Predominately a mining and agricultural region, where the most common crops are maize and sunflowers, the North West province has some of the finest wildlife reserves, cultural sites, archaeological treasures and entertainment resorts in South Africa. The scenic Magaliesberg mountain range is the home of a variety of flora and fauna. The surrounding area is home to potters, sculptors and artists, many of whom welcome visitors. The village of Magaliesburg, known for its upmarket country hotels and retreats, is sited in a valley through which the Magalies River flows. Here local handicrafts are available as well as Koi fish at the Corriloch Koi farm. An aerial cableway takes visitors to the top of the Magaliesberg. The mountains are a popular hiking destination. The upper reaches form part of an extensive conservancy, reaching as far west as the Rustenburg Nature Reserve. This reserve is a well-known hiking area, and is home to a large herd of Sable antelope and many other antelope and bird species.
The Hartbeespoort Dam was constructed in 1925 to provide irrigation for the fertile agricultural lands along the lower reaches of the Crocodile River. Since then it has been a favoured recreational area, and offers a wide variety of watersports and places of interest along the Magalies Meander. The golf-course at Pecanwood, on the banks of the dam, hosts the annual Nelson Mandela Invitational Tournament. There is a reptile and animal park sited near the dam wall. Rustenburg, dating back to 1851, is the centre of the tobacco, cotton and citrus areas. The Rustenburg Nature Reserve on the outskirts is home to various antelope species and varied bird-life of over 230 species. Boekenhoutfontein, Paul Kruger's former homestead, is situated nearby.
Sun City and The Lost City Resorts are one of the prime tourist destinations in the country. The complex, which is set on the slopes of a picturesque valley in the Pilanesberg mountains, captures the essence of a mythical African kingdom in its opulent architectural style. The resort has the second-largest casino in the world outside the United States. International artists have often filled the massive “superbowl” entertainment centre to capacity. It is also known for its Waterworld and Valley of the Waves. The Gary Player Country Club, where the $2 million Golf Challenge is played each year, and the Lost City Golf Course, with its signature “Crocodile Pit” 13th hole, are both championship golf-courses. The Palace of the Lost City includes the Palace Hotel with its domes and minarets, its own jungle and tropical gardens, a large swimming area, artificial beach, waterfalls and streams.
The malaria-free Pilanesberg National Park covers an area of more than 500 square kilometres. Situated between the dry Kalahari and the sour, moist Lowveld, the park traverses the floor of an ancient and now long-extinct volcano, providing a number of interesting habitats for the varied fauna and flora of the park. The Pilanesberg is home to 10 000 animals, including all the major mammal species found in Southern Africa. Lion, leopard, elephant, black and white rhino and buffalo roam the area. Besides the Big Five, visitors can also see wild dog, zebra, brown hyena, giraffe, hippo, crocodile and many other animals. Mankwe Dam, situated in the centre of the reserve, is a gathering point for many of the animals, providing excellent photographic opportunities. With over 300 counted bird species, the bird-life is prolific and has been well catalogued for the benefit of birding enthusiasts. Within the reserve there are numerous hides, constructed near water-holes, where visitors can spend time out of their vehicles. There is a walk-in aviary that has been landscaped to simulate the birds' natural habitats, as well as a “vulture-restaurant”. Both are found at Makanyane Gate. The latter was created to help save the shy and endangered Cape vulture from regional extinction. The road network throughout the park is suitable for all vehicles.
Madikwe Game Reserve, just north of the Pilanesberg and right up against the Botswana border, is the fourth largest reserve in South Africa. This malaria-free pristine conservation area offers a full safari experience into one of the most remote wilderness area in the country. Bordered in the south by the Dwarsberg mountains, the reserve comprises 60 000 hectares of mostly bushveld, dotted with rocky hills. Launched in 1991, Madikwe managed a large-scale restocking project, Operation Phoenix, which brought more than 8 000 head of game to the park. Predators were introduced into the reserve in 1996, and the reserve is home to the Big Five. Madikwe conserves all the main African game species, and has the second largest elephant concentration in South Africa, after the Kruger National Park. Madikwe also has a significant population of the nearly extinct African wild dog. With their tri-coloured coats, wild dogs are Africa's most formidable hunters. They hunt in packs and have a social structure dominated by females. The reserve is also a well-known birding area with high populations of raptors. Madikwe Game Reserve is run as a successful partnership between the local communities, the government and the private sector, and annually shares its profits with the surrounding local communities. The lodges in the reserve are privately owned, managed and marketed, ensuring sustainable and profitable growth of the reserve.
