The Maropeng Visitors Centre is the official centre for the Cradle of Humankind. It is located a few minutes from the caves, and charts the history of the beginning of the earth, to the arrival of humans, and finally to our modern world. Maropeng means "returning to the place of origin" in Setswana, and you certainly get the sense of returning to the origins as you journey through the centre.
I've wanted to visit the centre for ages and finally managed to fit in a visit on my last trip to Joburg. We arrived at the centre and walked into this interesting building that looked like a giant hobbit house with grass growing over the roof.
Once inside, you start your tour with a boat ride that winds its way along an enclosed river. The river ride takes you on a journey through the beginning of our planet with bubbling lava, gases, and storms. The ride is quite fun and helps to set the mood for a very interactive and engaging tour.
When the boat ride finishes you go through a walkway that is located in a spinning tube. It's a fascinating mind trick - even though the walkway is straight and flat, the spinning tube makes you feel like you're falling over as though you were trapped in a tumble dryer. But, once you exit the walkway and look back you see that it is completely flat.
After getting quite confused and dizzy we entered the museum proper. Here we watched videos and read about the history of our planet. It's very interesting and good for the whole family with something to learn no matter your background or understanding of paleoanthropology and archaeology. The centre is very hands-on with plenty of exhibits to explore and play with.
One of my favourite exhibits was on the different fossils that have been discovered at the Sterkfontein Caves. The history and discovery of Mrs Ples and the Taung Child, two famous Australopithecus skulls, is very interesting. When you arrive at the centre you have a choice to include a visit to the Sterkfontein Caves to see exactly where these amazing discoveries were made. If you have a chance, I'd definitely recommend going.
Once we'd finished viewing the displays and trying our hand at the various exhibits we headed outside. As you walk back to the entrance of the centre you pass a number of moulds of famous people's hands and feet. Now I've got fairly small feet at size 7, but I was quite shocked to find out that I have larger feet than Jacob Zuma.
If you are interested in paleoanthropology, or just wanting to experience a wonderful interactive museum, then I'd definitely recommend a visit to the Maropeng Visitors Centre.