Krugersdorp, the capital of the Western Gauteng region, and often referred to as the treasure chest of the West, was established on a portion of the farm Paardekraal and named after Paul Kruger, President of the Transvaal. It was here that over 6 000 Afrikaner men gathered together in December 1880 to pledge their allegiance to the President and to fight for the independence of the Transvaal. It was also here, that MW Pretorius, the owner of the farm, discovered gold in 1887.
In 1952, Krugersdorp was once again in the news when the West Rand Consolidated Mine became the first mine to extract uranium as a by-product of gold mining. Today, manganese, iron, asbestos and lime are also mined in the Krugersdorp mines.
The Kromdraai (“Crooked Turn”) Conservancy area lies a mere 10 kilometres north of Krugersdorp and is named after the nearby Crocodile River and the peculiar crooked turn it makes at that point. Visitors may enjoy the guided hiking trails, a visit to the lime mine and fossil site and swimming in the crystal-clear waters. But this is not all that the Conservancy has to offer: a visit to the trout farm and the archaeological sites and a ride on an ox-wagon are some other possibilities. This area is so close to Johannesburg that many see it as part of Johannesburg, another example of the benefits of visiting a small province.
Adventure And Sport
Angling: The Rainbow Trout Farm offers fun for the whole family but its main attraction is fish and more fish. A kiosk, picnic and barbecue areas provide entertainment for non-anglers. Once caught, trout cannot be put back into the water, whereas the carp, in the separate dam, have to be returned to the water. The farm rents out angling gear but passers-by often take the easy way out and just stop in to buy some fresh trout.
Hiking: The Kromdraai Conservancy area is crisscrossed with hiking trails that allow the visitor to get a closer look at the natural and wildlife treasures of the region. Trails vary in length from a 5-km circular route through the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, where more than twenty species of game can be seen, to a three-day trek past a gold mine, palaeontological diggings, a fossil site and other interesting relics. There is also a special one-day trail for people with disabilities. The Kloofendal Nature Reserve has two circular trails that take hikers past the old Confidence Reef Gold Mine shaft (a National Monument), a small dam and interesting geological and botanical sites.
Horseback Safaris: Horseback safaris take one through the Conservancy area and the Cradle Game Reserve. Experienced guides lead riders through the natural vegetation, past archaeological and other sites. There are plenty of opportunities for game viewing and bird watching while the majestic Magaliesberg Mountains keep a watchful eye over your journey.
Hot Air Balloon Trips: The Kloofendal and Kromdraai areas look just as good from the air as from the ground. Contact one of the companies that offer balloon trips over the area.
Paintball: At the Featherheads Creek Paintball Range, the visitor is provided with the latest equipment and the chance to work up some adrenalin while play-acting soldier-soldier on the range with its lush vegetation, rocks and trenches. The Crocodile River runs through the course.
Archaeology And Palaeontology
Robert Broom Museum: This small museum at the Sterkfontein Caves displays some very interesting fossils and supplies information about where they were found.
Sterkfontein Valley: The site of some of the most startling archaeological discoveries of our time, lies about 30 km northwest of Johannesburg in the Sterkfontein Valley. One of its main attractions is the Sterkfontein Caves, a World Heritage Site. The caves were discovered in 1896, and the renowned South African palaeontologist, Dr Robert Broom, soon started making significant discoveries here. However, his most important discovery occurred in 1947 when he stumbled upon the skull of the 2.5 million-year-old hominid “Mrs Ples” the best-preserved skull (cranium) of an Australopithecus africanus, the earliest known, upright-walking, ancestor of man. Dr Broom described the caves as the anthropological treasure house of the world. Excavations are still being conducted in the caves and scientists are at present working on uncovering a complete skeleton. In 1998, scientists discovered a skeleton encrusted in lime that confirms the presence of early man in the Sterkfontein Valley 3.5 million years ago. This discovery has made international headlines and has placed South Africa at the forefront of international palaeontological research. It has become one of the most important prehistoric palaeo-anthropological sites in the world and was declared a part of the World Heritage site called the Cradle of Humankind (the area also includes Swartkrans, Kromdraai and Environs) in 1999. A statue of Robert Broom holding the skull of Mrs Ples stands in front of the cave and copies of the skull can be bought at the teashop. Guided tours are conducted regularly to show visitors the natural beauty of the formations inside the cave as well as the excavation sites.
