The many geological formations in South Africa provide a perfect opportunity for Geology Safaris / Geological Tours.
Here in the Southern tip of the African continent you can get an overview of 3.5 billion years of change and development in the Earth's history, ranging from the ancient ore-rich rocks of the north to the breathtaking Cape mountain ranges in the south -- a treasure trove of Earth's historical past for the disciplines of geology, palaeontology and palaeoanthropology.
South Africa is not only a country of incredible mineral wealth, but also bears testimony to the way in which continents form and shape the Earth's surface.
In the Limpopo Province north of Pretoria lies the Bushveld Complex, the largest igneous intrusion in the world -- an area of 65 000 km2 and up to 8 km thick! It is also the world's greatest repository of platinum group metals, chromium and vanadium -- one of the many sources of South Africa's great mineral wealth! The area also has some of the oldest known fossils.
In the south, we see the manifestation of ice ages and the consequences of the break-up of the ancient continent of Gondwana. The beautiful coastline known as the Garden Route bears testimony to a major mountain building episode 280 - 230 million years ago, a direct result of continental drift and the break-up of Gondwanaland 100 million years later.
In the 1880s what is now Johannesburg was the site of the biggest gold-rush in history. Since then nearly half of the world's mined gold has been recovered from the Witwatersrand reefs, coming from the world's deepest and most productive mines.
In 1905 the largest gem diamond ever found came from the Premier Diamond Mine at Cullinan, which is also the largest and oldest kimberlite pipe in South Africa. The mine is still in full production.
Around 2-billion years ago a massive meteorite, 10 kilometres in diameter, hit the earth about 100km southwest of Johannesburg, creating an enormous impact crater. What remains of this impact crater is now known as the Vredefort Dome and is located near to the small Free State town of Vredefort.
The Tswaing Meteorite Crater was formed approximately 220 000 years ago when a metoerite travelling at 4000 km/h hit the earth with an impact of about 100 atomic bombs of the type that where dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. It created a crater of just over one kilometre in diameter and displaced 60 metres of the earth's crust to form the present-day crater rim.
At this time our hominid (ape-men) ancestors had been evolving in the lush Sterkfontein valley for millions of years, and Middle Stone Age man had made an appearance. Because of its unique and unrivalled significance for human origins, this area is now a World Heritage site -- aptly named the Cradle of Humankind.