The vast Northern Cape does not often come to mind when thinking about South Africa’s tourism attractions but Noncedo Seekoei is passionate about the prospects of marketing of the sparsely populated province.
She left a secure job in the tourism industry in 2009 to do something that she loves — to create unique and different travel packages linked to De Aar, the third largest town in the province.
Among these, Seekoei launched science and technology tours at renewable energy conference in August last year. The Northern Cape records some of the hottest temperatures in the country and features two solar parks, one of which is the largest in the country, near De Aar. Subsequently,
Karroo Travel Dimensions has capitalised on the growing interest of renewable energy investors in trips to the facilities, as well as in helicopter rides to view them from the air.
Seekoei cites conducting a ghost tour through De Aar as her personal favourite. It takes place between midnight and 2.30am and she enjoys watching the expressions of spooked tourists making their way through the historic cemetery. Several people have even claimed to have seen ghosts and zombies there.
History buffs are also fascinated by De Aar and its role in the South African War. Seekoei’s tours, which differs from the battlefields tours in KwaZulu-Natal, takes visitors to the cemetery where many of the combatants lie buried and to the Garden of Remembrance.
Like many small businesses, Seekoei cites the government’s failure to pay suppliers timely as one of the biggest obstacles to cash flow. However, she was recently able to buy her own 16-seater minibus, of which she will take delivery shortly, and is excited about not having to rely on a hired vehicle.
It is not easy to market the remote province and she works hard with tourism authorities to advertise what the region has to offer. The Northern Cape is also subject to extreme temperatures, very hot in summer and sometimes going below zero as early as April, which discourages travellers.
Seekoei, however, sees massive opportunities for growth and hopes to expand her offering to include visits to the Square Kilometre Array, the radio telescope project near Carnarvon. But there is no tourism office in the town despite widespread interest in the programme.
She believes it needs someone who understands the province and who has been involved in science and technology tours, such as herself, to drive the project.