Entertainment And Shopping
Kromdraai Conservancy Area: The entire Kromdraai Conservancy Area is focused on preserving our rich wildlife and our archaeological and palaeontological heritage. Because of this commitment, a drive through the area provides us with hours of enjoyment, making us eager to come back for more. The Conservancy is part of the Crocodile Ramble, which visits any number of art and craft shops, restaurants, pubs, nurseries, reserves, historical sites and many more. Obtain a map at any location open to the public in the area and have good, uncomplicated fun.
Tarlton International Drag Strip: The strip is a popular meeting place for motor- and drag-racing fans.
Fauna And Flora
African Fauna and Bird Park: The park offers visitors the opportunity to view various species of wildlife and birds. A highlight is the performance by tame birds used in local television commercials (only on Sundays). The Game Reserve also offers game drives across open grassland, a rest camp, caravanpark and a “lapa” (open, thatched shelter).
Aloe Ridge: (DF Malan Drive, Krugersdorp) offers a view of wild animals such as rhino, kudu, zebra, hippo, buffalo, eland and nyala.
Cradle Nature Reserve: The 3 000-ha reserve is home to more than 12 species of antelopes and to two very rare species of raptors – black and martial eagles. Cornuti Restaurant and the Cradle Forest Camp are also situated within the reserve.
Faan Meintjies Nature Reserve: The 1 300-ha Faan Meintjies Nature Reserve is situated 14km north of Krugersdorp. The sweet and sour grassland that covers the reserve is the ideal habitat for antelope such as eland, gemsbok, red hartebeest, black wildebeest, waterbuck, springbok, blesbok and sable as well as for giraffe, zebra and white rhino. Overnight accommodation is available in guesthouses and in the caravan park. Day visitors may make use of the picnic spot at the centre of the reserve.
Kloofendal Nature Reserve: The 150-hectare Kloofendal Nature Reserve abounds with indigenous trees, proteas, orchids and other plants. It includes an attractive rocky “koppie” (hillock) and a stone amphitheatre that is used for open-air events.
Krugersdorp Game Reserve: The 1,500 ha Krugersdorp Game Reserve is home to several game species, including four of the “Big Five”. The 100hectare lion camp is a special attraction not to be missed and visitors can expect to see giraffe, white rhino, buffalo, black wildebeest and a variety of antelope and nocturnal animals such as black-backed jackal and genet. Walking is strictly prohibited in the reserve but guided, night and daytime, game-watching drives are on offer.
The only place where visitors are allowed to walk around is the walk-in aviary. The aviary is the size of a rugby field and houses approximately 300 different birds.
Letamo Estates/Game Farm: Letamo in Krugersdorp has several self-catering chalets in a bush camp stocked with game and birds. The 14 dams and two streams in the sanctuary are amply stocked with various species of fish. An educational centre has been set up in town.
Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve: This private reserve is home to more than 700 animals belonging to 30 different species. It covers 1 400 ha and is home to lions, buffaloes, rhinoceros, cheetahs, wild dogs, hippopotami and several species of antelope. Day and night game drives are available, as well as escorted walking trails and guided 4×4 tours of the more remote areas. The reserve has been divided into different camps, e.g. the lion and predator (cheetah, wild dog) camp, to allow visitors to see as much as possible of the different animals. Although these animals are fed and not as people-shy as those in the larger reserves, they are still wild animals and will attack when they feel threatened or hungry. The management of the reserve has therefore drawn up some strict rules to ensure visitors’ safety.
