The Big Hole, Kimberley
A trip to the Northern Cape would be incomplete without a detour to include the Big Hole in Kimberley; 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. What makes Kimberley’s Big Hole that much more interesting is that it is an entirely man-made structure; the largest hand-dug excavation in the world.
It all began as far back as 1866 when a man called Erasmus Jacobs found what he took for a shiny pebble on the Orange River banks. To cut a long story short, it was later sold in London, after it was determined to be a 21.25 carat diamond, for £500. After a further two diamonds were found in the area, a diamond rush ensued and miners arrived in their thousands. The hill disappeared in a flurry of prospection, as picks and shovels yielded 2 722 kilograms of diamonds.
The underground mine at Kimberley reaches a depth of 1097 metres. Underground operations at the Kimberley mines have only recently closed, and the Big Hole has had a massive upgrade to turn it into a tourist experience. Now visitors can go underground in a recreation of a mine shaft of the period, watch a film that introduces one to diamonds in Kimberley, visit an exhibition centre, take in a diamond display, use the new viewing platform that allows one to get a bird’s eye view of the Big Hole from above, and visit the Old Town to see Kimberley in its heyday.
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Attractions / Activities nearby
Situated next to The Big Hole, this open-air museum (one of the finest in the world) depicts Kimberley in its Victorian heyday during the diamond rush. It incorporates shops and houses, a church, diggers' tavern, Barney Barnato's Boxing Academy, and the De Beers directors' private railway coach ... more information
The Diggers Memorial, a fountain and statue in the form of a diamond sieve held aloft by 5 life-size diggers, was erected in honour of diggers past and present. It is located in the Ernest Oppenheimer Gardens, which are in turn a memorial to the late Sir Ernest Oppenheimer, a mining magnate and the first mayor of Kimberley.