Visiting Kimberley Diamond Mine in South Africa

Aerial view of the Big Hole at the Kimberley Diamond Mine
Joesboy/Getty Images

Kimberley, South Africa, is home to the world’s largest diamond mine, also known as the “Big Hole.” Dug by humans and so large it is visible from space, the pit has yielded some of the world’s largest diamonds and made the De Beers name famous worldwide.

At Kimberley visitors can view a 17-minute movie about the location and the history of diamond mining in Africa. They also get to walk out on a high platform to view The Big Hole, take a ride down a faux mining shaft, enter a locked vault to view genuine diamonds of all colors, and visit a small museum.

There is also a café, gift and jewelry shops, and many structures and artifacts left from the days when Kimberly was a thriving mining town. Visitors can walk the eerily empty streets of the company town and step into the modest home where the De Beers family lived.

Those who arrive at Kimberley’s Victorian railway station by train then travel to The Big Hole via motorcoach, about a ten-minute drive.

01 of 11

Mine Statistics

Aerial view of The Big Hole with Kimberley CBD in the background, Kimberley, Northern Cape Province, South Africa
Grant Duncan Smith/Getty Images

Nearly 15 million diamonds were extracted from the Kimberley Diamond Mine, discovered in 1871. Excavation ended in August 1914.

Continue to 2 of 11 below.
02 of 11

The Big Hole

town near the Big Hole at Kimberley
Louise Murray/robertharding/Getty Images

That's deep: The Big Hole is 215 meters, or 705 feet, deep. 

Continue to 3 of 11 below.
03 of 11

Mine Map

What to See and Do in Kimberley
Susan Breslow Sardone

This map helps visitors to understand the facilities they can explore around The Big Hole. They include original and recreated structures from when Kimberley was a working mine with a town that served its residents with a variety of shops and other necessities.

Continue to 4 of 11 below.
04 of 11

Diamond Mining Machinery

Mineshaft at The Big Hole
Ariadne Van Zandbergen/Getty Images

Rusted now, this was one of the machines in use during the heyday of diamond mining in Kimberley.

Continue to 5 of 11 below.
05 of 11

Kimberley Diamond Museum

Reconstructed town of Kimberley in the diamond rush days, Kimberley, Northern Cape Province, South A
hphimagelibrary/Getty Images

The Kimberley Diamond Museum tells the story of the history of diamond mining and presents artifacts from the early days. Many visitors wonder if free samples are available. They are not.

Continue to 6 of 11 below.
06 of 11

South African Diamond Mining Town

Kimberley Mine Museum, tram in open-air museum, old mining town, Big Hole, Kimberley, North Cape, South Africa
Christian Handl/Getty Images

The discovery of diamonds brought not only miners but also tradesmen to Kimberly, and a town sprouted at the end of the nineteenth century.

Continue to 7 of 11 below.
07 of 11

Diamond Miners' Huts

Kimberley Huts for Miners
Susan Breslow Sardone

Although slavery was abolished in the Cape Colony in 1834, most of the miners did not live much better than those who had no freedom.

Continue to 8 of 11 below.
08 of 11

Kimberley's Oldest House

Kimberley Mines oldest house
Susan Breslow Sardone

According to the sign, "This house was prefabricated in England in 1877, conveyed from the coast to the diamond fields by oxwagon and erected at 14 Pneil Rd. First registered owner, Mr. A. J. Petersen."

Continue to 9 of 11 below.
09 of 11

De Beer Gravestone

De Beer gravestone
Susan Breslow Sardone

Johannes De Beer was an Afrikaner upon whose farmland diamonds were discovered. He is buried in Kimberley.

Continue to 10 of 11 below.
10 of 11

Kimberley Diamond Buyer

Diamond buyer hut at Kimberley
Susan Breslow Sardone

Once an important part of the diamond trade, this one-room office was where diamonds found in Kimberley were purchased and sent overseas for cutting and sale.

Continue to 11 of 11 below.
11 of 11

Kimberley Bank

The Standard Bank of British South Africa
Susan Breslow Sardone

Little of the riches dug from the Kimberly mines benefitted South Africans; most of the treasure was sent overseas.

The Kimberley diamond mine enriched Englishman Cecil Rhodes, who founded De Beers. The company became a virtual monopoly. The imperialist Rhodes and his British South Africa Company founded Rhodesia, which now includes the southern African countries of Zimbabwe and Zambia

Was this page helpful?