Fossil evidence of human ancestors, wildlife reserves and Anglo-Boer War history come together in this moderately dry province on South Africa’s northern border.
Caught between the Kalahari Desert and the fertile farmland of Gauteng Province, South Africa’s North West province is mostly bushveld, a dry-but-green terrain. As a result, the province is a great habitat for cattle and game. Some of the world’s largest cattle herds are regularly brought together here and wildlife reserves are common. See unique animals and discover human ancestors in the archaeological sites to the east.
The capital, Mahikeng, features some of the region’s most interesting history. During the Anglo-Boer War around the turn of the 20th century, Mahikeng underwent a siege. For 217 days, the British held the city as the Boers attacked it and eventually retreated. The British went on to win the war. Learn about this battle and more at the Mahikeng Museum. Also, see one of the North West farms owned by Paul Kruger, president of the independent Transvaal Republic that sparked the war. Called Boekenhoutfontein, it is located in eastern Rustenburg.
Visit game parks to view and meet Africa’s most famous creatures. The Hartbeespoort Dam Elephant Sanctuary lets you touch tame elephants, while the Madikwe Game Reserve offers day or night drives to look for the reserve’s 66 mammal species. Visit the reserve at Pilanesberg National Park, which is a 136,000-acre (55,000-hectare) nature park partially inside the crater of an extinct volcano. Take a hot-air balloon up for an aerial view of the green hills.
Many significant archaeological findings have been made in the North West region. The Taung Child, an intact Australopithecus skull, was found near the southern town of Taung. Visit the dig-site memorial to this discovery. Archaeology buffs should also stray into the eastern Gauteng Province to see the Cradle of Humankind, an area of significant archaeological sites.
Johannesburg is located just east of North West, so you should fly into the airport there to access the province. Visit at the height of summer around December or January to see the region blooming with sunflowers, a primary crop.