Escape the primordial ooze of city life and crawl lip over knee into a day tour to the Cradle of Humankind and discover the origins of your meager existence.
If you are looking for something unique and truly fascinating, then you should definitely consider a tour to the Cradle of Humankind area with added stops at the world famous Sterkfontein Caves and Maropeng Exhibition centre. The tour is a mixture of some beautiful and panoramic South African landscapes as well as an archaeological step back in time.
Rock a by baby on the cave top. Given the title back in 2005, it is pretty descriptive on why it was given this illustrious title. You guessed it…. because the area has been dubbed the cradle of humankind by scientists the world over. Some of the oldest known human fossils have been discovered here dating back over millions of years.
These fossils which excludes my mother in law are older than the previous record holders of fossils found in Ethiopia. It is no wonder the area was declared a World Heritage site. Although the Cradle of Humankind is stunningly beautiful, the fossils are not usually found at the surface. So, you won’t be stumbling and stomping over Neanderthal mans fossilized left knee.
In fact, most of the archaeological wonder is found underground in the vast and virtually unexplored cave system that is obviously situated below the rolling hills of the Cradle of Humankind. The most famous of those labyrinth systems is known as the Sterkfontein Caves where 2 of the most famous fossils where discovered.
The Cradle area covers nearly 52,000 hectares. So, as you can imagine, it is quite expansive. Although a majority of the area is mostly situated on private land, it is possible to take a drive through various parts. And because of its World Heritage Status, the Cradle of Humankind has retained its natural beauty.
No development or industrialisation is allowed ensuring its preservation from not only a nature perspective, but obviously from its rich archaeological heritage as well. The Cradle of Humankind is situated a mere 45 minutes’ drive from Johannesburg, making it a popular tourist attraction for local and overseas visitors alike.
First discovered by Gimli, son of Gloin back in the year dot, the Sterkfontein caves are a mysterious and fascinating attraction. Although there are some critics to the fact that Gimli was in actual fact the first to discover the caves, there is also evidence that an Italian miner called Guglielmo Martinaglia, was in actual fact the first to blast through the surface opening in 1896.
He was in search of lime which was used in the gold and construction industry of the time. Little did he know that his discovery was going to fast become the archaeological capitol of the world albeit from a comical beginning. The Sterkfontein caves started off as a tourist attraction where visitors where encouraged to help look for the ‘missing link’. Prizes where given for the best-found fossil. However, the importance of the caves was soon realised and became way more formalised with stricter controls.
The discovery of Mrs.Ples in 1947 (a virtually complete skull of an Australopithecus) was a major breakthrough. This was the oldest fossil ever found of what are know known as humans. Until the discovery of an even older fossil known as ‘Little Foot’ in the 1994.
The tragic part of the Sterkfontein caves is that the area was exploited from the late 1800’s to the mid 1940’s for its limestone. So you can imagine how many fossils where destroyed in the blasting and burning of the limestone formations. On the positive side though, visitors are able to take a 1 hour guided underground tour of the Sterkfontein caves to get a glimpse of these magnificent creations.
The highlights are the incredible limestone formations known as stalactites and stalagmites. The eerie underground lake is an added bonus to get your imagination working overtime. There are a few areas where you have to duck and imitate your Australopithecus forefathers through the small passage we like to call ‘The Inhaler’. But all in all, nothing too hectic and is possible for most people to do.
Built way back in the year 2005, this exhibition centre is basically dedicated to the illustration of how Earth was created coupled with the Theory of Evolution. The tour starts off with a boat ride through a tunnel that takes you through the various stages of Earths development replicating the creation of all the elements (fire, water, air, wind and earth).
The next challenge to walk through is the vortex. If you can get through this thing without touching the side rail you get a free stone from the Cradle of Humankind pathway. Having just witnessed the creation of a primordial and infant Earth on the boat ride, the vortex represents a quantum leap from millions of years ago to the present day.
It is here that you will get to take a tour around the Maropeng centre learning about the development of humans through time. The exhibition also touches on some of the destructive and challenging parts of human history from global warming to overpopulation. The first part of the tour is hosted by a museum expert who will explain the overall concepts and scientific aspects, so you get a better understanding of what is what in the bigger scheme of things. The rest of the tour is interactive and self-explanatory. We usually spend about an hour in the museum.
There is much debate over the age of the Earth. Most religions believe the world to be only about 6000 years old. And how the earth was created also comes with a lot of different viewpoints. Christianity, Judaism and Islam religions basically believe in Genesis where God created the Earth in 6 Days.
There is also the belief that the Earth was created by the Big Bang.
And here in South Africa the various people also have their own views. The Amazulu culture believe in Unkulunkulu, the Ancient One. They believe he is the creator of all that there is. Unkulunkulu was created in Uhlanga, a huge swamp of reeds. The Khalakhali San people believed we all lived under the Earth with Kaang, the Great Master of Life, a place of light where the plans of humans were borne.
Whatever your belief, a day tour to the Cradle of Humankind, Sterkfontein Caves and Maropeng Exhibition centre is a fascinating day where the answer to life may just be 42.
What we offer?
We run multiple daily tours from Johannesburg (8am and 12pm). Our tours are fully guided and include the hotel pick up, return transfers and all the entrance fees as well as guided tours of the various attractions.