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Tswaing Meteorite Crater: The place of salt

On a sunny afternoon at around 14hr40, Ajọkẹ, Akinwọle and I set out to explore the Tswaing Meteorite Crater which is situated in the outskirt of Soshanguve, a large township in the North of Pretoria.

The name Tswaing, means ‘place of salt’ in Setswana. It is a site where a meteorite half a football field in size, slammed into the Earth 220,000 years ago, forming a crater of 1.4km (1mi) in diameter and 200m (660ft) deep. This crater, formerly known as the Pretoria Saltpan (or Zoutpan) is one of about 170 impact craters in the world and one of four known impact craters in South Africa.

We hit the road From the R80 highway towards Soshanguve, we then joined the M35 Road and turned left onto Soutpan Road. The Tswaing Crater entrance was directly on our left, off the Soutpan Road.
We drove in by following a road sign where we were warmly welcomed and signed-in by two security guards into a large space where most of the surrounding buildings were dilapidated. Parking under one of the shaded trees, I went to the reception to make a R40 payment and was given a permit and a map of the site. The permit was to allow us to drive closer to the nearest viewpoint (Shoemaker) of the crater.

To our greatest surprise, we had to drive out of the building. We were asked to turn left after 200 metres and then drive extra 7km to another point called the ‘picnic and reception’ area. It was a funfilled drive and the security guard at the picnic section displayed excellent customer service skills. He gave us a warm reception. It was indeed one of the best customer service I have ever received most especially in a State-managed organization in the country. Very professional, respectful and visibly knowledgeable about his job. I was impressed. We communicated in English. He did not assume that I was a fellow black South African just as the security guard at the second entrance of the crater gate did.

In my experience, It is an unpleasant situation and often common scenario when some black South Africans approach a fellow black African and assume he/she should be able to speak South African local language.

The security guard at the pinic assisted with parking area guidance and also helped us to locate our viewing area which was tagged ‘number 7’ stonepoint. It is about 200m to the crater. 

At first glance, it appeared to be a deserted site as there was no one in sight in the midst of the bush. After parking by number 7 stonepoint, we then hiked towards number 8 and 10 stone points. From afar, we saw a couple taking photos of the crater.

Following the numbers written on the stonepoints made it easy to locate the 220,000 years old meteorite crater. It was indeed a great sight to behold and well worth our visit.

Just east of the crater is the Soutpanspruit. It feeds a rare wetland system that is home to game and smaller mammals such as otters, genets, brown hyenas, civets and springboks, reptiles and frogs and about 340 birds and several plant species.

Although, the Tswaing Crater hiking trail is covered in very dense bushes, the opposite side of the crater is akin to a typical rain forest in South West Nigeria. It was a reminder of home! In that very moment, I could ‘See Nigeria’ in my mind.

The Tswaing Lake which is 100m (330ft) in diameter in the centre of the crater is filled by rainwater and a spring which makes it beautiful and serene to hang around. For those who haven’t been here, I will recommend this UNESCO World Heritage Site for your perfect eco-tourism experience.

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