"Kuruman" Kuruman by mke1963

Kuruman Travel Guide: 18 reviews and 29 photos

Gateway to the Great Kalahari Desert, the small market town of Kuruman, lying on the Ghaap Plateau, is also the unlikely location for the world diving record. Yes indeed. No, not some weird record for diving in syrup or animal fat or some other fanciful claim to stardom. The proper record - recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records - for diving in water, set on 23rd August 1996, by South African Nuno Gomes, who dived 282 metres to the floor of the Boesmansgat, a natural dolomite sinkhole on the southern edges of the Kalahari. As if this desert sinkhole wasn't content with having one world diving record, in November 2001 Verna van Schaik set the women's record here as well.
It is likely that neither Robert Moffat, the famous missionary who built his mission in Kuruman, nor legendary explorer David Livingstone (and Moffat?s son-in-law), who passed by, would have guessed that one day, people would travel to little Kuruman to dive.

No-one knows quite when Kuruman was first settled, nor quite what the name means, but it is likely that this oasis was settled originally by the San people and possibly named for a local chief, Kudumane. The town of Kuruman was founded in 1886 ? for a long time it really was just the LMS missionaries. Through much of its life, Kuruman had a reputation for Christian preaching, but more recently Kuruman has become known for a variety of real lesiure pursuits, including the sport of paragliding. It is possible for experienced paragliders to soar for over 100km: although all-year paragliding is possible, the dust devils make summertime paragliding a hazardous activity.
Some may find the Ghaap Plateau monotonous, but it is an area with a rich history and an even richer natural history. The flora is considerably more varied than might first be thought, and the variety of birds is equally impressive. This is the south-eastern quarter of the Great Kalahari Desert ? or the Kgalagadi as it is becoming known now. While the area around Kuruman is not actually desert, there is little growing between the shrubs but the drifts of the Kalahari?s deep red sand. Most noticeable of the trees are the camelthorn and the related grey camelthorn, with their zig-zag branches and bleached white spikes; the seeds are encased in a wide flat, ear-shaped husk. Also common is the blackthorn, often filled with the hanging hand-woven nests of the weaver birds, including the beautiful spectacled weaver.

Even over quite short distances, the landscape can change rapidly, and there are stark bare hills, granite mounds and the occasional red sand dune. After asbestos was discovered nearby in 1912, Kuruman became one of the world?s most significant asbestos mining areas, and the area was lucky to survive the demise of asbestos in use around the world. This area is also known for its manganese mines, and the first manganese was discovered at the appropriately-named Black Rock, some 100km north of Kuruman. Two of the world?s largest manganese mines are in the vicinity of the settlement of the equally appropriately-named Hotazel, to the north. But in the winter months, the night time temperatures plummet, often below zero. Seven years ago, the residents of Kuruman woke to find snow lying on the ground.
As well as the local mines, agriculture remains important to Kuruman, and I seem to remember that it has one of Africa?s biggest cheese factories. More obvious are the game farms in every direction ? huge farms, each of many thousands of hectares, lie along every road and track in every direction.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Open space, great plains and wide skies
  • Cons:Porbably too much of the "open", "great" and "wide" for most people!
  • In a nutshell:Wonderful. I love it here. Big time.
  • Last visit to Kuruman: Nov 2005
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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