Cronin Gallery at the McGregor Museum houses this collection, and new displays are being planned.

The province’s archaeological heritage is not surprisingly a rich tapestry that includes rock art traditions dating back, in the case of engravings, more than 10 000 years at Wonderwerk Cave near Kuruman. The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre just outside Kimberley is today one of South Africa’s premier public rock engraving sites. It boasts displays, a movie and an audio walking tour over the site. Guided tours are offered to other rock art sites in the region.

The McGregor Museum’s "Ancestors Gallery" shows the long sweep of human history here from handaxe times more than a million years ago, to the emergence of modern humans in Africa and of cultural behaviours that include art, to the coming of farmers and state formation in the last 2000 years. It concludes with a novel and challenging look at our frontier history - out of which a quite different South Africa would have emerged had it not been for the finding of diamonds and gold.


A Diverse Culture

Southern Africa's original human inhabitants are believed to be the San (bushman). The San were hunter-gatherers whose last remnants still survive in small numbers in the Kalahari Desert.  Approximately 2000 years ago there began a far reaching revolution in the social system - namely the acquisition and keeping of livestock by some groups in the northern parts.  These new pastoralists, who became known as khoikhoi, thought themselves to be superior to the San and it eventually led to conflict over the common property of the community.

The confluence of the Orange and Vaal rivers became an important settlement area for the khoikhoi in their search for new pastures and it is thought that the settlement split into three groups after a major dispute.  One group, the Koranna, remained whilst the Nama moved towards the west coast and the Einiqua followed the Orange River westward.

The Art of the San (Bushman)

A relatively small number of San rock paintings and engravings is to be found throughout the province.  The most striking characteristics of their art are the boldness and simplicity of design, accurate draughtmanship and limited use of colour, according to the pigments that were available. Engravings were also hammered into rock with stone and similar hard implements (flint does not occur naturally in South Africa).  Until recently it was impossible to assess their age with any degree of accuracy, but engraved stone fragments discovered in the Wonderwerk Cave near Kuruman were positively identified as being some 10 000 years old.  This history has left the Northern Cape with a rich heritage of diverse people, cultures and traditions, many of which still survive today.

The greatest concentration of rock paintings and engravings in the world occur in Southern Africa.  Most of this art was produced by Later Stone Age people, ancestors of the historical San, some examples of which date back 27 000 years.  This artistic tradition continued into the colonial era.

The art is sophisticated in its detail and depth of meaning.  Animal images are a major symbolic element most commonly portrayed by the eland which occupies an important place in San mythology.  Religious beliefs and dances are also depicted.

Rock engravings are generally found on open hills or rocky outcrops where the art occurs in caves and rock shelters.  The style and content varies across the region linked by similarities from a broad single tradition.

The San were model conservationists who knew that in the preservation of their environment lay the guarantee for their very existence.  They co-existed with nature for centuries until, with the arrival of the colonists, many families settled and became absorbed into the larger Northern Cape community.

Today, small groups of San live in the Mier area, on the fringes of Riemvasmaak and in the Kalahari.  Their skills as herbalists are much sought after and increasingly they are interacting with visitors and in so doing are contributing meaningfully to the tourism outreach.

A San cultural centre is planned at Rietfontein in the far northwest of the province and it is here that the San will be encouraged to preserve their cultural heritage at a multi purpose centre comprising a museum, and interactive learning centre and a craft shop.  In other areas their traditional lands are being restored to communities.

Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre

±15km [10m] north west on the road to Barkly West

(With thanks to David Morris of the McGregor Museum, Kimberley)

Wildebeest Kuil is one of some 15 000 known rock art sites in South Africa. The art occurs in two forms: paintings and, as at Wildebeest Kuil, engravings. Engravings are found mostly on the dry inland plateau.

Most of the art was made by Later Stone Age people, ancestors of the historical San (also known as Bushmen). People who called themselves /Xam San from the Karoo (who were interviewed in the 1870s) said their fathers made engravings of animals.

The engravings at Wildebeest Kuil, and their setting in the landscape, hint at a spirituality - reflected also in the beliefs of the /Xam and other San groups - that can be sensed in many thousands of painting and engraving sites across the country.

Wildebeest Kuil is approached by way of a magnificent Rock Art Centre, a building which houses displays, auditorium, arts and craft shop, and tearoom. A 25-minute film introduces the visitor to the site, and the history of the !Xun and Khwe San who now own the surrounding land. An audio tour - along a pathway some 800 m long - provides fascinating commentary on the site and its art.

