School holiday festivities at Maropeng (Until Sunday, 13th of July)
Running out of ideas to keep the kids busy in the school holidays? A trip to Maropeng, the official visitor centre for the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, will keep young minds occupied long after the visit is over. The Maropeng visitor centre, winner of the 2008 Welcome Awards in the Tourist Attraction category, is open daily from 9h00 to 17h00. The last boat ride departs at 16h00 and guided tours are offered on weekends. The entrance fee for the visitor centre is R85 for adults and R50 for children between the ages of 4 and 14. Children accompanied by at least one adult qualify for an entry and lunch voucher package for R60 per child (excluding the buffet lunch at the Tumulus restaurant). A combination entrance ticket is available for Maropeng and Sterkfontein Caves for R130 for adults and R80 for children.
Animal Encounters (Sunday, 6th and Sunday, 13th of July)
Animal Encounters will once again be presenting educational animal shows at Maropeng giving children an opportunity to learn about exotic animals and birds of prey, and the importance of protecting endangered species. The show will be held on the grounds below the Tumulus restaurant, so mom and dad can enjoy a Sunday lunch on the restaurant deck whilst keeping an eye on the kids below. The 45-60 minute show will begin at 13h00 and children can also have their faces painted and get their pictures taken with the animals. The cost of the buffet lunch at the Tumulus restaurant is R185 per adult and R95 for children between 4 and 12 years old. The Animal Encounters presentation is free of charge.
Swartkrans walking tours (Saturday, 5th, Saturday, 12th and Saturday 19th of July)
Previously closed to the public, Maropeng is offering private walking tours to the famous hominid fossil site of Swartkrans. Scientist Morris Sutton, currently excavating at the site, will lead the tours and present the public with a rare opportunity to observe an active archaeological dig. The celebrated and controversial Robert Broom identified a new hominid species at Swartkrans, now known as Homo ergaster, in addition to many fossil remnants of Australopithecus robustus, a species which went extinct about 1-million years ago. These finds were the first evidence ever discovered of the co-existence of two different types of hominids, proving that human evolution did not follow a linear sequence, but rather branched off, with some species becoming extinct. Swartkrans has yielded the largest sample of the Australopithecus robustus, and it is also internationally significant for the discovery of earliest evidence of the use of controlled fire, dating back to 1-million years. Bones that had been burnt at very high temperatures indicated that they were used to sustain naturally occurring fires, long before humans learnt how to create fire (evidence of which only dates back to 10-15 000 years).
Weather permitting, the walking tours will depart from Sterkfontein at 9h00. Morris Sutton will give a brief introduction, before leading the group on foot to Swartkrans. At the site, Morris will take guests through the site, presenting an overview of the history of Swartkrans and explaining the current excavations. The tour will conclude at a grass amphitheatre where an elegant picnic will be set up, before returning to Sterkfontein. As Swartkrans is an open excavation site, no persons under the age of 18 will be permitted. The cost is R550 per person, and booking is essential as the tours will be limited to 12 people.
Stargazing evening: Fly me to the moon – Man’s greatest journey (Saturday, 19th of July)
On Saturday, 19th of July, Maropeng will celebrate the anniversary of the first man to land on the moon. Retrace Neil Armstrong’s historical lunar landing on 20 July 1969 with Maropeng’s resident astronomer Vincent Nettmann. The full moon will appear in the southern hemisphere on Friday, 18th of July, allowing stargazers to get a clear view of the moon’s surface. 39 years ago, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin (now both retired at the age of 78) descended on the moon from the Apollo 11, and explored the moon’s surface for 2.5 hours.
For those who prefer to keep their feet firmly on the ground, Maropeng’s stargazing evening will include a three-course dinner at the Maropeng Hotel, an after-dinner talk presented by Vincent and an opportunity to gaze at the moon through a range of large aperture telescopes. The evening will cost R285 per person including dinner. The Maropeng Hotel will offer a promotional rate of R620 per person sharing (R400 single supplement) for guests wishing to stay over after the presentation.
Contact Sylvia on the details alongside for bookings, menus and further information. Booking is essential for presentations and special events as space is limited. Directions are available on the website alongside.
**Maropeng and Sterkfontein Caves are powered by generators during power outages and continue to operate during load shedding**