A trip to the Northern Cape Province would be incomplete without a detour to include the Big Hole in Kimberley (previously known as the Kimberley Mine); it is an opportunity not to be missed. What began as a flat-topped hill is today a gaping hole measuring 215 metres deep, with a surface area of 17 hectares and a perimeter of 1.6 kilometres.
Dating back to 1871, the Kimberley mine witnessed the commencement of excavation activities, culminating in the extraction of a staggering 2,722 kilograms of diamonds from 22.5 million tons of excavated earth when mining ceased on August 14, 1914. What sets Kimberley’s Big Hole apart is its distinction as the largest hand-dug excavation globally, a feat achieved entirely by human effort.
The saga began in 1866 when Erasmus Jacobs discovered a shiny pebble on the banks of the Orange River, later revealed to be a 21.25-carat diamond. Subsequently sold in London for £500, this discovery triggered a diamond rush, bringing forth thousands of miners armed with picks and shovels that swiftly transformed the once-flat hill into a bustling excavation site.
The Kimberley mines extended underground to a depth of 1,097 meters, with their recent closure leading to a significant upgrade of The Big Hole for tourist exploration. Today, visitors can delve into a recreated mine shaft, watch a captivating film introducing Kimberley’s diamond history, explore an exhibition center, marvel at a diamond display, and ascend a new viewing platform providing a panoramic perspective of The Big Hole. Additionally, a visit to the Old Town offers glimpses of Kimberley during its heyday, completing the immersive experience.