The “Oasis of the Kalahari” is generally believed to have been named after an 18th century San leader, Kudumane. The permanent spring that delivers 20 to 30 million litres of water to the surface daily, the Eye, is the source of the “Oasis” nickname. The generous source of water may have been one of the reasons why early missionaries settled here and established a strong missionary heritage. Today, Kuruman has a healthy economy that depends mainly on mining and agriculture. Vast deposits of manganese, iron, tiger’s eye and the world’s richest deposits of blue asbestos are mined near Kuruman.
Adventure and Sport
Hiking: The Kuruman Hiking Trail not only allows views of the countryside but passes places of interest such as the British forts, the Sinkhole, the Dikgoing Fountain (a waterhole used by the Tswana until 1956), the Dikgoing Caves, Roger’s Folly, the Wonder Hole (dolomite caves with seven fountains) and the Second Eye. Detailed information and a map of the route can be obtained at the information office. Another trail worth exploring is the Red Sands Trail. Hunting: Contact the Northern Cape Hunters’ Association for more information. Paragliding and hang-gliding: There are paragliding and hang-gliding facilities in the area.
Archaeology and Palaeontology
Wonderwerk Cave: This valuable archaeological site is situated on a privately-owned farm, Wonderwerk, 43 km south of Kuruman on the Danielskuil/Kimberley Road. The cave has yielded much information about the habits of early man and excavations have unearthed a history that goes back some 800 000 years. Archaeologists have found a wide variety of Late Stone Age artefacts, such as hand-axes, grass bedding, engraved stones, San rock paintings made with red and yellow ochres and the bones of extinct animals. Many of the finds are part of the “Origins of Man” exhibition at Kimberley’s McGregor Museum. The cave is still being excavated and archaeologists are hopeful that the cavern has tunnels that will lead them to even more sites deeper in the Kuruman hills.
Visitors are taken on tours of the cave at specific times during the day. Wonderwerk has an information centre, camping and accommodation facilities and restrooms.
Fauna and Flora
Billy Duvenhage Nature Reserve: Travel for 2 km along the Kathu Road to reach the 1 400-ha reserve that is home to several game species. Its most prominent inhabitants are three white rhinoceroses.
Bird sanctuary: The wetland sanctuary on the Hotazel Road is covered in grass, reeds and trees. Some 115 species of birds are found on this 7-ha sanctuary, including herons, ducks and ibis. The key to the reserve can be obtained from the attendant at the municipal water works next to the road.
Kalahari Raptor Rehabilitation Centre: This privately-owned centre lies on the road to Upington and rehabilitates injured raptors, such as black eagles. Those who will never make it back to the wild are kept with love and in comfort. Although the smell is quite off-putting, the vulture restaurant plays an important part in the rehabilitation of vultures. Visits need to be arranged in advance. The centre also has more information on the Raptor Route. Tswalu Kalahari Reserve: The Tswalu Kalahari Reserve is the largest privately owned game reserve in South Africa. This 900-square km reserve has some 2 000 antelope, 5 000 zebra, as well as warthogs, giraffes, wildebeest, black rhino, lions and several other carnivores. Tswalu caters for an exclusive clientele of (mainly international) visitors.
History and Architecture
Moffat Mission Station: Just outside town lies Moffat Lane, the turn-off to Moffat’s Mission Station, a cool and tranquil spot where one can sit and reflect for hours in a shady garden that has seen much history. The lovely old three-winged church is inspiring, even if you are not attending a service and the atmosphere seems permeated by the souls of the missionaries who found such peace and purpose here. Mothibi, chief of the Batlhaping tribe, first gave the Reverend John Evans permission to establish a mission station downstream from the Eye of Kuruman. In 1820, Robert Moffat and his wife took over the station and, over the next 50 years, they did some of the most remarkable missionary work on the continent. Many well-known people used the mission station as a base of operations from which to launch their inland expeditions. Moffat’s church was completed in 1838 and it was in this church that the Moffats’ daughter, Mary, married the explorer David Livingstone.
The stump of the old wild almond tree, under which Livingstone reputedly proposed to Mary, is in the Love Garden. Services are still conducted in the church with its mud floors, great wooden beams and thatched roof. The other buildings on the mission grounds include a tourist shop, a typical mission house and a building that houses the press on which Moffat printed the first African language version of the Bible, in Setswana. The press still works. A Christian Resource Centre is currently established on the mission grounds. It runs various educational projects, a library and a conference centre.
Truce Tree: During the Rebellion of 1914, 1 200 rebels invaded Kuruman to get supplies. After a short skirmish, the garrison responsible for the defence of Kuruman retreated. Although the rebels failed to take the town, an armistice was negotiated that allowed them safe passage through Kuruman. They were also allowed to replenish their supplies. A plaque marks the camelthorn tree in Seodin Road under which the armistice was negotiated.
The Eye: The spring in Main Street, is the largest natural fountain in the Southern Hemisphere. The water flows from solution cracks and cavities in the dolomite and dolerite rocks of the earth. Among the carp, barbel and blue kurper, swims an endangered species of cichlid fish that has found sanctuary in the spring. Fishing is strictly forbidden. There is a cafe and curio shop near the spring.