The Cradle of Humankind is one of eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa, and the only one that falls into the Gauteng province. The site is within easy traveling distance of Johannesburg and Pretoria. The Maropeng Visitor Centre is the official visitors' centre for the area and its name means 'return to your origins' in Setswana, one of South Africa's 11 official languages.
Although the main focus should be on the area as a whole, the Maropeng Visitor Centre is an attraction in its own sense and has won multiple awards over the years. The centre is a place that will help visitors journey back in time from the start of our universe, some 14-billion years ago, to the present and beyond. As you approach the centre you will be confronted by a unique structure which resembles an ancient burial mound, known as a tumulus. Stepping inside takes you to a place beyond time, where your tour starts with a boat ride on an artificial lake before entering the exhibition area. The tour then leads visitors through highlights of human's evolutionary journey, it's a place where the displays tackle questions among many others about how our brains developed, where language came from, when we first used fire and what the risks are for us as a species in the future. The interactive displays often keep visitors occupied for an entire morning and some even a whole day. Maropeng provides visitors with a rare opportunity to view original hominid and dinosaur fossils that hold many secrets to how life on Earth existed millions of years ago. These exhibits are housed in the fossil display room and the collections on display change throughout the year. When you exit at the rear of the Tumulus, you are greeted by one of the best views possible in Gauteng, the views over the rolling hills towards the Magaliesberg. But even more intriguing than the view in front of you, is the view of the Tumulus you just walked out of. The ancient Burial Mound that you entered, through your journey through time, has transformed into a futuristic building of glass and steel, a symbol of how far humans have come as a species.
The Maropeng Visitor Centre lies on the boundary of the 47 000-hectare Cradle of Humankind, the richest treasure trove of early hominid fossils on Earth. And a visit to the centre will provide you with an overview of the significance of the area as well as the story of human development. The centre also has a companion site, the world famous Sterkfontein Caves. You can easily visit both the Sterkfontein Caves and Maropeng in a day, and the experiences complement one another.
Other facilities at the Maropeng Visitor Centre include a conference and event venue, as well as three restaurants.
The centre is open from 09:00 to 17:00, Monday to Friday with the last boat ride departing at 16:00.
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