Day 5: The Cradle of Humankind

Our morning started off bright and early, heading towards something we’d been very much looking forward to: a visit to the Cradle of Humankind. This world heritage site has been the location of some of the most impactful and astounding discoveries regarding the history of humans and their related species.

We stared at the Maropeng Visitors Centre, an excellent museum dedicated to the history of all human ancestors. It was perhaps the most entertaining museum we’ve been too – entering involved a literal water ride through caves including lights and sound effects! Very fun! We spent our time learning and exploring the exhibits. The breadth of discoveries made in the area is truly incredible.

When we made it to the back of the museum, we found the special exhibit sponsored by National Geographic featuring the Homo naledi. The discovery of the extinct species of hominid was announced just a few weeks before our trip, and is the most recently added member of the extended family of humans – it’s being called essentially a “cousin”. While exploring this exhibit, who walked in but the lead scientist of the exhibition, Lee Berger! We had the amazing opportunity to hear him discuss the research in more detail, and Teddy even asked him a few questions. So cool! We totally science-geeked out here.

After exploring the museum a bit more, and trying to get over our excitement of meeting Dr. Berger, we headed to our next stop: Sterkfontein Caves.

This system of caves is an active excavation site, and another component of the World Heritage Site of the Cradle of Humankind.

We took our time exploring the museum here, too (I think Teddy and I want to be archeologists in our next lives) before donning the ultimate in cool hear: hard hats and hair nets.

This style statement was well worth it – for the next two hours we scrambled through tiny crevices, wandered over underground lakes and saw tiny slivers of light streaming into massive underground caverns. We even got to see where archeologists were still working as they continue to find amazing specimens in this cave system.

We had an extremely fun tour here, and felt like the entire day was super educational and exciting. Win!

We headed to our next hotel, and after a quick trip to the grocery store to pick up provisions and some extremely inexpensive South African wine, we relaxed for the rest of the evening with a beautiful view of the mountains. We had an early wake up call the next day, but we were excited!

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