There are few more magical experiences than a hot-air balloon ride as the sun appears over the horizon. The legendary Bill Harrop has been flying happy customers in baskets since 1981. Upon landing, you’re awarded a “Citation of Bravery”, personally signed by Harrop, followed by a delectable breakfast.
The Magaliesberg Canopy Tour is an adrenaline-pumping Tarzan and Jane-style eco-adventure through the Magaliesberg Mountains, the second-oldest range in the world. Cabled slides are joined to platforms which have been built into the rocky cliff 30m over the canopy floor. You slide along the zip-lines at high speed in a zig-zag pattern, surrounded by spectacular beauty. The trained guides simultaneously educate you on the flora and fauna of the region.
There’s plenty of game-viewing in North West, and the two most popular reserves are Pilanesberg and Madikwe. Both offer thousands of hectares of malaria-free bushveld, with some of the best Big Five game viewing in the world and a range of accommodation including supremely luxurious lodges.
Adventure-seekers will love Hartebeespoort, which offers a range of outdoor activities, land and air pursuits, including watersports, para-gliding, hiking, jet-skiing and quad-biking amid the picturesque surroundings. If you prefer a more relaxing visit, go for a sundowner cruise, take a ride on the Hartebeespoort Aerial Cableway or visit the numerous art galleries and animal sanctuaries in the vicinity.
5.THE CRADLE OF HUMANKIND
Go back in time at the Cradle of Humankind, one of eight Unesco World Heritage Sites in SA (on the border of Gauteng and North West Province). Maropeng is the official visitors’ centre and focuses on the development of humans over the past few million years. You can also explore the Sterkfontein Caves, which are world-renowned for their fossil finds including “Mrs Ples” and “Little Foot”, further fossils in the evolutionary sequence of humans.
6. SUN CITY
Probably North West’s biggest claim to fame, Sun City is an all-in-one family entertainment destination. Golf, safaris, watersports, adventure sports, kids’ entertainment, movies, theatre, shops, a range of accommodation to suit different budgets, many great restaurants and, of course, casinos – Sun City has it all.
Visit the Van Gaalen Cheese Farm, where you can observe the age-old Dutch method of making boerenkaas and buy some to take home. Educational tours are available and the farm houses a restaurant and accommodation in two self-catering cottages, if you’d like to stay over.
Savour contemporary South African cuisine at Silver Orange Bistro, a country-style eatery situated on a family-owned citrus farm in the Hartebeespoort area. With an emphasis on local ingredients and clean flavours, it’s widely regarded as one of the best restaurants in North West Province.
Sparkling Waters is a popular family hotel and spa in the heart of the Magaliesberg mountains. The rooms are set among sub-tropical gardens and are spacious and comfortable. Breakfast and dinner are included in the rates, making the resort great value for money. Sunday lunch at the resort is a popular weekly event, attracting visitors from near and far.
Get some retail therapy at this 10ha shopping, eating and entertainment area 2km west of the Hartebeespoort Dam wall. It includes an African craft market selling handmade curios, huge gardens, a home decor centre with 28 different stores, kids’ play areas with jumping castles, jungle gyms, sandpits and other activities, as well as restaurants and cafés for different palates. It also has a snake and reptile park.
This is an edited version of an article titled “Best of the North West” from the December 2015 issue of Sawubona magazine. Download the magazine (free of charge) here.