The deepest landmark: Kimberley’s Big Hole

Kimberley’s big hole is a title most people would be embarrassed to say out load (especially if it had any merit in the anatomical sense that is). And in Afrikaans sounds even more visceral, “Kimberley se groot gat”. But all things aside the “gat” or “hole”, once a world famous diamonds mine, is still a testament to man’s ambition to find treasure. Making “the big hole” of Kimberley an indispensable addition to our Landmark series.

Hitting the N1 for the next 1000km from Cape Town would, just like our drive to Cape Agulhas, make it just as good as the destination itself albeit four times as long. Weaver’s nests atop telephone poles dotted the horizon with some being so monstrously huge they had managed to topple a few. Boundless swaths of flat untouched land rubbed shoulders with neatly laid crop fields that looked as if they had no end, made the journey somewhat tedious. But a surprise spotting of a pair of Rhinoceros reinvigorated our spirits for the final stretch ahead.

“A couple of hour’s later Kimberley finally came into view and welcomed us with open arms into her once diamond encrusted bosom.”

The following morning, after a good nights rest, we took a gander through the town before racing onto our destination. Old Victorian style buildings and homes adorned the streets harking back to its golden years (or sparkling years for that matter). Leaving me to conclude that Kimberley is still a beautiful often-overlooked frontier town of old. It’s rabid beginnings having been accelerated by a precious gem found by a young boy on a strung-out farm. In what was originally called “new rush”. And the assumed name of what we had done once we had purchased our tickets. For all we wanted to do was to see it, and so, not waiting around for our guide made our way onto the metallic lookout bridge and woah. All of sudden we’re in the air gingerly creeping toward the end my legs, still fresh with the memory of the Cape Agulhas lighthouse (Arniston), resumed their incessant wobbling.

The first thing we noticed as we “walked the plank” was the city’s skyline. Literally resting on the very fringe of the big hole and the warning signs. It seems as though the tunnels dug out from the sides of the original mine are causing the foundations of the city to become unstable. This was evident in the road closest to the hole that had in parts, begun to cave in and then fall into the big hole.

This occurrence ultimately led us to look down and there she was, all big and beautiful. Finally we were looking at a magnificent man –made landmark 210m deep, once the deepest hand dug hole in the world. Unfortunately only about 145m of the original hole is visible the remainder now lying under ground water. It’s still impressive though as you look into the gaping mouth filled with emerald green water, an effect caused by algae. I could only imagine what it would be like to go scuba dive down into all the abandoned mining tunnels. Could there be any treasure still left to discover?

Apparently not, but upon our exit a walk through the “old town” would more than make up for it. It felt as though we had stepped back into 1875 complete with saloons, barbershops, a sheriff’s office and horse troughs typically seen in spaghetti westerns. Anyone up for noon showdown Clint Eastward style/

To sum up it was a fantastic, well-preserved and maintained piece of South African history that had changed my perspective on the whole “big hole” embarrassment. I will from now on be steadfast in my manner and shout it loud and proud, that I love “the big hole” in Kimberley.

Deep, down in the green lake. Photograph by Nomadic Bug, Nomadic Existence

Fun Factoids:

  • As previously mentioned the area that was to become Kimberley was originally an old frontier farm called Vooruitzigt. A suitable Dutch name for a Dutch farmer, but the English having muscled in did not like it much, mostly due to the fact they couldn’t spell it let alone say it. Furthermore the local prospectors were calling it “new rush”, a name the British could not be bothered with. So in the end it was named Kimberly after Secretary of State for the Colonies, Lord Kimberly.
  • The Kimberly diamond rush led to the establishment of the town in a very short amount of time, within two years the population had swelled to 40 000. Making it the second largest town after Cape Town.
  • Interestingly enough the mine itself was dug into what was a volcano’s spout, hence why there was a small “kopi” or hill over it before they dug the hole. Upon digging into the earth the miners discovered blue soil in the adjacent pipes breaking off from the main funnel, these were later to be called Kimberlite pipes.
  • The actual amount of diamonds mined in the 45 years of its operation by today’s standards would never have facilitated the dig in the first place. Only three cocoa pans full, but the De Beers mining group, who owned the mines were shrewd businessmen and at one stage had a monopoly on the world diamond trade.
  • The site has been tentatively placed on the world heritage board (UNESCO) for evaluation. Meaning if we wanted to build a couple of floating condos on its surface we still could, but I hope it becomes registered soon. It is now a beautiful bird sanctuary of sorts and it would be a shame to further disturb the landscape. I think she has seen enough.

By Slippery Joe Lyzard © (Writer for Nomadic Existence)

Photography: Nomadic Bug © 

Nomadic Existence 2015 ©

 Explore. Conserve. Discover.


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