Our last stop on our self-drive safari was the Cradle of Humankind. This region just outside of Johannesburg is a UNESCO World Heritage site where many important discoveries of ancient hominid fossils have been found. The Cradle-designated area is rather large, so we chose to visit the two main tourist attractions to be found there: the Maropeng Visitors Centre and the Sterkfontein Caves.
This nice (and relatively new) museum is set up to explain the history of life on Earth and the history of human life as well.
Once you enter the main building, you are taken down into the basement and you do this cheesy but fun boat ride that takes you though the different elements necessary for life.
We then went through the different exhibits in the large space. There ranged from discussions about DNA,to extinct animals, to the different types of hominids that paleoanthropologists have identified (many of which have been found in the Cradle) to what it means to be human. We enjoyed all of the interactive displays as well.
The site where many of the most famous fossils have been found is the Sterkfontein Caves, a set of limestone caves in the region. Our ancestors did not live in the caves; instead, they may have fallen into the caves where there bones were very well-preserved. We took the 45 minute tour through the cave itself.
Most of the route through the cave has been developed for tourism, but there were a few tricky spots where we had to walk through while mostly ducking. That’s why we had to wear hard hats!
After our experiences with the cave in Belize, this cave did seem a little tame. Also, we wished that we could have seen the actual excavation areas – they didn’t point out any of these on the areas we walked through. But caves are always fun to explore, so we were glad to say that we saw this one as well.