West Rand

Aerial view of the Cradle of Humankind and Maropeng.

Aerial view of the Cradle of Humankind and Maropeng.

The West Rand District Municipality comprises four local municipalities: Randfontein, Mogale City, Westonaria and Merafong City.

The West Rand, situated on the western side of Gauteng, stretches from the Magaliesberg mountain range in the north, to the N12 in the south, and along the meandering Crocodile River. The region is well serviced with resorts and activities that cater for visitors looking for tranquillity or adventure.

The West Rand is less than a 45-minute drive along excellent highways from Sandton (N1), Pretoria (N14/R28) and Johannesburg. It is also close to international and local airports. The West Rand’s heritage, dating back millions of years, attracts visitors from across the globe. Its unspoilt wilderness is protected by legislation and is carefully managed to preserve both historic and ecological legacies.

The Witwatersrand – Afrikaans for “Ridge of White Waters” – is 1 760m above sea level. The area provides the largest inland water system in South Africa, with rain water flowing into both the Indian and Atlantic oceans. The Witwatersrand Sequence is a combination of gold-bearing quartzite and shale. Two of the earliest gold mines in South Africa can be visited at Kromdraai and Magaliesburg, where guided tours reveal the lives of these early pioneers.

Soft dolomite has led to the earliest evidence of the discovery of humankind, and to the declaration of the Cradle of Humankind as a World Heritage Site. It is a 47 000ha area about 45km north-west of Johannesburg. Fossil findings throw light on to early human ancestors and their relatives, dating back more than 3.4-million years. The Sterkfontein excavation has been active since 1966, making it the world’s longest sustained palaeoanthropological excavation.

Cradle of Humankind

Cradle of Humankind (Image: Gauteng Tourism Authority)

Elements of interest

  • The West Rand forms part of the Cradle of Humankind, a Unesco World Heritage Site, where evidence of hominin habitation has been documented stretching back millions of years. A trip to Maropeng, the visitor centre for the Cradle of Humankind, is a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the origins of human beings through a self-guided exhibition. The area has produced a wealth of fossil remains, including those of Australopithecus sediba, while a tour of the famous Sterkfontein Caves makes for a memorable family excursion

  • Western Deep is the world’s deepest mining shaft, plunging some 3.9km into the earth. Guided tours of two of South Africa’s gold mines at Kromdraai and Magaliesburg are both geologically and historically informative.

  • Birdwatchers are sure to add a few interesting bird sightings to their lists, and the more adventurous visitors will revel in a hot-air balloon ride, microlighting adventure, fly-fishing, or rock-climbing expedition.

  • Hiking and horse-riding trails are also in abundance, and there are stretches of off-road land for quad-biking and cycling.

  • Lanseria International Airport offers an alternative point of entry to the West Rand, which also has a stunning casino.