Northern Cape

Northern Cape

The province lies to the south of its most important asset, the mighty Orange River, which feeds the agriculture and alluvial diamonds industries. The river forms the border with the country of Namibia in the north, while the Molopo River is at the border with Botswana to the northeast.

The Northern Cape landscape is characterised by vast arid plains with outcroppings of haphazard rock piles. The cold Atlantic Ocean forms its western boundary.

The area is known worldwide its spectacular annual explosion of spring flowers which, for a short period every year, attracts thousands of tourists. This biome contains a number of fascinating plants, including the elephant’s trunk (halfmens or “half-man”), tree aloe (kokerboom) and a variety of succulents.

The province has a wealth of national parks and conservation areas. The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Africa’s first cross-border game park, joins South Africa’s Kalahari Gemsbok National Park to the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana. It is one of the largest conservation areas in southern Africa, and one of the largest remaining protected natural ecosystems in the world. The park provides unfenced access to a variety of game between South Africa and Botswana, over its land area of more than 3.6 hectares.

The Northern Cape is home to the world’s largest telescope, the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), which is being built at Carnarvon. Sutherland is the site of the southern hemisphere’s largest astronomical observatory, the multinational sponsored Southern African Large Telescope, or SALT.


The Northern Cape is the largest (slightly bigger than Germany) and most sparsely populated province of South Africa. It was created in 1994 when the Cape Province was split up. Its capital is Kimberley.

The provincial motto (‘We go to a better life’) was given in 1997 by one of the Khoisan language’s last speakers, Ms. Elsie Vaalbooi of Rietfontein, who has since died.

The Northern Cape was very important in the Anglo-Boer War. One of the biggest battles of war happened at Magersfontein. The Boers won the battle.

The Orange River flows through the province, forming the borders with the Free State province in the south-east and with Namibia to the north-west. The river is also used to irrigate the many vineyards in the arid region near Upington.

When farmers had to stay in the field to look after their animals, they built small huts to live in. But in the desert where there was no wood, they used rocks which made these little houses looked like bee-hives and were called corbelled houses (it means beehive house). There are still some of these special homes left in the Northern Cape, and they are a special part of our cultural heritage.