Cradle of Humankind
Maropeng is the official visitors centre for the UNESCO World Heritage Site known as the Cradle of Humankind. It is located approximately 10km from the Sterkfontein Caves on the R400 (which links the R563 Hekpoort Road and the R24 Magaliesburg Road). The Setswana name means “‘returning to the place of our origins” and the Centre is also designed in such a manner that the front view resembles an ancient burial mound (Tumulus) whilst the rear is ultra modern, reflecting the development of mankind.
The Tumulus is the first of its kind worldwide and offers, amongst other things, a boat ride on an underground lake. During this tour visitors are transported through geological time to the beginning of the World. From there the tour provides exhibits, theme-park technology and various other techniques to display how humankind has evolved. Available facilities include an open air amphitheatre, conference venues, restaurants, a bar, an observation deck, craft market, souvenir shops and accommodation options. Ample parking is provided. Maropeng is open daily between 09h00 and 17h00, the last tour commencing at 16h00.
Maropeng brings fossils to life
A short drive from both Johannesburg and Pretoria and only 10 kilometres from the remarkable Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Humankind world heritage site, a state-of-the-art visitors’ facility has risen from the red Gauteng dust.
Named Maropeng, Setswana for “the place where we once lived”, the centre is designed to help tourists, schoolchildren and others explore the rich fossil heritage of the area.
The Cradle of Humankind, encompassing the region of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai and environs, has one of the world’s richest concentrations of hominid fossils, evidence of human evolution over the last 3.5-million years.
Found in the provinces of Gauteng and North West, the fossil sites cover an area of 47 000 hectares. The remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and hominids – our early ancestors and their relatives – are captured in a bed of dolomite deposited around 2.5-billion years ago.
Although other sites in south and east Africa have similar remains, the Cradle has produced more than 950 hominid fossil specimens.
Attracting fossil tourists
Lying in the centre of the Cradle area, Maropeng brings to life the history of humankind in an entertaining and educative way. It offers interactive displays, restaurants, a marketplace, an outdoor amphitheatre and, from March 2006, a 24-bedroom five-star hotel.
The R347-million Cradle of Humankind development is an initiative by Blue IQ and the Gauteng government and the first public-private partnership of its kind in South Africa. The aim is to develop and manage the world heritage site as a premier tourist destination. Other partners include the University of the Witwatersrand, which owns the Sterkfontein Caves and is the major excavator of the Cradle site, while Standard Bank donated 100 hectares of land for Maropeng.
Even before construction was complete, Maropeng had garnered major awards. In early November it won the British Guild of Travel Writers award for the best new tourism project worldwide, and later in November the consortium behind the project was named Best Civil Engineering and Building Contractors and Best Public-Private Partnership at Construction World’s premier annual Best Projects Awards event.
Maropeng’s main attractions include:
- Visitors’ centre.
- Conference facilities for up to 350 delegates.
- Three restaurants.
- Luxury boutique hotel with views over a private game farm.
- Outdoor 5 000-seat events amphitheatre.
- Accommodation for 120 schoolchildren.
- Retail food outlets.
- Destination retail store.
- Visitor information points.
- Arts and crafts marketplace.
- Observation deck.
- Ample parking for cars and coaches.
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