30 July 2011 by Kate Turkington

Diamonds on the soles of your shoes

South Africa’s premier diamond mining town, historic Kimberley, is always well worth a visit. I’ve visited many times, but always find something new and exciting to rivet my attention again.

This time I took a Diamond tour with experienced guide and Kimberley old hand, Frank Dippenaar. With a party of enthusiastic Chinese tourists I climb onto one of the original old 1800s trams and rattle off past the City Hall, built in 1899 just before the start of the Anglo-Boer war.

Our tram trundles past The Star of the West, one of South Africa’s oldest pubs, built from iron and wood in the early 1870s. Declared a national monument in 1990, it’s still going strong.

“Anyone for a quick pint?” suggests Frank. The Chinese girls giggle and the rest of us politely refuse as it’s only mid-morning and we’re not thirsty miners.

At the Kimberley Museum we marvel over the Big Hole - the biggest in the world, with a diameter that would cover over five football fields. As I gaze down at the bright blue water glinting 170m below me (with another 678m below the surface) it’s hard to believe that this huge hole was built entirely by hand with pick and shovel.                                                                                                                                                                                This

This hole has produced three tons of diamonds - 14½ million carats - more than anywhere else in the world. Then we’re off below ground down a mine shaft before going to ogle the heavily-protected, dazzling display of De Beers’ top diamonds, on show only since 2010.

Some of the Chinese ladies rush off to buy some of the glittering gems at the handily adjacent jewellers. I settle for a T-shirt for a granddaughter who was born 12 years ago in Kimberley on this very day.

Check out this and other historic tours at Kimberley Tourism at tourism@solplaatje.org.za

Category: Adventure

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