#TravelTuesday: Take a trip to the Klein Karoo’s Oudtshoorn

03 September 2019 - 00:00
By Sanet Oberholzer
Ostriches showing off at the Safari Ostrich Farm just outside Oudtshoorn.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer Ostriches showing off at the Safari Ostrich Farm just outside Oudtshoorn.

Oudtshoorn is a small town in the Klein Karoo nestled between the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountain ranges.

Driving from the coast on the beautiful Garden Route over the Outeniqua Pass, the landscape soon changes to the semi-desert region known as the ostrich capital of the world.

Here, the world still has that old-timey feel and the people are as good as the salt of the earth.

When to travel

If you’re not one for the cold, do not travel to Oudtshoorn during the winter months as temperatures easily drop to below zero. Similarly, it can get quite hot in summer. If you’re planning on doing outdoor activities like hiking, Autumn and Spring offer a comfortable middle ground.

How to get there

Unless you live in close proximity to Oudtshoorn, the easiest way to travel will be to fly to George airport. From here, Oudtshoorn is just under an hour’s drive away. The main bus companies also serve Oudtshoorn and have services between Oudtshoorn and Johannesburg, Cape Town and Mossel Bay.

The Cango Caves are beautifully lit, creating an underground wonder world for visitors.
Image: Anna Om/123RF The Cango Caves are beautifully lit, creating an underground wonder world for visitors.

Highlights you shouldn’t miss

1. Any first-time visitor to Oudtshoorn should include the Cango Caves on their list of things to do. Found in the Cango Valley, the caves are 29 km from Oudtshoorn and are a spectacular underground wonder. As a show cave, the caverns and formations are beautifully lit and you can explore the underground beauty with an option of either a heritage or adventure tour, both led by experienced cave guides. The heritage tours take you through the astonishing caverns and halls while the adventure tour takes you much deeper into the caves. It does require a certain level of fitness and is not recommended if you are claustrophobic, pregnant or suffer from other conditions – make sure you are up for this tour before you book.

2. A morning adventure with 5 Shy Meerkats will deliver the epitome of cuteness: a mob of meerkats sleepily emerging from their burrows to warm their bellies in the sun in preparation for the day’s foraging. Start your morning expedition at the break of dawn, warm yourself with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and make the 500 metre track to the correct burrow that was scouted out at sunset the day before. Owner Devey Glinster and his team have spent years conducting their own research of these little creatures and will keep you entertained while you wait for them to emerge – a process that can happen in five minutes or take up to an hour or longer.

Spend a morning observing a family of meerkats with 5 Shy Meerkats.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer Spend a morning observing a family of meerkats with 5 Shy Meerkats.

3. Safari Ostrich Farm is a working ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn. As far as ethics around animal cruelty are concerned, they do not offer any ostrich riding. Instead, they offer the only tractor tour on an ostrich farm in South Africa. The knowledgeable guides introduce you to the different kinds of ostrich on the farm, from the Kenyan to the Zimbabwean and local South African breads, sharing interesting snippets of information about these gigantic birds. Enjoy a neck massage from Suzy the Stripper (she likes ripping the buttons from your clothes) and end the tour with a delicious farm-style lunch at their restaurant.

4. As you make your way out of town, the Smitswinkel Farm Village is on Langenhoven Road. Their kitchen is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner and the little ones can entertain themselves on the jungle gym or find amusement amongst the farm animals on the property. Stock up on local products, including wines from the region, and freshly baked breads from their farm deli. If you want to buy gifts for loved ones back home, browse amongst their craft products and gifts.

5. Given the semi-desert, dry landscape you might be pleasantly surprised to discover a few wine farms dotted around Oudtshoorn. If you are eager to discover what this region has to offer, follow the Klein Karoo Wine Route. Arguably the most diverse of South Africa’s wine regions, it stretches from Montagu in the west to Outeniqua in the east. The most popular wine farms in the Oudtshoorn region are Karusa and Grundheim (which also produces a lovely Black Mountain Karoo gin range). Visit kleinkaroowines for ideas of detailed day trips around the region.

Grab anything from a meal to a regional bottle of wine or locally made crafts from Smitswinkel.
Image: Sanet Oberholzer Grab anything from a meal to a regional bottle of wine or locally made crafts from Smitswinkel.