The Kimberley Mine Museum offers a trip back in time to when diamonds were first found in South Africa in 1866, near Hopetown in the Northern Cape. Three years later the 83-carat 'Star of South Africa' was discovered in the same area, unleashing a frenzied diamond rush seldom seen before or since.
Then came significant finds in Griqualand West, near the Vaal River, on the farms Bultfontein, Dorstfontein and Vooruitzicht. On a nearby hillock, Colesberg Kopje, the richest treasure house of all was found.
Fortune seekers converged from all over the world and the grey, dusty air around the Kimberley camp was soon filled with the rocking of soil sifting cradles, metal clanging on rocks and honky-tonk. In no time the kopje had disappeared to be replaced by the famous Big Hole.
The town was then a place of weather-discoloured tents and corrugated iron houses, interspersed with trading stores and many bars and brothels. But the surface and alluvial diamonds became harder and harder to find, forcing many diggers to leave and Kimberley settled to become a respectable, elegant Victorian city.
There are flights from all other major cities to Kimberley. The Kimberley Mine Museum can be found on Tucker Street, close to the city centre.
Kimberley is the only South African city with an operational tram system, dating back to the time of the diamond rush.
Ghost tours, diamond field tours and a trip to the site of the Battle of Magersfontein are but a few of the many outings available from Kimberley.
Kimberley Mine Museum
Tel: +27 (0)53 830 4417
Kimberley has a number of luxury hotels, but the B&Bs and guesthouses in the historic part of town, many of them in buildings dating back to the diamond days, come highly recommended.
There is a cafeteria at the Kimberley Mine Museum that serves light meals. Nearby is the historic Star of the West pub, offering both liquid and solid refreshments, that first opened during the diamond rush.
A visit to the mine museum, Big Hole and Old Town should take you approx. 3 hours.
A snippet of those early days has been captured by the Kimberley Mine Museum, with various displays and exhibitions detailing what life was like for the fortune-seekers who converged on the area hoping to strike it lucky.
There is a lookout point over the famous Big Hole at the museum. The hole itself is 225m deep with a surface area of 17ha and a perimeter of 1.6km. It ceased production on 14 August 1914 when the lower reaches were flooded.
The De Beers Hall in the grounds of this mining museum houses a display of jewellery and uncut diamonds, including a replica of the first Hopetown stone.
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