It was a wild and crazy time. People from all over the world descended on diamond-rush Kimberley in the hope of making a fast fortune from the glittering gems. It was the first town in Africa to have electrical streetlights and the Kimberley tram made its first journey in 1887.

Did you know?

The Big Hole is 214 metres deep and has a perimeter of 1.6km.

The vintage Kimberley tram dates back to a time when the town was the ‘bright lights, big city’ of Africa. Prospectors from the far corners of the world made their way to diamond-rush Kimberley and transformed a hill where diamonds were discovered in 1871 into the historic Big Hole.

Retailers, drinking spots, houses, gambling joints and dance halls sprang up around the Big Hole and Kimberley became a magnet for adventurers, swindlers, rogues and ladies of the night. By 1887, when the tram first started transporting people to the ever-expanding Big Hole, the town was flourishing.

Now you can take the 20-minute ride on the vintage tram around the Big Hole. The tram is painted orange, as it has always been, and has been well maintained with its original wooden seats and steering on both sides.

Tickets are sold on the tram which starts at the Kimberley Mine Museum situated in original and meticulously reconstructed buildings. Here you can experience what it was like for the original diamond miners to go down a mineshaft in a lift or ‘cage’. Simulated dynamite explosions add to the realism.

The Kimberley Mine Museum is home to the Eureka, the first diamond discovered in the region and arguably the single most important gem in South Africa’s mining history.

The tram heads from the museum past historical features such as the original mining shaft and the authentic West End bar. The tram journeys round the Big Hole to the viewing deck where visitors have a visceral view into it, before making its way back again.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Sol Plaatje Tourism Department (the official name of the Kimberley municipality is the Sol Plaatje Municipality)
Tel: +27 (0)53 830 6272
121 Bultfontein Road, Civic Centre, Kimberley

How to get here

Kimberley is approx. 470km from Johannesburg. Either drive or fly to Kimberley and hire a vehicle from here.

Around the area

Ghost tours, diamond field tours and a trip to the site of the Battle of Magersfontein are a few of the many outings available from Kimberley.

What will it cost

A vintage tram ride costs R20.

Length of stay

Spend about three days in Kimberley if you can, to take in the sights and to enjoy the history of the town and the surrounding nature reserves.

Where to stay

Kimberley has a number of luxury hotels, but the B&Bs and guesthouses in the historic part of town, many of them in buildings dating back to the diamond days, come highly recommended.

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