As is typical of this time of year there has been a mass exodus of holiday makers from Johannesburg to the coast. While the majority have made tracks, there are of course those who have elected to stay at home for Christmas and who will be on the lookout for things to do. Happily, there are a number of holiday outing options available which are easily accessible and won’t break the bank.
Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind is just such an option. Maropeng lies a short 45 minute drive from Johannesburg or Pretoria and is ideal for family day trips and weekend breaks. The Cradle of Humankind is one of only eight World Heritage sites in South Africa and is the only one in Gauteng, declared thus because of its contribution to man’s understanding of humanity. Over 1000 hominid fossils have been found in the area which spans some 47 000 hectares making it the most hominid fossil rich place on earth. Arguably the most dramatic discoveries in the area were those of the now world-famous Mrs Ples and Little Foot which were found in the Sterkfontein Caves.
Maropeng was established to act as a showcase for the area and has become an award-winning tourist attraction within the space of a few short years. Today, Maropeng welcomes over 250 000 people each year and a number of other attractions and accommodation options have mushroomed in and around the area in response to its success.
Upon arrival at Maropeng, visitors will be welcomed by a market place which lines the approach to the Visitor Centre. Should they feel so inclined, visitors can stop for a bite to eat at the resident restaurant which offers a variety of delicious, light meals. Maropeng’s Visitor Centre contains an underground boat ride, fun interactive displays, real fossils and lots more besides. Meals are also served at the Tumulus Restaurant which is known for its breathtaking views over the Witwaterberg and Magaliesberg mountain ranges.
The restaurant is open seven days a week and offers light meals and drinks. A carvery is also served on Sundays. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch a glimpse of the game roaming the property next door while you eat. Maropeng also boasts a 24 bedroom four star boutique hotel and restaurant which caters to discerning palates. The hotel is the perfect getaway for those wanting to escape Johannesburg’s rat race for the weekend.
Tony Rubin, Managing Director of Maropeng says the festive period is usually a very busy time for Maropeng. Many families opt for the Sterkfontein Cave tour which is arguably the most well-known of the tours on offer at Maropeng. There is also a restaurant at the Sterkfontein Caves which serves as an ideal spot to relax after one of the guided tours.
Other specialised Maropeng tours are available including stargazing evenings and guided tours of fossil-rich sites and caves in the Cradle area. Rubin says the stargazing evenings are particularly popular with both children and adults alike. “The evening kicks off with dinner after which guests can see and gain a better understanding of the astronomical make-up of our sky courtesy of our resident astronomer who points out seasonal astronomical features,” says Rubin.
Rubin explains that the alternative fossil site visits are led by scientists who are, or have been part of paleontological digs and excavations in the area and are thus capable of answering any questions visitors may have regarding the exciting and intriguing field of paleontology.
Maropeng means ‘returning to the place of our origins’ in Setswana. Suffice to say Maropeng offers guests a uniquely ‘African’ experience. For those interested in sampling this experience on Christmas Day, Maropeng’s Hotel and Tumulus restaurants have put together Christmas day menus. Tel (014) 577 9000 for further information.