Kimberley

Travel Guide Africa South Africa Northern Cape Kimberley

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Introduction

The Big Hole!

The Big Hole!

© Taffski

Kimberley is located right in the centre of South Africa and is the capital of the Northern Cape province. The city has about 175,000 inhabitants and is the birthplace of the De Beers diamond company, the largest in the world. It has kind of a Wild West feeling and can feel a little rough around the edges (like uncut diamonds!) but it's a great place to spend a day or two and visit its main feature: The Big Hole!

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Sights and Activities

The Big Hole

Come and visit what Kimberley is all about: the The Big Hole. This is the largest hand-dug hole in the world and still is owned by De Beers Consolidated Mines company. There are tours lasting about an hour and admission costs 80 rand. It's open every day from 8am until 5pm, except Good Friday (Friday before Easter) and the 25th of December. The tour is surprisinly objective and the downside of mining is also portrayed. Tours include a 20-minute film and walk around to the viewing platforms, where you can see how deep the Big Hole actually is: a massive 800 metres! A turquoise lake fills up most of it though, except the last 150 metres or so. There is also a simulated mining experience which provides a great insight into how bad the life of miners actually was.

Other Sights and Activities

  • Honoured Dead Memorial - 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.
  • Kimberley City Hall - The City Hall was built in 1899. It was completed just before the start of the Anglo- Boer War.
  • The Kimberley Club - 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, it is now also a boutique hotel.
  • Harry Oppenheimer House - 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.
  • The Halfway House Inn, 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!)
  • The Star of the West - 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 licence 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.
  • Galeshewe Township
  • Anglo-Boer War Battlefields
  • Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Tourism Centre
  • William Humpreys Art Gallery - One of the most important galleries in the country, the WHAG houses a collection of traditional and contemporary South African graphics, sculptures and paintings. It hosts many special exhibitions from time to time.
  • Duggan Cronin Gallery - Exhibits indigenous cultures and lifestyles in some 8,000 photographs taken by Irishman AM Duggan Cronin between 1919 and 1939 are just some of the invaluable ethnographic collection.
  • Rudd House - Formerly the lavish home of HP Rudd, a mining magnate. It was restored to its full grandeur by the McGregor Museum. It was declared a national monument in 1990. This house can be viewed by appointment with the McGregor Museum.
  • Dunluce An elegant home built in 1897 for Gustav Bonas. It was John Orr's family home from 1902 to 1975. It was declared a national monument in 1990. This home may be viewed by appointment with the McGregor Museum.
  • McGregor Museum Constructed in 1897 by De Beers as a sanatorium, the building has served as a luxury hotel (Hotel Belgrave) and later as a convent school. The museum provides research and advice to a wide range of community projects throughout the Northern Cape.
  • Magersfontein Battlefield and Museum The battlefield is located about 30 km south of Kimberley, drive via the Airport Road, or N12 and turn into Modder River. On the site is an small office and restaurant as well as restrooms. Scattered around is look-out sites and information signs, guiding the visitor. The whole area is fenced in and there is an small fee to enter the compound. You need a car, sunscreen and plenty of water - distances can be long, and you will need to walk to some of the monuments. For some of the smaller roads in the area an 4x4 vehicle can be helpful.
  • Memorial to the Pioneers of Aviation Established in 1912/13. The birthplace of the South African Air Force. It is a reconstruction of the hangar, with a replica of the Compton Paterson bi-plane used in flight training. Just past the airport on the way to Magersfontein.
  • Flamingo Island. Birdwatchers will be interested to know that this new bird breeding facility has been built at Kamfers Dam (7 km north of the city). The island is home to the Lesser Flamingo and is one of only four places in the whole of Africa (and the only locality in South Africa) where they breed. Kamfers Dam supports the largest permanent population of Lesser Flamingos in southern Africa, with at times up to an estimated 60,000 individuals (comprising more than 50% of the southern African population).
  • Diggers' Memorial 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.

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Weather

Kimberley has a dry and warm climate. Summers last from November to March when temperatures are mostly around or above 30 °C while nights are actually rather pleasant. Temperatures can get above 40 °C during some days though. Winters last from June to August when it's mostly very clear with blue skies and sunny conditions. Temperatures are way lower but still pleasant at around 20 °C. Nights can get cold though and frost is not unheard of. Although Kimberley is dry, there are showers from September until April.

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Getting There

By Plane

Kimberley Airport (KIM) has flights to and from Johannesburg with South African Express and to and from Cape Town with South African Airlink.

By Train

Shosholoza Meyl is the national railway and several trains stop in Kimberley:

  • Cape Town - Durban via Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Kroonstad and Ladysmith, 36 hours, tourist and economy class both once weekly
  • Johannesburg - Cape Town via Kimberley and Matjiesfontein, 27 hours, premier class twice weekly, tourist 4 weekly and economy daily.

