The Cradle of Humankind has been a world heritage site since 1999 yet how many of us locals have been there? This intriguing location is only about thirty minutes away from the north-western suburbs of Johannesburg and yet to some of the city's inhabitants it is still an undiscovered gem. Perhaps the adage of ignoring what is under one's nose can be said to have applied in the past but times are rapidly changing. The Sterkfontein area, where many prehistoric fossils were found, is no longer merely an attraction for archaeologists; it is now a thriving tourist destination. People come from all over to learn the secrets of this captivating region and to enjoy its hospitality.
Even if you are not one of those people who is captivated by the past, the Cradle of Humankind is a lovely area to visit from the point of view of natural beauty. Usually when one thinks of Gauteng, the cities of Pretoria (its capital) and Johannesburg (the City of Gold) come to mind, and whilst both these towns have a rich history and specific cultural flavour, they are commercial hubs rather than tranquil getaway spots. The Cape has Table Mountain and fynbos, and Kwazulu Natal has The Midlands, but Gauteng has until recently been lagging in the 'natural wonder' stakes, not because it lacks natural wonders but because the province has traditionally been recognised for its social history and commercial viability rather than its appearance. The Cradle of Humankind is a feather in the cap of Gauteng and should not be underestimated, not only in terms of its relevancy to humankind, but because of its unspoilt beauty. It is a world heritage site, after all...
Because the Cradle of Humankind is so close to present-day civilisation, it is easy to make a day trip there. However, should you wish to stay awhile, there are a number of different types of accommodation options available; from bush camping sites to four- and five-star boutique hotels. Game estates are another feature of this bountiful region where you can enrich your breakaway with a spot of game viewing. It is great to be able to see kudu, zebra and hippo, to name but a few, in their natural environment, as well as a multitude of bird and insect species. The region is also a great place to hold conferences and corporate breakaways as it offers solitude without skimping on the amenities.
Whatever your reason for visiting the Cradle of Humankind you will be doing yourself a favour if you visit the Maropeng Visitor Centre. Here you will be able to find out all you ever wanted to know about the cultural and historical significance of the region and get a clear perspective on why it is a world heritage site. Apart from the goings on at its educational facility, Maropeng has a number of tours and events on its calendar, which, combined with other activities like game drives and hot air ballooning offered in and around the area makes for a fun and educational experience for any city slicker.
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