My first visit to the Cradle of Humankind (a UNESCO World Heritage site) was an afternoon at the Maropeng visitors centre about five years ago and I was thrilled by how interactive and enjoyable it was (even though calling a dodo creeped me out a bit). This time around, I got a taste of more than just the visitors centre with a visit to Sterkfonteinn Caves, a night at the Maropeng Boutique hotel, fine dining and stargazing.
Maropeng, the official visitors centre for the Cradle of Humankind World heritage site, is an award winning tourist attraction located just outside Johannesburg. It’s an entertaining and educational trip through the ages.
One of the first things I noticed was a sign that read “Beware” followed by a picture of a snake. Not quite the welcome reception I was hoping for considering my love for snakes. So, I pretended I hadn’t noticed the sign and we continued on to the familiar grassy mound.
After a brief explanation of the centre’s history, we took a walk down a long ramp to a boat ride. We hopped onto a round tub and moved from the present day backward through time and the creation of earth. We travelled through the ages, surrounded by ice, then lava and one dark and creepy age. It was quite fascinating because we didn’t really know what to expect. Following the boat trip, we walked through a vortex signifying the big bang. This was loads of fun and we made it out the other side rather dizzy.
The next part of the exhibition is where you can look at how evolution has influenced our lives today. It’s a whole series of interactive exhibits and activities. One such activity was: “Dial an extinct animal”. Here you pick up the phone and after a few rings an extinct animal such as the Quagga (a subspecies of the Zebra) picks up. It makes the sound it would have probably made when it was alive and proceeds to tell you about its life, what it ate, where it lived and how it came to be extinct. This can be a lot of fun especially if you go through with kiddies.
Personally, I would say “don’t call the dodo”. It tells the story of how excited it was when it saw people. It ran right up to them to greet them but the sailors laughed at it because it had small feet, a big beak and waddled along the beach. The dodo continues, in its thick French accent, to explain how it was captured, overfed and placed on display in market places. At which point I hung up, so not quite sure what happened to it other than it dies out. Sorry, it was just too sad for me…maybe I’m just a softie.
The tour ends off by opening up onto a viewing platform, where you get lovely views of the Magaliesberg mountain range. All in all, it’s a great day time escapade.