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Diving in the Northern Cape

Vast and sparsely populated, Northern Cape welcomes visitors to South Africa’s frontier. The diving here is as wild as the landscape and features one of the deepest cave dives in the world.

Diving in the Northern Cape

Quick facts

Diving in Northern Cape is not to be taken lightly. This province’s coastal and inland waters are some of the deepest in the world. The water clarity is absolutely unimaginable, but the depth of these waters is overwhelming, yet very inviting for those who dare.

The most famous dive site in Northern Cape is Boesmansgat, or Bushman’s Hole. Found on the farm of Mount Camel, this sinkhole is thought to be the sixth-deepest submerged freshwater cave in the world. It was formed when groundwater dissolved the dolomite rocks covering the cave. The entrance to the cave which is about 1000 square feet (100 square meters) and covered in duckweed, gives way to a huge chamber approximately 886 feet (270 meters) deep. The crystal clear waters of the Boesmansgat have long enticed tec divers. Until 2015, Nuno Gomes held the Guinness World Record for the deepest cave dive with his dive to 1043 feet (318 meters) in Boesmansgat. Verna van Schaik also created the Guinness World Record for the deepest cave dive completed by a woman with a dive into this South African cave. However, Boesmansgat has taken more lives than it has given victors. Renowned divers Eben Leyden, Deon Dreyer and David Shaw all perished during dives into Boesmansgat.

Northern Cape also boasts hundreds of miles of coast line. Unfortunately most of this coast is taken up by diamond mining industries. Rough conditions usually prevent any exploration of the deep waters found here. However, there has long been a group of diamond divers that patrol Northern Cape’s waters, searching for diamonds hidden in the murky bottom. If a rough and tumble adventure is for you, consider becoming a professional diamond diver on South Africa’s northwest coast.

The deep and hitherto unexplored caves and coastal regions of Northern Cape are extremely awe-inspiring and pose exciting, and at times dangerous, challenges to divers across the world.

When to go

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What to see

There is not much of anything resembling marine life inside the dark waters of Boesmansgat. If you are one of the few who dares to dive the deep coastal waters, you won’t find a tropical reef. Instead, you might be looking for diamonds. There is also a chance you will find scallops, rock lobster, mussels, oysters, abalone and prawns among the seaweed. If you are further out, you might happen across a pelagic fish including some large sharks. Dolphins and whales can occasionally be spotted from the boat. However, diving in Northern Cape is for the thrill, not for filling in the wildlife section of your log book.


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The vast Northern Cape is the largest South African province with roughly one third of the country’s land area. It’s bigger than Germany, bordering Namibia and Botswana to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the west. While it may be the largest province, it’s also the least populated with just over 1 million inhabitants. Kimberley, the capital, is found on the province’s far eastern edge.

Northern Cape’s history dates to the Stone Age. This is evident by tools and carvings found in caves throughout the province. It has since been populated by a variety of tribes although it did not officially become the Northern Cape until 1994 when the Cape Province was split into Northern Cape, Western Cape and Eastern Cape. While South Africa may have a troubled past, the nation has made huge leaps and bounds with the help of the former president, Nelson Mandela. The country’s struggle with apartheid has brought everyone in the nation closer together, as a rule, though tensions can still run high. These tensions can occasionally be seen in Northern Cape. The province periodically deals with ethnic issues within the political sphere.

Today much of Northern Cape’s industry is made up of diamond mining. However, there is a growing number of vineyards who use the arid climate to produce world-class wine. Northern Cape is also known for its numerous archaeological sites. Some are already included in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage Sites like Richtersveld and some are on South Africa’s tentative list of World Heritage Sites like Wonderwerk Cave. Northern Cape’s landscape is as varied as it is beautiful. There are amazingly beautiful national parks, miles and miles of stunning coastal area and wide open areas blessed with natural beauty.

Other attractions

Northern Cape has something to inspire every adventure lover. Adrenaline junkies will love the rock climbing, white water rafting, motor-biking, 4x4 trails and paragliding. The province also sports four wildlife parks and two transfrontier parks for exciting wildlife encounters. Hiking around Karoo and Green Kalahari will delight nature lovers and Kimberley offers a glimpse into the past with abandoned diamond mines and several interesting museums. Finally, Northern Cape is home to some of the world’s best vineyards. Don’t leave without trying a glass of South African wine.

Getting there

Upington Airport and Kimberley Airport welcome domestic flights from major South African cities. It is also possible to reach the Northern Cape Province by bus from Cape Town. If you have your own transportation, the N1, N7, N8, N10, N12 and the N14 highways connect this province with other parts of South Africa.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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