A vulture hide provides visitors with an opportunity to see the rare Cape vulture (Gyps coprotheres) and a variety of other carrion-eating birds that assemble here to devour the fresh carcasses put out for them daily. Raptor displays by the South African National Bird of Prey Centre over weekends is a highlight that should not be missed.
SA National Bird of Prey Centre: This Bird centre is situated within the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. Visitors are treated to a special 45minute flying demonstration with owls, eagles, falcons and hawks. Donations will be appreciated.
History And Architecture
Krugersdorp Museum: Exhibits at the Krugersdorp Museum in Commissioner Street focus on the colourful history of Krugersdorp and the surrounding area.
Old Burgershoop Graveyard: Some 809 women and children, victims of the British Concentration Camps, lie buried in this graveyard, a stark reminder that the Anglo-Boer War also had a devastating effect on the people of this area.
Old Kromdraai Gold Mine: The Old Kromdraai Gold Mine on Ibis Ridge Farm outside Krugersdorp was established in 1881 and was one of the first gold mines on the Witwatersrand. Tours are conducted mainly over weekends and public holidays and from Tuesday to Friday by appointment only.
Old Station building: The Old Station building is a national monument and dates back to the construction of the first railway line between Springs and Krugersdorp in 1887.
Paardekraal Monument: The Paardekraal Monument marks the site where 6 000 Transvaal “burghers” assembled in 1880 to pledge their allegiance to President Paul Kruger and to the fight for independence. Each man placed a stone on a cairn to signify his resolve to fight for the independence of the Transvaal. After the short war with the British and the declaration of independence the men resolved to commemorate their victory by celebrating it at the cairn, on 16 December (the Day of the Vow), every five years. Some time later the cairn disappeared and an 18-m high sandstone monument was subsequently erected on the spot and is still there today.
Sterkfontein Caves: Part of a World Heritage site called the Cradle of Humankind, these caves are situated on a dolomite hill in the Isaac Stegman Nature Reserve near the Kromdraai Palaeontological Reserve. The caves are not only the site of some very famous palaeontological discoveries, but are also noted for the natural beauty of their underground caverns where magnificent statues and rock formations (stalactites, stalagmites and crystals), formed over thousands of years deep within the bowels of the earth.
The caves consist of a series of chambers and tunnels, each with its own attractions. The only underground lake in South Africa is also found here. The water level has dropped significantly over the years and evidence of this can be seen on the cave walls. Unique freshwater shrimps live on in their cool watery home, oblivious to their surroundings.
Wonder Cave: Wonder Cave is probably one of the most breathtaking sights in the area and visitors have to descend 40 m into the recesses of the earth by way of a mine lift to reach it. However, one’s first sight of the cave makes it all worthwhile. Skilful lighting has been set up to highlight and enhance the magnificent natural treasures of this cave, an enormous single chamber, decorated by some 15-m high rock formations. The cave is 2200 million years old and maintains a constant temperature of sixteen degrees Celsius and a humidity levels of 88 per cent. Amazingly, it is still a living cave, i.e. formations such as stalactites and stalagmites are still forming and man’s interference has not destroyed its capacity to regenerate itself. The average height from the roof to the floor is 40 m and the deepest point is approximately 100 m. Formations inside the Wonder Cave include rim stone pools, cave pearls, stalactites, stalagmites, popcorn formations, straw formations, mushroom formations and the “Madonna”. Well-informed guides conduct regular tours and they can also accommodate tour groups. Light refreshments are also available at the site.
Railway Preservation Centre: A historic rail collection that includes locomotives and other equipment that is still in working order can be viewed at the Railway Preservation Centre near the Krugersdorp Game Park.
South African National Railway and Steam Museum: Some of the country’s old steam locomotives, a diesel electric locomotive and over 50 vintage passenger coaches can be viewed at the South African National Railway and Steam Museum. Train rides are also available once a month.