For the most part, South Africa's North West province is a vast grassland dotted with trees and views that stretch to distant horizons. It contains 2 of the country's largest game reserves, the world's largest playground and a World Heritage Site.
The Magaliesberg mountain range occupies the province's north-east corner, while the mighty Vaal River creates a natural boundary to the south.
It was here in 1924 that the skull of an early hominid was unearthed by Professor Raymond Dart at the Taung Heritage Site, and it was in the North West province that a colossal meteorite impacted with the Earth to form the Vredefort Dome; today a World Heritage Site.
North West's capital, Mafikeng, is most famous for the 1899 Siege of Mafikeng during the Anglo-Boer War, and the founding of the Boy Scout movement. A visit to the Mafikeng Museum, Kanon Kopje and the Barolong Boora Tshidi Kgotla will help fit the historical puzzle pieces in place.
Its inland location and extensive grasslands provide the perfect setting for a number of malaria-free wildlife reserves. These include Madikwe, South Africa's fourth-largest game reserve, and the Pilanesberg National Park, both home to the Big 5 and many more southern African mammals and birds.
Magaliesberg, Hartbeespoort and Pilanesberg are popular weekend getaway spots where paragliding, windsurfing, water skiing and jet skiing attract thrill-seekers. Then there's Wondergat, an extensive underwater cave network where many divers have honed their skills.
Standing proudly incongruent to this rustic scene is Sun City, the world's largest playground, and The Lost City, an African-inspired architectural masterpiece. From the swells at the Valley of the Waves and the greens of the exceptional golf course to the massive casino and entertainment complex, this is an awe-inspiring place in which to wile away the hours.
North-West Tourism Authority
Tel: + 27 (0) 18 397 1500
Fax: + 27 (0) 18 397 1660
Madikwe Game Reserve
Tel: + 27 (0) 18 350 9931/2
Fax: +27 (0) 18 350 9933
Pilanesberg National Park
Tel: + 27 (0) 14 555 1600
Fax: +27 (0) 14 555 5525
The North West province has air and rail links with all major South African cities. It is also easy to drive there from neighbouring provinces.
Vredefort Dome World Heritage Site; Taung Heritage Site; Wondergat; Magaliesberg; Hartbeespoort Dam; Pilanesberg National Park; Madikwe Game Reserve; The Lost City; Sun City
The road network is extensive and well-maintained, so driving yourself around is easy. Alternatively, opt for a guided tour by bus or mini-van.
A weekend or more, depending on how much you wish to explore.
Always pack plenty of sunblock and a hat. Good walking shoes or hiking boots are also a must for those who prefer to explore on foot.