Palaeontology Route Information
A story under every stone…..
It is almost impossible to believe the dry land of the Karoo was once a vast inland sea. This, along with the Karoo being as old as time, has resulted in many palaeontological discoveries, especially in the surroundings areas of Graaff-Reinet and Nieu Bethesda. Renowned palaeontologist, Andrew Geddes Bain, lived in the area from 1822 and it was here that he discovered the fossil of a large jaw filled with teeth which he named the “Blinkwater Monster”. The fossils found in this area have revealed much of the story of our land since it emerged from the Ice Age around 250 Million years ago.
Karoo fossils have a largely unbroken 50-million-year fossil record, covering a period from 240 to 190 million years ago, showing the evolutionary pathways and patterns of different animal groups through time.
One can also take day trips to fossil farms in the area where you will be able to observe evolution patterns both through a visit to the San rock-art located in caves on the farms and to fossil sites.
An extensive collection of fossils collected over a period of 18 years is displayed in the Old Library Museum in Graaff-Reinet, drawing the attention of scientists and the curious from around the world. Fossils can also be seen in the Graaff-Reinet Tourism Office, at the Kitching Fossil Centre in Nieu Bethesda and at Ganora Guest Farm and Wellwood Farm close to Nieu Bethesda. Bushman rock art can be seen at Ganora Guest Farm.
Take the time to discover the abundant historical and scientific evidence of early life in the Plains of Camdeboo.
Old Library Museum
This museum contains the following exhibitions:
Karoo Fossils, Slavery – Long Road to Restitution, rock art and artifacts, achievers of Graaff Reinet and the Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe display.
The fossil collection that was started by Dr. Sydney Rubidge is the pride and joy of Wellwood and is housed in a building on the farm. While the Karoo can boast many attractions, this is one that should not be missed.
Marion Rubidge invites guest staying on the farm to see the collection and have tea whenever possible. The collection is a treasure trove of creatures long forgotten 200+ Million years ago. a rich source of information of our prehistoric past that is still used by many universities here and overseas.
Please note that this museum can be visited by overnight guests only.
The Ganora Fossil Museum
You will also see small models which give an indication of what these reptiles looked like. We also have fossilized leaves from the Glossopteris trees which formed the coal which is mined in South Africa today. The Compasia dela Harpi fish fossil is also on show in the museum, of which we are very proud as it is the only complete example of this fossil in the world. Children also enjoy the museum and we explain things in such a way that they can understand and value the information.
We also have a fossil workshop where children can build their own reptiles with recycled products. This workshop needs to be booked in advance.
Ganora Fossil Walk
After a visit to the fossil museum where we explain all our discoveries, you are welcome to go on a fossil walk with JP.
On the fossil walk JP will show you sites where he has discovered various prehistoric animal fossils which have been covered in mud to be preserved as the fossils that you can experience today. You will also see evidence of the rivers that flowed in a northerly direction in the time when the continents were joined to form Pangea.
The walk is not strenuous as you drive from one point to another. The Karoo contains fossils of the mammal-like–reptiles which lived in the basin on average 280 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs of only 140 million years ago. Here you will come across our Gorgonopsian, some Dicynodon remains, evidence of mud slides, remains of the bottom of an old lake and even view bushman etchings.
You are welcome to order sunset drinks and snacks to be enjoyed in the veld. These excursions must be booked ahead of your arrival at Ganora.
Kitching Fossil Centre
For further information visit the Nieu-Bethesda web site http://www.nieu-bethesda.com
Palaeontology Route Map
Palaeontology Route Points of Interest