Wildebeest Kuil is a place with the traces of many histories, stretching from the ancient past into the present.

The earliest traces of a human presence here are in the form of handaxes several hundred thousand years old. Long periods of stone age history are reflected.

On the hill are the engravings. Alongside are some of the artefacts left behind by the makers of the art, Later Stone Age hunter-gatherers ancestral to the Khoisan. The engravings are about one to two thousand years old.

Descendants of the artists were caught up in the struggle for land as the colonial frontier advanced inland. Many perished. Those who remained were absorbed into colonial society.

The recent history, also woven into the visitor experience, is of a nineteenth century road-side inn, of farmers, and of twentieth century farm-worker life, with a variety of stone structures and ash-heaps giving each a distinctive archaeological signature.

The eland was a favourite animal to the makers of South Africa's rock art, and it appears in many majestic images. Its fat, its blood, its sweat, were all believed by the /Xam to be sources of supernatural potency called !gi. The shamans or medicine people in a hunter-gatherer group would, in their beliefs, harness this potency for entering the spirit world - during the healing dance - to make rain; to cure the sick; to fight off the evil spirits of the dead; to visit distant relatives by out-of-body travel; or to lead faraway game closer for the hunters. Many other animal images occur at Wildebeest Kuil and their symbolism combines to make the spiritual power of the hill even stronger.

The Northern Cape Rock Art Trust hosts rock art tours to two other unique sites in the Kimberley area, Nooitgedacht, and Driekopseiland where spreads of more than 3000 images occur on the glaciated bed of the Riet River.


Wildebeest Kuil is on land now owned by the !Xun and Khwe San Communities, who purchased the property through the Land Reform programme of the Department of Land Affairs, in 1996. The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre belongs to the Northern Cape Rock Art Trust, which, with !Xun and Khwe representation on it, ensures public access to the art, which is part of South Africa's national estate. The San Communities (along with other Khoisan people and organisations also represented on the Trust) see in the rock art of Wildebeest Kuil a link with their precolonial past in the subcontinent. The struggle of the last independent Khoisan of the Kimberley area is reflected in the story around Wildebeest Kuil. So, too, is the tumultuous recent history of the !Xun and Khwe, who were displaced from Angola and Namibia by political upheavals from the 1960s. For the first time in their modern history the !Xun and Khwe now hold legal title to land - the Platfontein-Wildebeest Kuil farms - and enjoy full citizenship and the privileges of being part of the broader South African community.

Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre provides an opportunity for the !Xun and Khwe art, crafts and textiles to be displayed and sold with direct benefits to the individual artists and craft workers. Members of the !Xun and Khwe San communities run the shop and tearoom in the Centre.

The !Xun and Khwe languages are spoken by these San communities, who retain other distinctive cultural features and spiritual perspectives. Traditional dance groups have been formed, and knowledge is being recorded on remembered hunting and gathering practices. The Centre provides information on these aspects and can arrange tours to the artists' and crafters' studios.

Barkly West

±30km [20m] north west 

After the discovery of diamonds at Klipdrift on the Vaal River in 1869, this was renamed Barkly West in 1873, having become part of the Crown colony of Griqualand West. Renowned writer Sarah Gertrude Millin grew up in the district.  Her father opened and operated a shop in Barkly West.  One of the first towns to be affected by the diamond rush, the district's economy is driven by stock and irrigation farming.

Activities and Attractions

bullet Alluvial Diamond Diggings:
Licensed prospectors still sift the sand and gravel of the Vaal River for ever elusive diamonds.
bullet Barkly Bridge:
The first to cross the Vaal River, the bridge was built with steel girders in 1885.  It is still in use.
bullet Canteen Koppie:
Alluvial diamond diggings from 1869 onwards revealed many archeological sites along the Vaal River.  This is one of the most exceptional. A walking trail is on site.
bullet Nooitgedacht Glacial Pavings:
Rock scoured and striated by slow-moving ice that covered the land some 250 million years ago contains many Khoisan petroglyphs.
bullet Old Toll House:
On the Orange River's north bank.
bullet St Mary's Anglican Church:
Built in 1871, it was the first church on the diamond fields.


±100km [60m] west on the road to Upington.

This village, on the edge of the Ghaap Plateau, was one of the earliest centres of Christianity north of the Orange River.  Originally known as Grootfontein or Knoffelvallei, the town was renamed to honour the Reverend John Campbell, a traveller and missionary who visited the Cape stations of the London Missionary Society in 1813.  Renowned for its spectacular dolomite rock formations, high-quality fossils, many springs, Karee and Wild Olive trees, Campbell has a multi-faceted history and has been home to San, Koranna and later Griqua settlers drawn by the springs.

