When we foreigners think of South Africa, we think: Table Mountain, Cape Town and safaris. Yet just outside of Johannesburg are two of the most spectacular destinations on earth: The Cradle of Humankind and the Magaliesberg Mountain Range. These destinations should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list. Both are located within an hour’s drive of Johannesburg. With the abundance of hotels and self-catering accommodation in Johannesburg, the city makes the perfect base from which backpackers and tourists can explore these spectacular destinations.
The Cradle of Humankind
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999, The Cradle contains a network of caves, including the world famous Sterkfontein caves which are of immense archaeological importance. These caves are renowned as the world’s most abundant source of hominid remains and the finds here account for around 40% of prehistoric human remains that have been discovered. Many famous Australopithecus remains were unearthed here including, “Mrs Ples”, the “Taung Child” skull and “Little Foot” which have been of immense importance to archaeologists and scientists studying human evolution. The oldest hominid fossils discovered here are a staggering 3.5 million years old. Excavation work is on-going but it is possible to visit many of these caves.
Maropeng Visitor’s Centre
In 2005 the official Maropeng Visitors’ Centre was opened at the site. The Tumulus Building, which houses the Maropend Exhibition, is a stunning example of architecture. Designed to look like an immense burial mound, inside you will discover an open air grass amphitheatre which can seat 10,000 people and a subterranean boat tunnel.
The Maropeng Exhibition takes the visitor on a journey from the beginning of the world, to the emergence of human ancestors, the discovery of fire and right up to the present day, exploring issues of sustainability and environmental issues. This is a great destination for the whole family, educational, interactive and awe inspiring. There are regular special events throughout the year.
The Cradle of Luxury
The Cradle of Humanity hosts several beautiful spas set within the beautiful landscape. The tranqulity of the region makes it the ideal location for a spa break, whether visiting for the day or staying overnight at one of the luxurious lodges. Jacuzzis, swimming pools and a myriad of different massages and treatments are available.
As this destination is 40km outside of Johannesburg it is wonderfully free of noise, light and industry pollution, making it the perfect place to indulge in some romantic star gazing. Marvel at the night sky, littered with thousands of crystal clear stars.
Luxury dining and authentic African cuisine is available at numerous sites within the region and the opportunity to sample wild game such as zebra and crocodile!
The Home of Adventure
The Cradle of Humanity is also a great destination for the adventurous type. Luxury balloon safaris over the open plains, along the Magalies River Valley or above the Magaliesberg Range are available. The magnificent Magaliesberg Range is the world’s oldest mountain range, far older than Mount Everest. What could be better than a panoramic view of this beautiful scenery on an exhilarating balloon flight?
One alternative is a bi-plane ride! Take to the sky in a vintage Tiger Moth to view the landscape and wildlife of this amazing region on the trip of a lifetime.
For the truly adventurous there are also bungee jumping opportunities, mountain biking trails, paleo-tours within The Cradle and wild cave adventures.
The Cradle of Humanity is also home to The Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve which boasts an amazing 30 different species of animal. You can visit the Reserve’s breeding centre, snake and reptile park, take to the horse trails or go on a game drive to view the wildlife.
With so much to see and do, why would you want to go anywhere else?
Steven Capocci is a blogger who loves to travel. If you are interested in visiting this region why not look into the hotels and self-catering accommodation in Johannesburg?