Every now and again I stumble across some thing that I feel is truly special, this particular time it was a place about 50 kilometres north west of Johannesburg. Hidden in a mystical evergreen grassland, on top of a beautiful plateau in Maropeng, the Sterkfontein Caves have an invaluable architecture, historical, documentary and artistic value.
Declared a UNESCO Heritage Site in 1999, The Cradle of Humankind is one of eight South African World Heritage Sites. It is the world’s richest hominin site, home to around 40% of the world’s human ancestor fossils. The site currently occupies 47,000 hectares (180 sq mi) and it contains a complex of limestone caves.
The idea that Africa was the birthplace of humankind began to take hold when Professor Raymond Dart, of the University of the Witwatersrand, was given a tiny skull fossil found in the Taung Limeworks on 24 November 1924. It was the fossilised skull of a two- or three-year old hominid (early human ancestor) child. He named it – and the species – Australopithecus africanus, meaning ‘Southern ape of Africa’, but it is more commonly known as the Taung Child.
Since then other famous discoveries including the almost perfect adult skull of an Australopithecus africanus which was discovered in April 1947 and named “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot” – Australopithecus (an early hominid, or human ancestor) foot bones among a box of sundry fossils stored at the caves was found in 1997.
Sterkfontein Caves celebrated 80 years of existence in September 2016.
After exploring the caves you can head to Maropeng Visitor’s Centre for an informative journey back in time and learn about the evolution of life and the origins of humankind.
Maropeng – a Setswana word meaning ‘returning to the place of our origins’.
Inside the tumulus building, you’ll find fun, interactive displays that could keep you occupied for the whole day, whilst serving up plenty of food for thought about our future in the 21st century and beyond. The visitors centre is child-friendly and in fact the Department of Education has included “The Cradle of Humankind” in the new syllabus and if you visit during the week you will definitely see a lot of students.
The tour is divided into six sections starting with going down a ramp followed by a boat ride, and going through the human evolution including the stone & ice age and more.
Maropeng: 09h00 – 17h00, Tuesdays to Sundays
Sterkfontein Caves: 09h00 – 17h00, Tuesdays to Sundays
Adults: R120 | Children (4-14): R65
Children under 4: free
School groups: R65 per pupil
• Sterkfontein Caves
Adults: R165 | Children (4-14): R97
Children under 4: free
School groups: R90 per pupil
• Combination Ticket
Adults: R190 | Children (4-14): R125
School groups: R120 per pupil
Maropeng Boutique Hotel:
My room was spacious and had all the usual features you would expect from a quality boutique hotel including a TV, tea and coffee-making facilities, safe, desk, and highspeed WiFi in all areas of the hotel.
The hotel offers a bed and breakfast or bed, breakfast and dinner rate. I had both breakfast and dinner which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture before eating but my breakfast was really amazing, the hotel has a set breakfast menu and they also offer a buffet.
I skipped dessert as I was full but I really enjoyed my dinner. Compliments to Chef Thapelo. There really is a wonderful atmosphere here, no doubt due to the glorious location enhanced by the friendliness and charm of the staff. I was also impressed at just how quickly all everyone remembered my name. I was very sorry my stay was just for one night.
For more information visit www.maropeng.co.za
* #ExploreGauteng Campaign was driven by Ford South Africa*