Published: February 1, 2016
Skydive Parys is a unique and unusual drop zone because it is situated in a World Heritage site, the Vredefort Dome!
This World Heritage site extends over 2 provinces, the Free State and the North West Province, and is bisected by the Vaal River.
Some 2023 million years ago a meteorite, larger than Table Mountain, hit the earth, making a crater more than 300 km wide. As the meteorite fell through the atmosphere it heated up and, like a hissing fireball, ploughed into the earth, penetrating 17 km deep. In its wake, pulverized rock powder rained down on the earth for months blotting out the sun. Some scientists speculate this inadvertently increased the oxygen levels on the planet to the point of making life possible.
As the impact occurred layers of rock were forced outwards and downwards to form rims of crumpled ridges that today stretch as far as Johannesburg and into the North West Province, simultaneously, granite and gold were forced to the surface.
Scientists call this an astrobleme. Which is a place where an impact from outer space has left a permanent imprint one the earth's landscape and evolution. Many meteorites have plunged into the earth before but this is the largest and oldest to hit the earth.
Due to the topography and geological diversity of the Dome, vegetation is very varied and abundant. More than 100 plants species have already been identified and the largest wild olive grove in the world is found here. There are over 400 bird species sighted in the Dome and it is a very popular destination for bird watching.
Some 200 million years ago the Vaal River began flowing through the Vredefort crater. This brought with it human beings; first the San, then Sotho and Tswane and then the Europeans, especially gold prospectors in search of their fortune. Archaeological finds can be seen, from San rock art, Stones ages shelters, Iron Age settlements to evidence of the Battle of Tygerfontein, in August 1900, between the Boers and the British.
This is the only heritage site that is privately owned by landowners, these custodians operate Bed and Breakfasts, Conference Centers, Wedding venues and many activities that use the challenging geographical features of the Vredefort Dome. These include guided geological tours to understand the different rock formations due to the impact; climbing it's peaks, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, abseiling it's rock faces, exploring old gold mine tunnels and white river rafting it's rapids.
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» Bruce Gravett