I recently wrote an article for JHBlive.com about a weekend that I spent at the Maropeng Hotel in the Cradle of Humankind, just north of Joburg. (See the original article here.) I’ve finally gotten around to posting the story on my blog. Enjoy:
I’m a Joburg-based travel blogger so obviously I’ve done the Cradle of Humankind thing many times. I’ve driven the beautiful countryside, seen the fossils, toured the museums. I know all about Little Foot, South Africa’s most famous hominid skeleton, and I’ve rubbed Dr. Robert Broom’s nose outside Sterkfontein Cave. (Legend has it that rubbing the nose on Dr. Broom’s bronze statue at Sterkfontein brings good luck. I’m pretty sure it works.)
Dr. Robert Broom’s statue with its rubbed-to-a-shine nose.
My favorite, most photogenic skull at the Sterkfontein Cave Museum.
The striking Maropeng Visitor Centre, the official visitor centre for the Cradle of Humankind.
But the one problem with living 50 kilometres from this beautiful World Heritage Site is that it works too well as a day trip. I’d been hearing about the lovely boutique hotel at Maropeng – the official visitor centre for the Cradle of Humankind – for years, but I could never find a good excuse to stay there. So when I received an invitation to spend the weekend in the Cradle and stay over at Maropeng Hotel, I jumped.
The half-futuristic, half-prehisotric Maropeng Hotel. I love how the hotel blends into the grassland surrounding it.
The view from our room.
Maropeng sits on the prettiest piece of land in Gauteng. The view is spectacular and by far the best thing about Maropeng Hotel. From the little patio outside my room, I saw nothing but rolling hills and tall, swishing grass. I half expected to see a wooly mammoth emerge out of the bush. The sunset isn’t half bad either, especially when accompanied by a glass of sauvignon blanc on the hotel’s beautiful pool deck.
Sundowners on the Maropeng pool deck.
Sunset from behind the hotel.
The rooms are luxurious, if a bit sterile for my taste (I’m usually a homey B&B kind of girl but this was a fun change of pace), and the hotel also includes a fine-dining restaurant that serves fancy, multi-course dinners. I really enjoyed our dinner although some courses were better than others. My prawn starter was perfect but the kingklip was slightly dry, and the dense, chili-chocolate mousse log was delicious but bore a disturbing resemblance to…something I didn’t care to think about while eating dessert.
Dense chocolate log. Don’t make me spell it out. It tasted great anyway.
Maropeng offers a stargazing experience in which local astronomer Vincent Nettman gives a talk and takes guests outside to view the moon and stars through a high-powered telescope. I dozed (okay, I slept heavily) through the 90-minute talk. Ninety minutes of looking at PowerPoint slides in the dark after a big dinner and a few glasses of wine – what can you expect? But I did like looking at the craters of the moon.
I definitely recommend the Maropeng Hotel overall, especially if you book their special online package. Go to maropeng.co.za and look for the tiny “Make a reservation” button in the top-right corner of the page. Then choose your dates and scroll down to the “All-inclusive deal”. You can book a hotel room, tickets to Sterkfontein and Maropeng, breakfast, dinner, and a bottle of wine for well under R1000 per person. (It’s not easy to find this on the website. Be persistent.)
Just skip the astronomy lecture if you’re a morning person like I am.
I couldn’t find a place for this in the narrative, but here’s a funny picture of Ray and me in the hall of mirrors exhibit at the Maropeng Visitor Centre museum.
My stay at the Maropeng Hotel was provided courtesy of Maropeng. The opinions expressed in the article are solely mine.
I have yet to go to Maropeng but after reading this I think you have convinced me to go for a weekend, looks fantastic with lots to do. I am a morning person too, hope I can stay awake for the astronomy presentation as I am sure that I would find it fascinating but it’s going to be tough, haha.
Yeah, the astronomy presentation was killer. But Vincent really does know his stuff so if you’re interested you should give it a try 🙂
I just posted this in another comment, but just in case you didn’t see it…This quirky restored gold mine is another great place to visit in the Cradle. If you’re into science, you’ll love it: http://2summers.net/2013/03/30/the-keeper-of-the-dynamite/
Thanks for that Heather, that does look fascinating. Added to the list !
I think I am overdue for a trip out that way and you’re right, being Joburg based, it can all be done in a day… but it’s still worth the effort.
Yes, you should go! Sterkfontein is especially worth the trip. This quirky old gold mine is great, too: http://2summers.net/2013/03/30/the-keeper-of-the-dynamite/