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DDeep in the desert sands of the Kalahari lies a watery phenomenon – an inexhaustible spring called the Eye of Kuruman.
For over 200 years, the spring has never faltered, even during droughts. Every day 20-million litres of sweet, pure water pours out of the dry earth here into a clear pool of water surrounded by gardens and palm trees.
It is an unexpectedly lush oasis in the middle of an arid area, and is sometimes referred to as the 'Fountain of Christianity'. That’s because the spring made possible an important mission station.
In 1824, Robert and Mary Moffat of the London Missionary Society established a settlement here serving the local Setswana people. Kuruman, incidentally, is named for a local San chief, Kudumane, who lived here at the time.
Robert Moffat baptised converts in the Kuruman river, fed by the Eye (called 'Die Oog' in Afrikaans). Moffat taught himself Setswana, then translated the Bible and hand-printed it in 1834 – the first entire Bible to be printed in Africa.
The Moffat church still stands today and you can even see the almond tree under which David Livingstone became engaged to the Moffats' daughter, Mary Moffat.
The geology that made the Eye of Kuruman possible was formed 190-million years ago, at a time of great volcanic instability, when lava (now hardened into dolerite) created intrusions, cracks and cavities deep underground.
The Eye of Kuruman is said to be the largest natural spring in the Southern Hemisphere. Its Setswana name is 'Gasegonyane', which translates roughly to mean ‘little water calabash’.
Today Kuruman is one of the larger towns in the Northern Cape, and its inhabitants rely entirely on this unlikely abundance of water. In the clear pool into which the spring bubbles you’ll see various fish, including an endangered species of indigenous cichlid.
TTravel tips & planning info
Who to contact
Moffat Mission - Contact the McGregor Museum in Kimberley
Tel: +27 (0) 53 839 2700
Tel: +27 (0)87 310 4356
How to get there
Kuruman is a six-hour drive from Johannesburg. Take the N14 towards Upington. It is a great stopover if you're heading for the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.
Best time to visit
Kuruman is one of the hottest towns in South Africa, so avoid midsummer (December to March) if you can.
Things to do
From Kuruman, you can make a day trip to the nearby Wonderwerk Cave, about 40km away. The cave has been occupied for hundreds of thousands of years and there is a small museum there. Kuruman is also about 3 hours' drive from the river town of Upington.
What to pack
Make sure you have warm clothes for cold winter nights and sunblock, hats and light clothing for warm winter days and the very hot summer.
Where to stay
Kuruman has some excellent guesthouses and B&Bs.