By Car

Kimberley is at the crossroads of the N8 east towards Bloemfontein and the N12 between Vryburg and Britstown, eventually meeting the N1 towards Cape Town.

Sample distances from Kimberley are:

  • Johannesburg - 476 kilometres
  • Bloemfontein - 177 kilometres
  • Cape Town - 968 kilometres
  • Durban - 811 kilometres
  • East London - 780 kilometres
  • Port Elizabeth - 743 kilometres
  • Pretoria - 530 kilometres

By Bus

Several bus companies serve Kimberley, among which is Translux. Daily buses go to Johannesburg and Pretoria taking about 7 hours. Daily buses to Cape Town take about 12 hours. Minibuses also travel on these routes and take a little less time. There are also minibuses on a regular basis to Bloemfontein (2.5 hours), Kuruman (2 hours) and Upington (4 hours)

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Getting Around

By Foot

Most of the city's centre can easily be negotiated on foot, though you need a car to get to some of the outskirts.

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Eat

Kimberley has a very wide variety of restaurants from which the visitor can choose.

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Drink

Kimberley has a very wide variety of pubs from which the visitor can choose.

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Sleep

Kimberley has a very wide variety of hotels, backpacker hostels, lodges, guest houses and bed & breakfast establishments from which the visitor can choose.

  • Gum Tree Lodge Kimberley Youth Hostel - Hull street old Bloemfontein road R64, ☏ +27 53 8328577. Dorm beds with own bathrooms. Has a nice swimming pool. R150 per person.
  • Heerengracht Guest House
  • Formula 1 hotel
  • Bishop's Lodge
  • Ekhaya Guest House
  • Kimberley Club Boutiqua Hotel
  • Australian Arms Guest House
  • Edgerton House
  • Protea Hotel
  • Hadida Guest House, 8 Howie Road, ☏ +27 53 861-2323, ✉ hadida@kimberley.co.za. A good three-star B&B that is centrally located. It has a TV in all rooms and a swimming pool. From R250.
  • Greatbatch Guest House, 3 Egerton Road, ☏ +27 53 8321113. Check-in: noon, check-out: noon. Dorm beds and double rooms all with their own bathrooms. Has a swimming pool. from R180 pp.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Big cities and most of the popular places in the country usually have an internet café though they are not as abundant as in, for example, Asia or South America. It's also relatively expensive, usually 20-30 rand an hour, sometimes even more. Many of the accommodation options have internet access available, either wireless with your own laptop or by their own computer(s). Wireless access is also available throughout the country in more and more cafes and eateries, sometimes free and sometimes for a small fee. Note that you usually have to login anyway and agree with the terms and conditions. It is cheapest to buy a prepaid cell phone starter pack (less than R10) and access the Internet with GPRS or 3G. Generally R2 per MB for out of bundle data from most providers (50c for Virgin Mobile), but it becomes a lot cheaper if you buy a data bundle. In general coverage is good except the more rural parts of the northern and northwestern parts of the country (especially Northern Cape).

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

South Africa's country code is 27. Telephone numbers in South Africa are 10 digits, including the local area code. There are also some prefixes like 0800 (toll free), 0860 (charged as local call) and 0861 (flat-rate calls). The general emergency number is 10111, ambulance is 10177 and police is 1011.

South Africa has very good phone facilities, which are also becoming more and more competitively priced, now that more operators are active on the market. The main ones are Neotel and Telkom South Africa. Local phone calls are cheap (about one Rand an hour), domestic long-distance calls are about twice as expensive. International calls start at around 6 Rand an hour but can be (much) higher to less usual countries. Note that public phones are about twice as cheap as new private phone centres. Phone calls tend to be the cheapest during the weekend and during business hours (8:00am to 5:00pm) on weekdays and more expensive during the evening and nights at weekdays.

There are also good mobile-phone facilities, with GSM and 3G networks. There are five cell phone providers in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C, Virgin Mobile and 8ta. SIM card prepaid starter kits are available from R10. You will need a passport and a proof of residential address and it has to be registered before you can call or receive calls. You can buy credit for prepaid phones just about everywhere, remembering you will usually need cash to do so from service stations.

Post

The SAPO (South African Post Office) is the nation's postal service. They have a track & trace system for parcels as well. Post offices are open from 8:30am to 4:30pm from Monday to Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Domestic and international deliveries are reliable but can sometimes take up to several weeks. If you want to send something oversees of any value, try using one of the private mail services, like Postnet. Also international courier companies like TNT, UPS and DHL tend to be fast, very reliable and competitively priced.

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This is version 7. Last edited at 12:36 on Aug 2, 19 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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