Maropeng Visitors guide: 6 Ideas to make the most of the Cradle of Humankind

2015-09-10 10:52 - Louzel Lombard
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Cape Town - As South Africa once again plays host to one of the most profound hominin fossil discoveries of global importance, you will undoubtedly want to put this extraordinary World Heritage on your bucket list. 

SEE: LIVE: New species of human ancestor found

The University of Witswatersrand announced the unveiling of the largest assemblage of hominin fossils on the African continent on Thursday, 10 September and  scientists say this discovery is going to force the world to re-think what it means to be human. 

If you haven’t been to the Cradle of Humankind and Maropeng this is reason enough to get you there - but wanting to experience all it has to offer can be overwhelming. 

Here are Traveller24's suggestions on how to make the most of the world's richest hominin site, home to around 40% of the world's human ancestor fossils.


View: The unearthing of Homo Naledi, an extraordinary new species in the human gene pool. The fossils will be on display at Maropeng between September 11 and October 11 2015.

Besides shedding light on the origins and diversity of our genus, the new species, Homo naledi, appears to have intentionally deposited bodies of its dead in a remote cave chamber, a behaviour previously thought limited to humans.

Consisting of more than 1 550 numbered fossil elements, the discovery is the single largest fossil hominin find yet made on the continent of Africa.

See: Sterkfontein Caves

The Sterkfontien Caves are home to some of the most significant palaeoanthropological finds ever made. It is the most famous of the 12 excavated fossil sites in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and therefore a good place to start.

At the exit to the cave you’ll find a bronze bust of one of South Africa’s greatest contributors to palaeoanthropology, the late Professor Emeritus Phillip Tobias.

Tobias excavated at Sterkfontein Caves, where “Little Foot” and “Mrs Ples” were discovered, and at many other fossil sites in Southern Africa. During his career Tobias made an enormous contribution to palaeoanthropology through his pioneering work and research on hominid discoveries at the Cradle of Humankind.

Traveller24 tip: Choose Wisdom or Luck. A tradition is to rub either Tobias' nose for luck or his hand for wisdom. Go check it out.


Opening times: 09h00 - 17h00
Adults R165 | Children (4-14) R97
Children under 4 free
Pensioners R85
Students R100

See: Kromdraai Wondercave and Gold Mine 

The Wonder Cave is SA’s third largest cave and arguably of the most beautifully decorated of them all. The cave is one single limestone cavern measuring 125m in length. It's 54m wide and 60m deep.

Traveller24 Tip: You need to be reasonably fit to tour the Wonder Cave as there are 88 steps leading in and out of the cave. 

You can also visit one of the oldest gold mines in SA at Kromdraai and walk through the dark tunnels just as the miners did a century or more ago.

A photo posted by Salma (@adrenamarir) on

Do: The boat ride on an underground lake at Maropeng Visitor Centre exhibition

While the visitor centre is an incredible interactive experience that deserves a large portion of your visit as you take in the wealth of exhibits and information on display, the kids will undoubtedly love this boat trip. It takes you through the earth’s evolutionary process is with the help of visual, physical and FUN elements as the boat ride lets you experience changing climates of the earth.

Traveller24 tip: You might get wet, so dress accordingly and leave any tech gear out of this experience

A photo posted by AVA (@xxxtialiaxxx) on

Opening times: 09:00 - 17:00 
Adults R160 | Children (4-14) R90
Children under 4 free
Pensioners R85
Students R100

Eat: Nyama Choma

The restaurant is divided into three authentic African-inspired sections, namely, East Africa: featuring murals of the Maasai, the beautiful people of the East, South Africa: Murals of nine tribes of South Africa and North Africa, the Nile Room where guests can sit cross legged on floor cushions at low tables while feasting. 

Each of these venues offers its own unique dining experience, where you can absorb the variety of colours, sights, smells, tastes and sounds of the various African customs.

Sleep: Lesedi Cultural Village

If you truly want to immerse yourself in the Cradle of Humankind, booking a night’s stay in the Lesedi African Lodge and Cultural village is the best way to go. 

In the village you will encounter five traditional homesteads, each inhabited by Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Basotho and Ndebele tribes who live according to tribal folklore and traditions of their ancestors. 

The people in the village are not actors and do not ‘dress up’ for the sake of tourists. A warm, traditional welcome awaits you when these locals invite you into their village. 

The accommodation is unique blend of traditional and modern comfort, with colourful decoration and fascinating aspects of the cultures of the people of Lesedi incorporated in every detail.  

Cost: From R1 950 for 2 people sharing 

 Drink: A cocktail at Tumulus

This rooftop restaurant boast views of the area and is the perfect place to end off your experience at the Cradle. Soak up the sun and everything you’ve seen and learned about the existence of humanity here. 

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