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chalets in Clarens
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South Africa Holiday: Endless highways and wide-open African skies of the Northern Cape

South Africa Holiday: Northern Cape

The Northern Cape is South Africa's largest province. A sparsely populated region, it includes the Kalahari desert, the Karoo, Augrabies Falls, the Namakwa flower region (Namaqualand), and Kimberley's Big Hole diamond mine.

Northern Cape is one of nine provinces in South Africa. It was formed after the first free elections in 1994 from the northern part of the former Cape Province.
Click to see a detailed map of Northern Cape Province in South Africa
The Northern Cape is located on the north western part of South Africa and is the largest province. With an area of 361,830 km² it represents 30% of South Africa's land mass.
The population of the Northern Cape is 840,000, representing 2% of the total South African population.
The population is made up of a sizeable Coloured component (435,000), followed by Blacks (279,000), Whites (112,000) and people of Indian (2,300), Chinese and other (12,000) extraction. Minor cultural groups also occur in scattered settlements throughout the province, mostly the Nama, San, Khoi, Xu! and Khwe communities.
The language spoken by most is Afrikaans followed by Setswana and isiXhosa. Although English is understood by many, it is the first language of just 2.4% of the population.
The major cities and towns in the Northern Cape are Barkly West, Calvinia, Carnarvon, Colesberg, De Aar, Kimberley, Kuruman, Port Nolloth, Springbok and Upington. The capital, Kimberley, is on the eastern side of the province, close to the border with the Free State.
The Northern Cape weather is typically that of desert and semi-desert areas. During the summer (December to February) temperatures usually reach 33-36°C, occasionally exceeding 40°C.
During winter (June to August) day temperatures are mild (22°C), but at night it can be cold (often below 0°C. In winter, snow can often be seen on the mountains surrounding Sutherland, one of the coldest towns in Southern Africa.
The annual rainfall is never high (50-400mm) and is often lower than the rate of evaporation. The western parts of the province, which include the Namakwa region and small sections of the Green Kalahari, have their rainfall in the winter months.
These rains bring to life the glorious displays of wildflowers that decorate these regions from late August until the end of September. The central and eastern parts of the province get their rain during the summer months and are often accompanied by heavy thunderstorms.
The north is primarily savannah and includes the southern Kalahari desert, characterised by parallel red sand dunes and acacia trees.
The west coast is dominated by the Namakwa region (Namaqualand), famous for its spring flowers. This area is hilly to mountainous, consisting of granites and other dolerite rock formations.
Northern Cape provincial coat of arms
The central areas are generally flat with interspersed salt pans. In the east Kimberlite intrusions punctuate the rocks, giving the province its most notable natural resource, diamonds. The city of Kimberley is perhaps most famous for the "Big Hole" dug by hand in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
The province has some major National Parks, including the famous Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park and Augrabies Falls National Park.
The Orange River flows through the province and is joined by the Vaal River just west of Kimberley. It goes on to form the border with Namibia in the north west of the province. This river irrigates the many vineyards near Upington in the centre of the Northern Cape.
Kuruman, in the north-east of the province is famous as a mission station established by Robert Moffat and also for "the eye" of Kuruman.
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