The Sterkfontein Caves are undoubtedly the main attraction in the Cradle of Humankind. These caves are where countless world-renowned fossil finds have taken place, including the unearthing of both “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot”. The great news is that tourists can embark on guided tours of the caves 7 days a week, heading deep underground to see the magnificent limestone formations, as well as the famous ‘bottomless’ underground lake. The site was renovated in 2005 and is now also home to a restaurant, acting as the perfect spot for a bite to eat following your exhilarating explorations.
This jaw-dropping exhibition that traces the origins of humankind has won numerous awards over the years. Here, you will gaze upon several authentic fossils and ancient stone tools. From the formation of planet earth to the different stages of development regarding plants, animals, and humans, you’ll delve into history that dates back a total of 3.5 million years. The tour through the centre is self-guided and there is an opportunity to treat the kids to an epic underground boat ride. Since the exhibition is situated right next to the Sterkfontein Caves, most tourists opt to partake in both a tour through the centre and an adventure inside the caves (or vice versa).
Art lovers can get their creative ‘fix’ at NIROX Sculpture Park, a breath-taking outdoor wonderland filled with permanent and long-term artworks by both local and international names, including South Africa’s Willem Boshoff, the UK’s Richard Long, and Argentina’s Lorena Guillen-Vaschetti, to name just a few. The park extends across 30 hectares and boasts lush, green lawns, rolling fields, wetlands, waterways, and magnificent views of the glittering Blaauwbankspruit River, in addition to its fine collection of sculptures. It’s open to the public on weekends and public holidays between 10am and 4pm.
Get a closer look at numerous endangered species at the family-friendly Bothongo Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve. Now’s a great time to stop by for a visit as the reserve has recently opened a few new and exciting attractions, such as a curio shop, an interactive welcome centre, and a playpark for the little ones. Along with game drives that will let you observe the reserve’s many lions, rhinos, cheetahs, and vultures, visitors can also enjoy 4x4 adventures through the grasslands, a mesmerising tour into the Bothongo Wondercave, a delicious meal at the kid-friendly thatch café, and bicycle riding at the Cradle Bike Park. The bike park is suitable for kids from as young as 18 months old, and there is a separate track for adults to get in on the action, too.
Take in the Cradle of Humankind from an entirely different perspective with a spot of hot air ballooning at sunrise inside Cradle Game Reserve. During this hour-long, exhilarating experience, you’ll float gently over approximately 48 000 ha of wild countryside and be granted the opportunity to scope out over 40 species of game. While you appreciate the sight of the honeyed sunlight gracefully creeping across the rolling terrain, you’ll also be treated to some educational facts regarding the area’s anthropological, historical, and geological significance, courtesy of a knowledgeable guide.
The Cradle of Humankind is renowned for its diverse animal inhabitants, and most tourists are excited to explore these wondrous wild creatures going about their business undisturbed in their natural habitats. If you decide to book a stay at Mount Savannah Game Reserve, you’ll be gifted a complimentary game drive included in your room rate. Keep your eyes peeled for some of the ‘Big 5’, along with a host of other stunning mammals, birds, and reptiles as you take a bumpy, yet blissful drive through the sprawling bushveld. Whip out those binoculars, snap a few photos for Instagram, and savour every moment of the experience.
Hartbeespoort is but a stone’s throw away from the Cradle of Humankind for those looking to venture slightly further afield for even more adventure. Be sure to head towards the Magaliesburg mountains to embark on the Ama Zwing Zwing zipline tour. The tour includes access to 7 zipline slides and 10 platforms – some of which reach dizzying heights of up to 14 metres off the ground – and take about an hour to an hour and a half to complete. From there, why not take a brisk hike along Hennops Hiking Trail? You can select from 4 different trails, each varying in length and difficulty, and all promising views of unspoiled nature. The River trail is mostly flat, making it great for families with younger kids (a total distance of 1.5km), while the Krokodilberg trail offers more of a challenge for the seasoned hikers (not recommended for children under the age of 12). The Hennops Hiking Trail boasts countless points of interest, including various river crossings (2 suspension bridges and 1 cable car), a rural hospital that operated during the Anglo-Boer War, and the Dassie Caves. Finally, don’t forget to stop by the Bushbaby and Monkey Sanctuary to set your sights on mischievous monkeys and fluffy bushbabies. Educational guided tours through the sanctuary extend across 3 km and last around 1 hour.
You will find Tumulus Restaurant on the first floor of the Maropeng Visitor Centre. This eatery is a favourite amongst both tourists and locals alike due to its sunny deck that allows for breath-taking views of the sprawling Magaliesberg and Witwatersrand mountains. Here, you can tuck into a light meal or a snack following your tours through the Visitor Centre and the Sterkfontein Caves or settle down to a mouth-watering carvery lunch on a Sunday afternoon. Tumulus Restaurant is also vegetarian-friendly.
Chug down some mouth-watering craft beer, craft gin, or craft vodka paired with a dripping burger and crispy fries at Black Horse Brewery in nearby Magaliesburg. Other favourites on the menu include the hearty breakfast bun, lots of cheesy pizzas, eisbein, and perfectly marinated ribs. Once your stomach is full, be sure to take a leisurely stroll through the venue’s flourishing gardens to finish the experience off on the highest possible note.
When you have a craving for premium steak cooked to perfection, you can’t go wrong with a meal at Saddlewoods Steak Ranch. This restaurant is celebrated for its juicy burgers abundantly topped with only the freshest ingredients, its lip-smacking steaks and marinated ribs. Its prices are infinitely affordable, especially considered the sizeable portion that will be served up on your plate! Guests can also order some well-priced meat to go from the meat deli, including various cuts of steak, boerewors, chicken, and lamb chops.