More than 400 rock etchings await visitors at the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre outside Kimberley in the Northern Cape. Dating back as far as about 1 800 years, it is believed the engravings record the visions of Later Stone Age shamans as they went into states of trance.

Did you know?

South Africa is a world leader in rock art recording and research.

If you've ever experienced the Northern Cape capital of Kimberley in mid-summer, you may have also been caught in a sudden, drenching Karoo thunderstorm.

That's the way rain happens up here in the heartland, and out at the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre you'll see that the ancient shamans have been communing with the rain spirits for millennia.

It is believed that some of the 400-odd rock engravings at the site were inspired by shamans accessing the spirit world through altered states of consciousness. In trance, they could heal disease, control wild animals and bring rain. The etchings are thought to be an expression of their visions.

Wildebeest Kuil, a farm lying between Kimberley and Barkly West (a 15 minutes' drive from Kimberley) also has a long history of occupation recorded on the ancient rocks scattered about. From the older hairline engravings to the more recent pecked-out shapes and relatively modern middens, Later Stone Age groups (ancestors of the San), the KhoeKhoe and various waves of colonists left their marks here.

A qualified guide meets you at the interpretation centre after you've watched a short introductory film. You then take the 800-metre walkway tour that weaves up and over a hill via a number of information boards. At the entrance is a well-stocked craft shop selling books on rock art and handicrafts made by the local !Xun and Khwe.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre
Tel: +27 (0)53 833 7069
Cell: +27 (0)82 222 4777

How to get here

The centre lies 15km outside Kimberley on the Barkly West road. It is an easy drive on tar.

Best time to visit

The centre is open between 9am and 4pm on week days, and by appointment on weekends.

Around the area

Kimberley has a well-developed tourism infrastructure, centred around its legendary diamond mining history.

Tours to do

A community guide is available to take you on an informative tour of the site - just ask at reception.

Get around

Just follow the pathway around the rock art centre outdoors section.

What will it cost

Approximately R25 for adults and R12 for children.

Length of stay

Plan a full morning or afternoon if you can - it is worth spending a few hours at Wildebeest Kuil.

What to pack

Make sure you have the right camera to shoot images of the engravings. A standard lens (18-55mm) will be perfect. Do not pour water on the engravings to make them stand out in your photograph. Rather work on it later in Photoshop by pushing the contrast.

Where to stay

There are many accommodation options in Kimberley.

What to eat

There are many restaurants in Kimberley.

Best buys

The San crafts on sale at the Centre shop are of good quality and support the local creative effort.