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Tswaing Meteorite Crater (Northern Flagship project)
 
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The only ecotourism destination of its kind in South Africa: Exploring the past, protecting the present, serving the future.

Some 220 000 years ago a blazing stony meteorite the size of half a football field slammed into the earth`s crust. The impact formed a crater, 1,4 km in diameter and 200 m deep. This crater, formerly known as the Pretoria Saltpan (or Zoutpan), is situated 40 km north to the northwest of Pretoria. It is one of the best-preserved terrestrial meteorite impact craters anywhere in the world. Other important craters in Southern Africa are Roter Kamm, Kalkkop, Morokweng and the Vredefort Dome.

Today, Tswaing, meaning Place of Salt in Setswana, is a 1946-hectare conservation area in Gauteng, some 40 km northwest of Central Pretoria. It borders on the Winterveld and Soshanguve settlements. The registered landowner is the national Department of Public Works. Tswaing falls within the area of the City of Tshwane. Tswaing is managed by the Northern Flagship Institution, a parastatal heritage conservation institute (comprising the national museums in Gauteng), established in terms of the 1998 Cultural Institutions Act.The main features of Tswaing are a 220 000-year old meteorite impact crater (100 m deep and 1,13 km across), a wetland (marsh) area, a variety of ecosystems and the remains of a factory that produced soda ash and salt.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tswaing is a sensitive and unique conservation area for the careful and sustainable management of its multiple cultural and natural heritage resources in the disciplines of geology, the environmental sciences, biology and human history. Strong emphasis is placed on the protection and use of the area`s natural and cultural heritage for research, environmental education, recreation and community empowerment. This is achieved in close consultation with local communities, scientists, conservation agencies, private sector business and national, provincial and metropolitan government institutions.

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Among the 165 known terrestrial meteorite impact craters in the world, the Tswaing Crater is exceptional due to its excellent state of conservation and because there are very few small meteorite craters left on earth. The 90 m of sedimentary deposits on the original crater floor contain an unparalleled record of climate changes in the Southern Hemisphere over the past 220 000 years. The conservation area also has a relatively unique variety of ecosystems. Tswaing is an important part of our cultural and natural heritage and could one day become a World Heritage Site. Finally, the development of Tswaing is a showcase of successful partnerships between national, provincial and local government institutions, private sector, local and interested communities.

 

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Tswaing`s natural and cultural heritage resources include a variety of ecosystems and plant species, game (introduced by Gauteng Province in 2002), a large number of bird species (about 240 thus far), smaller mammals (amongst others otters, genets, brown hyenas, civets and steenbok), reptiles (including pythons, land and water monitors, tortoises, terrapins), frogs, a river with a large wetland, archaeological sites and the ruins of the soda mine and factory.

Current visitor services and products include the 7,2-km Tswaing Crater Trail, museum display, group accommodation (64 persons) and education programmes. Tswaing is also available for documentary and commercial film and video productions, sports and cultural events, small conferences and for the promotion of new commercial private sector services and products.

Named after the lake, Tswaing is a 2000-hectare conservation area offering group accommodation, bush and wilderness camp sites, four hiking trails, guided walks, education programmes and museum displays. Experience the grandeur of the crater and also the tranquillity of the surrounding African bushveld and wetland with its unusual diversity of wildlife and an exceptional variety of birds!

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