On a sunny afternoon at around 2.40pm, Ajọkẹ, Akinwọle and I set out to explore the Tswaing Meteorite Crater. It is situated on 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 the size a football field crashed into the Earth 220,000 years ago. This created a crater of 1.4 kilometer (1 mi) in diameter and 200 meter (660 feet) 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.
The drive that wouldn’t stop
Ajọkẹ, Akinwọle and I hit the road From the R80 highway towards Soshanguve, 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. They directed us to a large space where most of the surrounding buildings were dilapidated. After parking under one of the shaded trees, I went to the reception to make a R40 (forty rand) 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.
Customer service at Tswaing 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 7 km to another point called the picnic and reception area. It was a fun-filled drive and the security guard at the picnic section displayed excellent customer service skills. He gave us a warm reception. It was one of the best customer service experiences I have ever received from a state-managed organization in the country. The guard was very professional, respectful and knowledgeable about his job. I was impressed. We communicated in English. He did not assume that I was a fellow Black South African (unlike the security guards at the first entrance did). It is unpleasant when Black South Africans approach a fellow Black African and assume he/she should be able to speak a South African local language.
Lucky number 7
The security guard at the picnic area assisted us with parking and locating our viewing area which was tagged ‘number 7’ stone-point. It is about 200 meters to the crater. At first glance, it appeared to be a deserted site. There was no one in sight in the midst of the bush. However, after parking by number 7 stone-point and hiking towards number 8 and 10 stone-points, we saw a couple taking photos of the crater. Following the numbers written on the stone-points made it easy to locate the 220,000 years old meteorite crater.
When we finally arrived, the Tswaing Crater was indeed a great sight to behold and well worth our visit.
Wait, there more
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 Tswaing for your perfect eco-tourism experience.