We do tours of all kinds in the fascinating and beautiful Dome – centre of the world’s oldest and largest visible impact crater. Years of research have gone into our popular presentations on the astronomy, geology, history and ecology of this “astrobleme” or space scar on the Earth’s surface.
Our Dome tours are led by popular science writer Prof Graeme Addison. Read on below or go to the full website. We do tours for visitors, schools, universities, and specialists of all kinds from geology to cultural heritage and battlefields. The Dome is wonderfully scenic and a haven for adventurers of all kinds. Visit and you will see!
CORE OF CRATER
The Vredefort Dome is named after the small town of Vredefort which is closest to its centre. The Dome itself is the central core or upheaval dome of a much larger impact crater. It was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in July 2055 and is still in the process of development as a tourism drawcard and natural scientific laboratory. The Dome itself is so large (between 40 and 60km across) that it can only be seen from space, as in the Shuttle picture below.
Those who come looking for it are often frustrated because it cannot be seen at a glance, but there are many ideal viewsites from which you can get different perspectives on the area: the central, rolling plains or Core, the surrounding mountains or Bergland, and the distant ridges of the Witwatersrand which are closely related to the Bergland.
The Bergland, or semicircular ring of hills we see now, marks the eroded remains surrounding a huge granite structure like an upturned bowl – the Dome. This was caused by the the rebound of the rock below the impact site after an asteroid thought to be the size of Table Mountain streaked towards the Earth. The rock from outer space turned into a ball of fire that melted the Earth and vaporised some 70 cubic kilometres of rock. The original crater, now very eroded after two billion years, is estimated to have been 300 kilometres across.
INFO AND TOURS
Otters’ Haunt is an information centre. Call before you come. We charge small fees for a video and map briefing and we have maps for sale. We do tours from halfday to three days. Our objective is to explain this complex planetary phenomenon and to take you to sites of interest, explaining things as we go. Call us or email to discuss your interests and group needs: we are well aware that some people are fascinated by geology and others find rocks uninteresting! Tell us what you would like to know about and we’ll shape the tour to suit you.
Quite apart from its scientific interest, the area is rich in archaeological and historical significance. Just to the north lies another World Heritage Site, the Cradle of Humankind, where fossils of the early humans have been discovered in underground limestone caves. The Dome and Bergland, as granite and quartzite landscapes, have no such caves but we can be sure that the same hominids roamed across the plains, hunting the abdundant wildlife, drank from the river, and took refuge from enemies in the mountains. Stone Age implements are widely found.
In historical times, the Dome has been a “Crucible of Conflict” where successive waves of migrants have found over land, water and minerals such as gold and copper.Our battlefield tours concentrate on the story of the Matabele-Voortrekker wars (circa 1836-7) and the later Anglo-Boer wars (1880 and 1889-1902). The area is the equal of northern KwaZulu Natal for its incredible variety of battlefields, epic herorism and human tragedy.
There’s more. We describe the the amazing – and amusing – story of the gold rush which saw fortune seekers from all over the world flock to both Johannesburg and the Dome in search of instant riches. Going much further back, the Tswana and Sotho peoples lived in the area and traded with East Africa. At Askoppies are the remains of a city estimated to have contained up to 30 000 people for hundreds of years.
You can visit many of the sites by vehicle, or hike, mountain bike and even float downriver, seeing features of it all. You will never be bored in the Dome.