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10 fascinating place names

South Africa is a country of vast differences and each town has it’s own fascinating story to tell.

Here are 10 fascinating towns, their name origins, history and attractions.



Mpumalanga established in 1940s

Name origin: possibly an adaption of Eekhoringhoek (squirrel corner) after the bushveld mice found here. Another possibility is the fruit of the mbula tree, or ‘cork tree’, which apparently resembles acorns. Thirdly, possibly after the German surname Eichhorn.

Town theme: farming

Why Stop: Visit the Arts and Crafts route, where you can see a group of Shangaan and Mapulaneng Sotho women creating handmade rugs, bags and tapetries. Also stop for some flame-grilled chicken at the Ethiopian restaurant, Anjo’s.



Northern Cape established in 1945

Name origin: Renamed in honour of a Reverend Eksteen, who established the town and did much work in the community.

Previous Name: Stinkfontein (stinking sping) due to the sulphur-like smell of the water.

Town theme: Stock farming and diamond mining. A World Heritage Site, for its natural and cultural importance.

Why Stop: Learn about the Bosluis Basters and Namas at the museum. Visit the textile group, who make handmade garments with Richterveld motifs, or ride a donkey cart. Sample dumplings cooking in goat’s milk while watching the children dance the traditional Nama Stap.


Free State established in 1850FAURESMITH

Name origin: After Reverend Phillip Faure, the moderator of the Dutch Reformed Church, and Sir Harry Smith (1787 – 1860), Governor of the Cape.

Town theme: Farming

Why Stop: The Fauresmith Endurance Ride is a gruelling 205km horse-riding course over three days, which now has over 300 entries annually. It started out in 1964 as a debate in a local Afrikaans magazine over the endurance capability of various horse breeds – the Arabian breed emerged victorious.


4 . GROOTDRINK Grootdrink

Northern Cape

Name origin: In spite of its name as groot (big) drink (drink) there is nothing large about the village. It’s possibly a reference to the amount of wine produced in the area.

Town theme: wine

Why Stop: The Gemsbok Rally hosts motorcyclists from around the country. For scenery, enjoy the quiver trees while sipping a glass of the local red.


5. KLIPPLAATklipplaat

Eastern Cape established in 1879

Name origin: From the large slabs of rock on the surface of the ground: klip (stone or rock) and plaat (sheet or slab) in Afrikaans.

Town theme: Originally Klippart was an important railway junction housing the railway facilities and the staff to man them. The railway facility has since closed.

Why Stop: Take a ‘selfie’ in front of the old steam train (located just before the intersection with the R388). From the R338, turn towards Mount Stewart. The first farm on t he right-hand side, Hardwood, has two rondavels – one being a magistracy and second a police station and lock-up. In the past, captured stock thieves were confined in the lock-up until the magistrate could hold a trial.


6. MAZEPPA BAYMazeppa Bay

Eastern Cape

Name origin: After the schooner Mazeppa, which in 1839 rescued the surviving Voortrekkers among Louise Trichard’s followers who sailed from Delagoa Bay to Port Natal.

Town theme: Resort

Why Stop: Go fishing or walk over the 100m-high suspension bridge to reach Mazeppa Bay’s famous island.



Northern Cape established in 1892POSTMASBURG

Name origin: After the Reverend Dirk Postma (1818 – 90) founder of the Reformed Church.

Town theme: Mining (diamonds and manganese)

Why stop: For the 4×4 trails, hiking and biking.



Limpopo established in 1Maropeng956 (town proclaimed)

Name origin: Adaptation of the Afrikaans rottang, meaning ‘cane’ which was used to weave the baskets, etc sold at a store here.

Town theme: Farming

Why Stop: Visit Makapan’s Cave, an important palaeontological site.


9. SKUKUZAselati


Name origin: Literally translated, the name, adapted from the Zulu, sikhukhuza, means ‘he who sweeps clean’ or ‘he who brings about changes’ or ‘one who scrapes clean’. It refers to James Stevenson-Hamilton, first warden of the Sabie Game Reserve, and his efforts to control poaching in the early days.

Town theme: Rest camp in the Kruger National Park

Why Stop: Have a meal at the Selati Train restaurant situated on an old train platform on the eastern verge of the camp. Enjoy game drives or a bush braai.



Western CapeVermaaklikheid

Name origin: The name translates as ‘amusement’, ‘pleasure’ or ‘entertainment’, believed to refer to the abundance of game, rather than seaside frolics.

Town theme: Quaint hamlet characterised by kapstylhuise (old Cape cottages).

Why stop: Sleep, swim or flat lazily down the Duiwenhoks River. Good birding, with more than 100 species.


To see other fascinating place names and information, buy a copy of A-Z of Place Names by renowned author and artist, Ann Gadd click here


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