Gallery: The untamed Northern Cape

It’s the largest and hottest province in South Africa, taking up a full third of the country’s land area. But the Northern Cape is also wild and empty, mostly desert and semi-desert. Under 2% of South Africa’s people live there.

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The 60-metre Augrabies Falls on the Orange River. The original Khoikhoi inhabitants named the falls “Ankoerebis”, or “place of big noises”. Later Afrikaner settlers then derived the name “Augrabies”. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

Mary Alexander

It’s September. It’s spring in South Africa – and Tourism Month, celebrated this year with the theme “Tourism for All”.

To inspire your next road trip we bring you nine galleries, one for each province, showcasing our country’s remarkable beauty and diversity.

A thriving tourism industry means South Africa is closer to achieving its National Development Plan goals of skills development and creating decent employment through inclusive economic growth.

The vast wilderness of the Nortern Cape holds weird lunar landscapes, exotic plants and animals, the Richtersveld World Heritage site and the Big Hole diamond mine, possibly the largest hand-dug excavation in the world.

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In early spring the barren Namaqualand sees a sudden, brief and brilliant bloom of flowers carpeting the landscape. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Sister Januar outside the Catholic Cathedral in the Northern Cape town of Pella. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Arri Raats, a member of the Khomani San Bushmen, at Boesmansrus camp in the Kalahari. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Canoeing on the Orange River at sunset in Vioolsdrift, in the Richtersveld region of the Northern Cape. The Orange is the longest river in South Africa, rising in the Drakensberg mountains in Lesotho and flowing westwards to empty in the Atlantic Ocean. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Brilliantly coloured Augrabies flat lizards are endemic to the Northern Cape, and common on the granite walls of Augrabies Falls National Park. In summer they delight tourists with their acrobatic leaps to catch black flies swarming near the falls. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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A seal colony on the rocky shores of the Namaqua National Park. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Crafts for sale at a tourist market in Pofadder, Northern Cape. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Donkey cart drivers in Andriesvale in the Kalahari. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Arnie Braam in Klein Pella, Northern Cape. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Desert dunes in Witsand – “white sands” – Nature Reserve near Postmasburg in the Northern Cape. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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A farm in Vioolsdrift. Irrigation from the great Orange River and from groundwater allows farmers to produce crops in the desert. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Quiver trees – kokerboom in Afrikaans – in the Kalahari. San Bushman hunter-gatherers used the trees to make quivers for their arrows. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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The Sutherland Observatory on a starry night. There is little light pollution in the remote Northern Cape, making the province ideal for major international astronomy initiatives such as the Southern African Large Telescope (SALT) and the Square Kilometre Array, or SKA. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Meerkats in the desert of the Kalahari Red Dune Route in the Northern Cape. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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An old shipwreck rusts into the shore of the Namaqua National Park on the West Coast. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Inside the McGregor Museum, an important cultural and natural history research institute, in Kimberley, the capital of the Northern Cape. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Palm trees against the late afternoon sun in Klein Pella, on the banks of the Orange River. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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The mountainous desert landscape of the Richtersveld. The region is the only arid biodiversity hotspot on earth, with an amazing variety of plant, bird and animal life. The Richtersveld Cultural and Botanical Landscape is a Unesco World Heritage site. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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The Big Hole in Kimberley, the capital of the Northern Cape, is thought to be the largest hand-dug excavation in the world. Once an open-pit diamond mine, some three metric tons of diamonds were extracted from the hole – displacing 22-million tons of earth – between 1872 and 1914. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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A massive communal sociable weaver bird’s nest envelops an acacia tree in the Kgalakgadi Transfrontier Park in the north of the Northern Cape. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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Steenbok amid indigenous desert vegetation in the Namaqua National Park. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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The local maritime museum in the West Coast town of Port Nolloth. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)

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A dog sits with its driver as they make their way through Vioolsdrift in the Richtersveld. (Image: South African Tourism, CC BY 2.0, via Flickr)