Maropeng Visitor Centre, Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng
Did you know?
The word Maropeng is Setswana for ‘return to your origins'.
At Maropeng Visitor Centre you will journey back in time from the start of our universe, some 14-billion years ago, to the present and beyond.
Inside the tumulus building, you'll find fun, interactive displays that could keep you occupied for a morning or even a whole day, whilst serving up plenty of food for thought about our future in the 21st century and beyond.
Maropeng is the official visitors’ centre for the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site within easy striking distance of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Its name means ‘return to the place of origin’ in Setswana, one of South Africa’s 11 official languages
The centre lies on the boundary of a 47 000-hectare area recognised as a World Heritage Site in 1999. More than 1000 hominid fossils and several hominid species have been found in a network of limestone caves here, spanning a period of around 3-million years. Hominids are a family that include humans and their direct ancestors, and the Cradle of Humankind is the richest treasure trove of early hominid fossils on Earth.
There are more than a dozen major fossil sites in the Cradle of Humankid, and as not all these sites are open to the public, the Maropeng centre was developed to provide visitors with an overview of the significance of the area as well as the story of human development.
When you approach Maropeng, you will be confronted with a striking building that resembles an ancient burial mound, known as a tumulus, blending artfully with the grassland surroundings.
Once inside, your tour will start with a boat ride on an artificial lake (guaranteed to be a hit with kids in particular) before you enter the exhibition area that leads you through highlights of our evolutionary journey.
Here the displays tackle questions among many others about how our brains developed, where language came from, when we first used fire and what the risks are for us as a species in the future.
Finally, you will emerge from the back of the building to a striking view over the rolling hills towards the Magaliesberg, one of the best to be had in Gauteng.
Glance back and you will see the tumulus is now transformed into a futuristic building of glass and steel, a symbol of how far we’ve come as a species.
Visitor tip. Maropeng has a companion site, the world famous Sterkfontein Caves, where famous fossil discoveries have been made, among them that of ‘Mrs Ples’ and ‘Little Foot’, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton dating back about 3-million years. You can easily visit both the Sterkfontein Caves and Maropeng in a day, and the experiences complement one another. If you want to stay over in the area, there is also a boutique hotel at Maropeng.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Maropeng Visitor Centre
Tel: +27 (0)14 577 9000
How to get here
It's off the R563, but it's best to download the map on the Maropeng website.
Around the area
There are various activities in the area including balloon safaris, an elephant sanctuary, horse riding trails, and nature and game reserves.
By car is best as there is plenty to see and do in the area.
What will it cost
A visit to Maropeng costs R135 for adults and R75 for children (4-14). Under-4s are free. You can purchase a combined ticket to the Sterkfontein Caves and Maropeng for R215 (adults) and R130 (children).
Length of stay
The centre can comfortably be visited in a day but if you want to explore the surroundings than a weekend would be better.
What to pack
During the summer months, pack a hat, sunscreen and light summer clothing. Winters are generally mild but it can be chilly in the evenings.
Where to stay
Stay at the four-star Maropeng Hotel, which is on the Maropeng property and boasts gorgeous views out over the Magaliesberg and Witwatersberg. There are also many other accommodation options in the region, including B&Bs, guesthouses, self-catering chalets and hotels.
What to eat
The Maropeng Visitor Centre has two restaurants that offer meals: the Tumulus Restaurant and the Market Place Restaurant. The Maropeng Hotel has its own restaurant.
The Maropeng Visitor Centre offers an exciting tour showing human development from the earliest years to the present.
There's a good gift shop at Maropeng that sells books about the Cradle of Humankind as well as curios.