Kimberley, a sparkling city located in the Northern Cape province of South Africa, has an interesting history which its renaming depicts. I’m no expert on the true history but Wikipedia has an opinion, so in a nutshell it was renamed a few times from as early as the 1800s after a list of people who claimed right to the land but later after the British colonial officer Lord Kimberley. Today, to many, it is also known as the Big Hole (Groot gat in Afrikaans) and in the millennial touristic way as the city that sparkles or the Diamond city.
Besides Kimberley’s deep history, it also comes with a list of very interesting facts. Apparently, source pending, Kimberley was the first city in the Southern Hemisphere and the second in the world after Philadelphia to integrate electric street lights into its infrastructure in the late1800’s. Around the same time the first Stock Exchange in Africa was also built in Kimberley.
Anyway the highlight is that Kimberley owes its glittering fame to the diamond rush of the late 1800’s. Many tourist visit the city to take the guided tour of the diamond mine, in which you can go 850m below the earth – any deeper on the antipodes map and you’ll end up in the North Pacific Ocean close to California. (antipodesmap.com)
Kimberley main attraction Is no doubt the Big Hole, which is basically a hole dug entirely by human labour that’s the size of about 3 Eiffel towers. In close proximity to the Big hole is the Mine Museum, which is a standard Control C & P of the city during the towns glittering years. If you are okay with small and tight places, I would encourage a deeper look by taking a tour of the diamond mine which descends down the 800m.
A few kilometers from the city Centre lies Kimberley’s oldest residential suburb, Belgravia, not to be confused with the Diamond cut British equivalent suburb or the Cape Flats Wembley roadhouse equivalent, but this one dates back to the 1870s. These homes were built at the peak of diamond trade. This is where South Africa’s mining king, Harry Oppenheimer, was born. It’s said that there once was more millionaires in this are than anywhere else in the world – source pending but look alive Stellenbosch.
In addition to all the sparkles – there is something for the Art lovers. The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre showcases ancient first settlers San art, both ancient rock art and contemporary creations. Not far away is the William Humphreys Art Gallery, specializing in South African artists but also offering a fine collection of International masters. For those with a snappy taste, get a taste of the world famous Duggan-Cronin Gallery, displaying a collection of over 8 000 priceless ethnographic photographs taken on expeditions into rural Southern Africa in the early 1900s. Being the diamond capital of the world (unsure), Kimberley is obviously known for its exquisite individually-crafted jewelry, offering a precious personalized memento of a trip to Kimberley.
How to get here
You can fly directly to Kimberley from all the major cities in South Africa. There are more than 2 flights a day from Cape Town, Durban & Johannesburg. The flight pricing varies but book in advance and on smaller carriers and you could catch a good deal like I managed to find (ZAR 2000 return). There is another alternative in driving for about 10 hours from Cape Town or even less from JHB and DBN.
How to get around
Kimberley is the only South African city with an operational tram system, dating back to the time of the diamond rush (when reading this please double check that it’s still active), but ultimately its best to hire a car if you flying in – no Uber but there is metered Taxis available.
Where to stay
Kimberley has a number of luxury hotels, but there is a number of B&BS and guesthouses in the historic part of town, many of them in buildings dating back to the diamond days, these come highly recommended. We found an amazing B&B with indoor pool on Booking.com for ZAR 300 a night (25 USD)
Personally I would recommend a maximum of 2 nights in Kimberley – this will give you enough time to do everything before moving onto the next big city. Watch this space for a post Kimberley tour.