The Ditsong National Museum of Natural History was founded as the Staatsmuseum of the ZAR in 1892 and is today part of Ditsong Museums of South Africa.

Did you know?

The museum was originally so small it began in a single, tiny room.

This museum in Pretoria is the premier natural history repository in South Africa. Among its important exhibits are various fossils, the evolution of life on earth and birds of southern Africa.

It is the only natural history museum in Gauteng and one of the largest in the country and is renowned for its fossil record.

Ditsong is an amalgamation of eight national museums with collections covering the fields of fauna and flora, palaeontology, military history, cultural history, geology, anthropology and archaeology.

From the outset, this museum's collection policy has focused on cultural and natural history.

Its first order of business was to send out a request to state officials for ‘items made by indigenous inhabitants so as to build up a collection of their artefacts; items of interest in the field of natural history, including animals, plants, fossils, minerals and ores; and items of European origin and history, in particular those of the Boers and Voortrekkers'.

It achieved international prominence when the eccentric Dr Robert Broom was appointed palaeontologist. Even though he was 68 at the time, he set about vindicating Professor Raymond Dart's theories on the origins of humankind.

On 18 April 1947 he found an almost perfect adult ape-man skull at the Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg. Nicknamed Mrs Ples, this fossil, which provided irrefutable evidence of the existence of ape-men, is now housed in this museum in Pretoria.

In the first of the museum’s main sections is Genesis I: Hall of Life, which depicts a timeline history of life on earth. It includes primitive animals, bony fish and ends with displays of amphibians and reptiles. Genesis II: Mammal Hall focuses on the evolution of mammals and humans.

In the Austin Roberts Bird Hall are specimens of all southern Africa's 870-bird species, arranged in accordance with Roberts' famous tome, Birds of Southern Africa. The GeoScience Hall boasts a comprehensive collection of precious and semi-precious stones.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Ditsong National Museum of Natural History
Tel: +27 (0)12 322 7632

How to get here

The museum is at 432 Paul Kruger Street, in the Pretoria city centre, and is easily accessible by car, bus or taxi.

Best time to visit

The museum is open seven days a week from 8am to 4pm (except for Christmas and Good Friday).

Around the area

The Union Buildings and the National Cultural History Museum (also known as the African Window Museum) are nearby.

Tours to do

The museum has a variety of guided tours on offer.

What will it cost

R25 for adults, R10 for children, students and pensioners. There are also special rates for group tours. It's open from 8am to 4pm daily except Christmas and Good Friday.

Length of stay

A few hours

Where to stay

Pretoria has a variety of accommodation options to suit all pockets and tastes.

What's happening

There are regular new exhibits, so visit their website for updates.