The Free State

Lying at the heart of South Africa, this province is founded on gold and vast farming plains. One of the great sights of the region is fields of sunflowers and maize that stretch as far as the eye can see. It is also a province for those who enjoy the outdoors with hiking trails, fishing streams, horse riding, game viewing and bird watching. The northern border is formed by the Vaal River and the Vaal Dam is one of the main features of the area, with some excellent resorts along its banks and opportunities for angling, wind surfing, water ski-ing, paragliding and rafting. Silly fact! American gangster Al Capone allegedly used to favour wearing blue-white diamonds from the Free State diamond mining town of Jagersfontein above all other jewels.

The main city in this area is Bloemfontein, known as the City of Roses, a distinction supported by the 4000 rose bushes blooming in the city’s Kings Park.

Things not to miss in the Free State:
1. St Helena, where gold was first discovered in the province. Visitors can visit gold museums and take underground mining tours.
2. Jagersfontein – a vast mining excavation that is often compared with The Big Hole in Kimberley.
3. Seekoeivlei – the extensive wetlands named after the hippo that has been recently reintroduced to the area. This area is a magnet for birds and several small predators including serval, African wild cat and white-tailed mongoose make the wetlands their home with such an abundant food supply available.
4. The Vredefort Dome – the oldest and largest meteorite impact site in the world, which was formed an estimated 2000 million years ago when a giant meteorite hit the earth. It is regarded as the biggest and oldest clearly visible impact site on earth.

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