There are two reasons why you might visit the rather remote and dusty town of Kathu.
One is to marvel at the huge open case iron ore mine - Kathu has one of five of the largest iron ore mines in the world. And the other is the incredible forest of camel thorn trees, Acacia erioloba, one of only two in the world (the other lies between Mariental and Reboboth in Namibia) that endowes the town with 4000 hectares of trees that form a reserve registered as a Natural Heritage Site. Kathu lies in the middle of the Kalahari desert. It's a mining town that lies strategically alongside the N14 between Kuruman and Upington, and three hours' away from Kimberley, to which it is connected by road, rail and air.
The town, which lies 12 km north east of another mining town called Dingleton, but which was then known as Sishen, was originally formed to house workers for the new mine that opened in 1973. The town of Kathu, one of the fastest growing towns in the Northern Cape, actually lies south of the camel thorn forest, despite being known as the 'town under the trees'. Kathu used to form part of the forest, which today, although protected, lies mostly on privately owned farms and land, and relies heavily on the goodwill of residents and visitors, to help protect these thorny trees. There is a third reason that visitors come to Kathu.
It boasts one of the country's most beautiful golf courses, part of it lying within the camel thorn forest on the edge of the desert.
Rated as one of the top 20 golf courses in the country, the 18-hole course hosts the annual Kalahari Classic and the 2nd stop on the winter leg of the Vodacom Southern African Tour.
Lying in the heart of the Kalahari it might be, but Kuruman is one of those special places endowed with incredible picturesque scenery and a unique beauty.
All of this is attributable to a natural fountain in the centre of Kuruman, known as 'the Eye' or 'Ga-Segonyana' - small water calabash with bubbling water, which delivers between 20 and 30 million litres of water every day to the village. There is a legend attached to this distinctive trick of nature that says that those who drink from the crystal clear spring may never want to leave Kuruman, and it's no surprise to learn that the little village is thriving or that it is known as 'oasis of the Kalahari'.
Numerous minerals are mined in the area - the world's richest deposits of crocidolite, a gray-blue to leek-green fibrous form of the mineral riebeckite, more commonly known as blue asbestos, are found in the vicinity of Kuruman.
Kuruman lies virtually on the edge of the Kalahari at the foot of a range of low hills, so one can easily imagine the possible extreme temperatures experienced here. But the sheer beauty of Kuruman, and the fact that it lies on the main route between Gauteng and Namibia/Cape Town via Upington makes it a popular place to stop, particularly because its beauty is so unique and largely unspoilt. There's a nature reserve, called Billy Duvenhage, just 2 kilometres along the Kathu Road, which is home to several game and bird species and doesn't allow fishing in a bid to protect endangered species.
And the world-famous Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park begins in the Kalahari, an unbelievably beautiful escape into 3,6 million hectares of desert.
Postmasburg, Green Kalahari
Situated in the Northern Cape in South Africa, Postmasburg is completely surrounded by beautiful green foliage fed by a dam and several shimmering fountains.
Postmasburg was proclaimed a town in 1892 and named after Rev J Postma, a founding member of the Dutch Reformed Church. Postmasburg even had its own diamond rush. The first diamond was discovered in 1918 and as a result an open cast mine grew. The mine was permanently flooded in 1935 and as a result, just like Kimberley, Postmasburg could also boast its very own "Big Hole". This hole is over 45 m deep and filled with fish. It"s a beautiful sight visited by many. Although diamonds are still mined here, the most important mineral is manganese.
There have been a few archaeological findings in this beautiful area. A sight known as Blinkklipkop, meaning "Shining Rock Hill", boasts indications that the Khoisan attempted mining in this area as early as 700 AD.
They mined specularite, which is a soft form of haematite. This stone was used as a cosmetic as well as in certain rituals.
The Witsand Nature Reserve is truly a beautiful spot to visit. Witsand is a rare jewel found in the treasure house of the Kalahari. This gorgeous nature reserve boasts a large spectacular vista of creamy white dunes, 10 km long and 5 km wide, nestling in the folds of the surrounding red Kalahari dunes. Interestingly, apart from their unique colour, these dunes are also famed for the eerie roaring sound that the sands at Brulsand make when they are disturbed.
The Witsand Nature Reserve protects a highly sensitive ecosystem and many of the plants found here are completely unique in the reserve found nowhere else in the world. Bird lovers are particularly drawn to the Witsand Nature Reserve as it boasts a large diversity of radiant birdlife.
Postmasburg also boasts spectacular architecture and many historical sites. An old blue dolomite stone Reformed Church built in 1908 can be visited. The Reverend Dirk Postma Statue is found nearby.
There is also a rather impressive gun known as "Howitzer Gun" which stands at the civic centre. It honours the men of Postmasburg who died during World War II.
For the adventure seekers, there are plenty of thrilling 4x4 trails, hiking and biking in the area. Postmasburg boasts the amenities, tranquillity and beauty that every person loves to visit and experience.
Unlike many other places in the arid Kalahari, Postmasburg is ideally fed by a large dam and continuously flourishing.
Northern Cape Destinations
Olifantshoek, Green Kalahari
Olifantshoek lies at the foot of the spectacular Lange Mountains, on the Namakwari Route. It was officially founded in 1912. Olifantshoek is named after the tusk of an elephant which was used as payment for the farm on which the town was built. In addition, many elephant bones were found in the vicinity. Olifantshoek boasts an abundance of adventure, natural wonders and cultural artefacts that can be explored by all enthusiasts. These activities are complemented by Olifantshoek natural beauty and tranquillity. Here, there are ample exciting hunting and hiking opportunities. The Neylan and the Pudu hiking trails are well worth exploring. For those who prefer archaeological adventures, there are numerous San Rock art paintings and engravings which can be viewed on Meerlust and Pan Heuwel farms. Learn how the San described animals as well as their many fascinating hunting antics. There is also an interesting war grave dating back to 1879 during Galeshewe's war which can be witnessed on the farm Fuller. One of Olifantshoek's many natural wonders is the roaring sands. The white granular dunes of the Witsand Nature Reserve are over 100 m high and 10 km long. When disturbed by wind in hot, dry weather, these dunes emit strange roaring sounds. The white colour of the sands is caused by perennial waters that seep to the surface, leaching out the red iron oxides. This strange occurrence is truly extraordinary and a must to be witnessed! Olifantshoek is a superb and tranquil town. Its unique beauty and awesome attractions make it a must to experience.