Cradle of Humankind

Where our human story began

The Cradle of Humankind is an internationally-renowned cluster of archaeological sites, just north of Johannesburg. It is unique for its blend of rich paleoanthropology, highveld biodiversity and panoramic landscapes.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, ‘the Cradle’ is home to three globally renowned paleoanthropological sites which together represent the most extensive concentration of early human fossils found anywhere.

It is a palaeonthropological  treasure trove – the richest source of evidence anywhere for understanding our human origins.  Five of only ten globally known partial skeletons of our human ancestors were found here. These include Homo sediba (discovered in 2008) and Homo naledi (2013).  Both have changed our understanding of the course of human evolution.

The sites we visit are all active dig sites which are still yielding hominin and animal fossils of international scientific importance.

Accommodation and activities

Accommodation is in the recently completed Riverhorse Lodge in the Greater Cradle Nature Reserve. The Lodge has a dedicated chef, game guide and open safari vehicle for guests’ exclusive use. At multiple points throughout the Reserve guests will enjoy panoramic views of the rolling highveld landscape and the vast African sky.

In addition to game drives and walks, you will participate in the Cradle Human Origins Tour – an exclusive and unforgettable journey of discovery that will walk you in the footsteps of our ancestors to our earliest hominin origins, as revealed by the internationally renowned Malapa and Gladysvale fossil sites.

Your stay will include a tour of the Malapa Museum, a beautifully curated space adjacent to the Cradle Hotel (an architectural masterpiece with breathtaking views), that was developed in partnership with renowned paleoanthropologist, Professor Lee Berger. This will take you on a journey into the deep past, exploring some of the world’s most important archaeological discoveries that were made locally and that have transformed our understanding of our origin story.

Your stay at the Greater Cradle Nature Reserve should include a visit to the Origins Centre at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. It is from here that the archaeologists responsible for the Cradle’s extraordinary discoveries operate. Home to the globally renowned Rock Art Research Institute and the Centre for the Exploration of the Deep Human Journey, the Origins Centre offers the most extensive exhibition of modern hominin evolution and San Bushman rock art anywhere in the world.

By special arrangement, it may be possible to visit the University’s Fossil Vault, where the originals of the world’s most famous hominin fossils – including Taung Child, Little Foot, Mrs Ples, Homo sediba and Homo naledi – are stored. All proceeds raised from this tour will be donated to the Wits Archaeology Department’s Genus student bursary fund.


The Greater Cradle Nature Reserve is unique for its blend of rich paleoanthropology and highveld biodiversity.  It is a magnificent ecotourism destination just one hour’s drive north of Johannesburg. It comprises a pristine highveld landscape which is home to leopard and brown hyena and twenty species of antelope, including eland, blesbok, giraffe, kudu, blue wildebeest and red hartebeest.


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