Carletonville, West Rand

The mining town of Carletonville lies west of Johannesburg, out beyond Westonaria close to the N12. The town is busy, due in no small part to the fact that it lies in one of the richest gold-producing parts of the world One of the major mines, Western Deep Levels, includes 'deep' in its name for the very fact that it is one of the world's deepest mines.

Watch Isidingo (one of South Africa's local soapies) and you will have a slightly clearer picture of Carletonville, intrigue included. Like many mining towns everyone knows everyone else's business, although the town is big enough that you can maintain a certain level of anonymity. The local Carletonville website bears testimony to this fact, reserving a blog area called 'skinder blad' or 'gossip corner' for local news and views.

Western Deep Levels is not the only gold mine either. There are no fewer than seven surrounding the town. As if to make up for all of this industry the Abe Bailey Nature Reserve lies just outside Carletonville - a sanctuary of grassland and wetland where bird spotting is well rewarded with the prospect of seeing at least 60 species on any given morning. The greater and lesser flamingo use the wetland as do crakes, swamp hens, herons, the African fish eagle and korhaans. There are also some lovey shady picnic spots for day visitors.

The Losberg hiking trail wends its way through the Tolokwe ruins, an Iron Age settlement; there is a skydiving club based in the town for kicks, or you can visit Lepalong on Kleinfontein farm just outside town where you can explore a system of caves occupied by the Kwena people in the early 1800s.

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