Activities and Attractions

bullet Aloe Nature Reserve:
A kloof on the edge of the Ghaap plateau, now the Aloe Nature Reserve, is mentioned in accounts by early travellers including Burchell and Andrew Smith.
bullet Bartlett's Church:
Completed in 1831 and proclaimed a national monument in 1960, it is one of the oldest churches north of the Orange River.  Reverends Robert Moffat and David Livingstone both preached from its pulpit.


±150km [95m] west on the road to Upington

In 1803 the London Missionary Society extended its mission north of the Orange river among a mixed community consisting of members of a Chaguriqua tribe, people from Piketberg, and local tribes like the Koranna and Tswana.  Their leaders were Adam Kok ll and Andries Waterboer.  In 1813 the Piketberg people were named Griquas, and the town Griquatown by the Rev John Campbell.  Griquatown is know for its semiprecious stones, tiger's eye and jasper.  The town is a centre for the stockbreeding farmers and farming products include wool and karakul pelts.

Activities and Attractions

bullet Andries Waterboer's Grave:
Two cannons, "old Niklaas" and "old Grietjie", gifts from Queen Victoria are guarding his resting place.
bullet Mary Moffat Museum:
The building was a mission church.  The museum was named after Mary Livingstone, eldest daughter of Robert and Mary Moffat.  A pulpit used by Moffat, Waterboer and David Livingstone, can be seen here.


100km [60m] south west on the road to Prieska

Known for its game, beef, mutton and irrigation farming, Douglas was founded in 1848 as a mission station on the farm, Backhouse, by the Reverend Isaac Hughes.  In 1867 a group of Europeans from Griquatown signed an agreement giving them the right to establish a town.  It was named after Lieutenant-General Sir Percy Douglas.  Near the confluence of the Orange River and its main tributary, the Vaal River, Douglas is a thriving, fast-growing town surrounded by a wealth of agricultural and stock farming ventures fed by two of South Africa's greatest rivers.  A booming holiday centre, it is fast becoming a town besieged by hunters on their way to the area's many hunting lodges and game farms.

Activities and Attractions

bullet Backhouse:
Perhaps the largest Brahman cattle stud farm in the country, it is open to visitors by prior arrangement.
bullet Die Neus:
A scenic spot 14km from town.  Die Neus is on the confluence of the Orange and Vaal Rivers.
bullet Douglas Wine Cellar:
Established in 1968.  The cellar produces a wide variety of table and desert wines.  Visitors are welcome.
bullet Driekopseiland:
Some 3000 rock engravings and petroglyphs spread over a large area of glacial pavement in the Riet River bed.
bullet Sport:
Excellent freshwater fishing on the Vaal and river rafting on the Orange River.

Modder River

±40km [25m] south on the road to Cape Town

Modder River lies south of Kimberley, near the confluence of the Riet and Modder rivers in the vicinity of several monuments commemorating the Anglo-Boer War Battle of Modder River.  Today, this small town is known for its irrigation and stock farming.


±60km [40m] north on the road to Johannesburg.

On the banks of the Vaal River, Windsorton started out as Hebron, a mission station.  Diamonds were discovered in the river and prospectors flooded the village.  The missionaries were sent packing and the town of Windsorton took root in the diggers camp named after PF Windsor, owner of the land on which it developed.  Diamonds are still found in the area.

Jan Kempdorp

±100km [60m] north on the road to Johannesburg and then to Vryburg

An idyllic town situated in the centre of the Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme.  Covered with thousands of trees and shrubs, it is fast becoming the most beautiful Garden town in the Northern Cape. Originally known as Andalusia.


±130km [20m] north on the road to Johannesburg and then to Vryburg

Laid out in 1948 as a town serving the northern section of the Vaalharts irrigation scheme, Hartswater's growth has been nurtured by its gurgling irrigation canals and today is surrounded by myriad trees and vast tracts of fertile ground.

Activities and Attractions

bullet Wine Cooperative: 
Enjoy wine tasting and buy some local wines.
bullet Langeberg Cooperative:
Vegetable dehydration is undertaken here.
bullet Vaalharts Irrigation Scheme:
Covering 36 950ha the scheme is one of the largest irrigation schemes in the world, watering 1 250 farms of some 25ha each in the lush, Vaalharts Valley.
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