The Northern Cape province lies to the south of its most important asset, the mighty Orange River, which provides the basis for a healthy agriculture industry. The landscape is characterised by vast arid plains with outcroppings of haphazard rock piles. The cold Atlantic Ocean forms the western boundary.
This region covers the largest area of all the provinces and has the smallest population. The major airports are situated at Kimberley, the capital, and Upington. The Northern Cape is serviced by an excellent road network, which makes its interior easily accessible from South Africa's major cities, harbours and airports.
Important towns are Upington, centre of the karakul sheep and dried fruit industries, and the most northerly wine-making region in South Africa; Springbok in the heart of the Namaqualand spring-flower country; Kuruman founded by the missionary Moffat; De Aar, hub of the South African railway network; Sutherland, the coldest town in the country; and the sheep-farming towns of Carnarvon, Colesberg, Kenhardt and Prieska.
Apart from a narrow strip of winter-rainfall area along the coast, the Northern Cape is a semi-arid region with little rainfall in summer. The weather conditions are extreme cold and frosty in winter, and extremely high temperatures in summer.
The largest part of the province falls within the Nama-Karoo biome with a vegetation of low shrubland and grass, and trees limited to water courses. The area is known world-wide for its spectacular display of spring flowers which, for a short period every year, attracts thousands of tourists.
This biome is home to many wonderful plant species, such as the elephant's foot (halfmens), tree aloe (kokerboom) and a variety of succulents.
The province has several national parks and conservation areas. The Kalahari Gemsbok National Park, together with the Gemsbok National Park in Botswana, is Africa's first transfrontier game park, known as the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. It is one of the largest nature conservation areas in southern Africa, and one of the largest remaining protected natural ecosystems in the world.
The Park provides unfenced access to a variety of game between South Africa, and Botswana and has a surface area of more than two million hectare (ha).
Nowhere is the Orange River more impressive than at the Augrabies Falls, which ranks among the world's greatest cataracts on a major river. The Augrabies Falls National Park was established to preserve this natural wonder.