South of Madikwe are the farming towns of Zeerust and Groot Marico. Herman Charles Bosman, who wrote enchanting tales of the early days in the Marico bushveld, made the Groot Marico region famous. In the Marico, it is as though time has stood still and among the locals here is one of the few people still alive who can craft a real leather whip, a man who carves exquisite grandfather clocks from the exotic trees invading the riverine areas and a crafter of gleaming wooden pipes. At the information centre, visitors will find many 4x4 routes, hiking trails and adventure tours to choose from. No visit to Groot Marico would be complete without a taste of mampoer, a legendary home-distilled fruit brandy that is distilled and sold in the region. Legend has it that the name derives from Mampuru, a Pedi chief, who introduced the Boers to this potent brew. Mafikeng, meaning “the place among the rocks”, was founded 1857 and has been the scene of two significant sieges in South Africa's history. During the Anglo Boer War of 1899 - 1902, a small British garrison under the command of Colonel Baden Powell held out for 217 days against the Boer forces who had surrounded the town. Relics are housed in the Mafikeng Museum. In 1994, just days before South Africa's first democratic elections, a band of armed, khaki-clad AWB right-wingers invaded Mafikeng in a last-ditch attempt to safe-guard the former Bophutatswana homeland. They were acting on behalf of bantustan leader, Lucas Mangope, who was stubbornly clinging to power. Amidst the chaos, the policemen who had started out loyal to Mangope, joined the uprising against the right-wingers, resulting in the turning point in the siege. To the south on the Vryburg road are the Lotlamoreng Cultural Reserve and Montshiwua Dam. Nearby is the Manyane Game Lodge, which has a lion enclosure and crocodile camp. Mmabatho is situated 3 km from Mafikeng. Striking contemporary colours and designs were extensively used in constructing the buildings. The Mafikeng Game Reserve covers an area of 4 600 hectares of open Kalahari grassland and acacia thornscrub. The reserve is an important breeding area for several game species. Wondergat, situated 30 km from Mafikeng, offers a highly technical scuba diving experience in warm, crystal clear water. “Wagon-wheel” fossils have formed against the ceiling of one of the shallower caves, and are possibly the oldest fossils ever found. The Taung Heritage Site is a place of enormous scientific importance. It was at these limestone diggings, in 1924, that the skull of a child was found, and the discovery was greatly to advance the knowledge of the presence of early humankind in Africa. The famous scientist, Dr Raymond Dart, named the skull “Australopithecus africanus”. This was the first discovery that provided evidence to support Charles Darwin's theory that modern human beings had evolved from ancestral apes. Dart recognised the skull as that of a young primate, intermediate between ape and human - the long-sought “missing link”. The discovery caused a scientific and religious storm. Evolutionary biologists were obliged for the first time to recognise Africa as the “Cradle of Humankind”. In subsequent decades, many other pre-hominid fossils have been discovered in Africa, helping to piece together the human evolutionary puzzle. Taung has joined Sterkfontein as one of the most important pre-hominid sites in the world. The Taung site is not only of archaeological interest. From the limestone cliffs at the head of the valley, a succession of attractive pools extend down the ancient valley. The Barberspan Bird Sanctuary has over 365 species recorded, including a number of rare migrants, making Barberspan an essential stop-over for all birders. The pans, which are fed intermittently by the Harts River, are an important drought refuge for waterfowl, and all but one of the South African duck species have been recorded. Borakalalo Game Reserve, one of the most accessible reserves to Johannesburg and Pretoria, is a remote and peaceful area, set in Kalahari thornveld and woodland country. There are over 350 species of bird-life recorded in the reserve. Walking trails allow visitors to explore freely the eco-diversity of the park. The Bloemhof Dam is one of the largest dams in South Africa, covering an area of some 25 000 hectares. The Vaal River feeds the dam, and the surrounding nature reserve offers game-viewing, angling and birding.
The Molopo Game Reserve is situated against the Botswana border in the far west of the province. Established in 1987, the reserve has been stocked with game from other parks and reserves. Today the reserve has, among other things, flourishing herds of eland, wildebeest, antelope species, cheetah, hyena and black-backed jackal. There are many adventure tourism opportunities in the North West. Hot air ballooning offers the opportunity to drift lazily over the scenic Hartbeespoort Dam or Pilanesberg. Elephant safaris are conducted in the early mornings and late afternoons in the Pilanesberg, allowing the elephants to feed naturally through the bush between activities, swim in the waterholes and interact with other wild animals. Hartbeespoort Dam offers the opportunity for yacht cruises, windsurfing, motor boat excursions, other water sports, hiking trails, microlite aircraft flights, horse-riding, golf and many other activities. The longest mono-cableway in Africa is found here. The rise from the top to the bottom is 376m and the length of the cableway is 1.1km one-way. The culture of the people of the North West is to be found in every aspect of their daily lives. Visitors to the many cultural villages are introduced to the richness of the predominately Tswana customs through beadwork, pottery, houses, food, music and song. Guests are invited to actively participate in the dancing and celebrations. In the evenings, visitors can enjoy an African feast around a crackling fire under the stars. Exquisite beadwork and pottery is available in craft shops and roadside stalls.