Thami Kwazi
Lifestyle Print Editor
3 minute read
25 Jun 2018
1:58 pm

Take a trip back in time at the Cradle of Humankind

Thami Kwazi

Maropeng is more than just fossils, it’s a full experience in the origins of mankind.

Maropeng Exhibition Centre, the Cradle of Humankind. Picture: iStock

While sitting at home bored, I decided to watch Tomb Raider … and Lara Croft’s adventures got me wondering about archaeological sites in South Africa.

I started wondering how many South Africans know who Mrs Ples is. Mind you, I didn’t know much myself about the fossil or its origins.

So, the solution was to go on a trip with a cousin who isn’t interested in anything but living the Jozi high life. It was time to show her what else our beautiful country has to offer and teach myself something while acting out my secret, inner explorer.

The Cradle of Humankind is a 40-minute drive from Johannesburg. On route there is the Cradlestone Mall, a shopper’s paradise. We made a short stop to refresh and stock up on water, biltong and dried fruit. For once, I was able to control my constant urge to shop.

Another must-stop place before you reach the Cradle is the Sterkfontein Caves in Maropeng.

Researchers hunt for fossils in Milner Hall in the Sterkfontein Caves.

For a tour of the site, we joined a group of Americans who kept asking us where we were from. Their assumption was that South Africans can’t afford to visit sites like that.

The tour guide educated us along the way about the rocks and geographical development of the site, its importance and history. There’s a deep emotion of pride when you’re inside the caves, because this is indeed Africa. Our Africa.

Then on to the Cradle Nature reserve, we drove through the property to the hotel to book in.

The best part of the area is the Maropeng Cradle of Humankind Visitors Centre, and that was where we finally found her – Mrs Ples, or Australopithecus africanus, as she’s categorised.

It’s said that 40% of the world’s hominids were unearthed at that very site, prompting the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to designate it a World Heritage site. Maropeng is more than just fossils, it’s a full experience in the origins of mankind.

CURRENT AFFAIRS. Visitors to Maropeng take a boat ride back through history.

CURRENT AFFAIRS. Visitors to Maropeng take a boat ride back through history.

A trip through the different ages and eras of history includes tasks, games and videos that explain each level of the museum. The displays are interactive, so if you’re with children they will get a full understanding.

The Cradle Hotel offers the Malapa and Fossil Tour, which takes you through all the important sites accompanied by a guide.

We enjoyed a great dinner and after-dinner drinks while watching the sunset. For a little pampering, you can also book a 45-minute in-room massage.

I’m no Lara Croft, but in one weekend I got to journey through centuries of history, get in touch with my origins and understand just a tad bit more about this country I was blessed to be born in.


  • The Cradle Boutique Hotel


  • Route T9, Kromdraai Road (R540), Kromdraai, Cradle of Humankind, Johannesburg
  • GPS: 25° 55′ 24″S 27° 51′ 12″E


  • 087-353-9599

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