Into the big heart of the Klein Karoo

Posted by Anita Froneman on 28 June 2022

South Africans are keen weekenders, breaking away for a night or two as often as they can, with folk in the Western Cape frequently heading for the West Coast or Southern Coast, and people inland venturing to Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route, the Kruger National Park or the warm waters of KwaZulu-Natal.

READ: 6 perky padstals between Johannesburg and Kruger National Park

But we can easily miss the in-betweeners, those destinations that seem just too far for a weekend, and are forgotten when December rolls around and longer trips are planned. A recent trip to Oudtshoorn reminded me why the Klein Karoo is absolutely worth a school holiday or using those much-deserved leave days.

The landscape

We took the N2 and the R324 from Cape Town to Barrydale, where we hopped on to the beloved R62. Roughly a five-hour drive all in all – if you head straight there. Add a few hours if you visit the many lekker padstals along the way. The road takes you through the spectacular Tradouw Pass and past several nature reserves as you wind around the Langeberg mountains.

KLein Karoo

The views along the way are not bad-looking. Picture: Wildehondekloof

We took on the road in an adventure-hungry Ford Everest Sport, which has ample luggage space and is keen to pose for the camera, too. It’s certainly safe and sturdy, but my favourite part is the sound system and easy Bluetooth pairing with our phones – essential for road trips.

Karoo Ford Everest

We rented a rainbow for the photo shoot. Picture: Theresa Gibbon

The semi-arid landscape is dotted with shrubs and fynbos, but it’s the bright orange aloes that are especially eye-catching at this time of year.

Klein Karoo

We loved the aloes, blooming with vigour. Picture: Anita Froneman

For those who know their herbs, there’s honeybush, wild mint, ysterbos and renosterbos in the area, all of which have numerous medicinal qualities.

The animals

If it’s animals you’re after, wild or farmed, you won’t be disappointed.

The world’s largest bird

Of course, Oudtshoorn is the country’s ostrich capital and a visit to the town wouldn’t be complete without laying eyes on these quirky birds. The Safari Ostrich Show Farm offers educational guided tours, tractor safaris and farm-style dining.

Ostrich farm oudtshoorn Klein karoo

Kids especially enjoy the tractor-driven safari rides. Picture: Safari Ostrich Show Farm

Learn about South African, Kenyan and Zimbabwean ostriches, and the sassy emus, too. You can even watch chicks hatch in the nursery, live-streamed on a big screen.

Adults from 15 years old: R162pp (or book online and save 20%)

Children between 4 and 14 years old: R80pp (or book online and save 20%)

Phone: +27 (0)44 272 7312

Memorable Meerkats

Meerkats are members of the Shy 5, along with the bat-eared fox, the aardvark, porcupine and aardwolf. De Zeekoe guest house offers tours for guests to watch wild meerkats – they leave their burrows at sunrise, though, so you have to be up early to catch sight of them.

meerkat oudtshoorn Klein karoo

Did you know? Meerkats are part of the mongoose family. Picture: De Zeekoe

The meerkats are not fed or handled by humans in any way, but they are accustomed to human presence and go about their mornings while guests sit a few metres away, watching them.

Tours are R660 per person, including chairs and coffee.

Phone: +27 82 551 3019

The caves

You probably visited the Cango Caves as a child, but trust me, they’re worth visiting again. The cave system in the Swartberg mountains is estimated to be 20 million years old and is the biggest show cave system in Africa. There are two tours on offer: the Heritage Tour and the famous Adventure Tour.

Cango caves Klein karoo

The caves are lit up beautifully for the tours, but the lights are switched off between tours to prevent heat damage to the formations. Picture: Cango Caves

We strongly suggest the latter: think leopard crawling, squeezing and ducking and diving through too-close-for-comfort tunnels. Absolutely the most fun you’ll have all day. If you’re not one for dark, enclosed spaces inside mountains, the Heritage Tour takes you to the otherworldly chambers and ancient rock formations and is equally spectacular.

Cango caves

Some spots are a bit of a tight squeeze. Picture: Cango Caves

Heritage Tour

Adults: R 170
Children: R 120

Adventure Tour

Adults: R 240
Children: R 170

Phone: +27 (0) 44 272 7410

Stay in the Klein Karoo

The best place to stay in the Klein Karoo is most certainly a nature reserve. Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve is a 4 000ha farm and luxury game lodge where you can add plenty of game to your list of animals to see.

Wildehondekloof

A kudu in the thicket. The reserve is home to many antelope species.

There are game drives to see a variety of antelope species, including giraffe, Cape mountain zebra, hartebeest, oryx, wildebeest, nyala, eland, kudu and diverse birdlife; you might even get lucky and spot a honey badger, leopard, jackal or caracal.

Wildehondekloof Klein karoo

There are also different hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as a saltwater swimming pool. The lounge and restaurant area feature fireplaces for wintry evenings, and there is a boma by the river for summer nights.

Wildehondekloof

Rates

Winter special: R1 300 pp sharing, minimum two-night stay, breakfast included. Valid until 31 August 2022

Standard rates: From R2 365 pp sharing

Email [email protected] or phone +27 82 551 3019

Pictures: Wildehodekloof Private Game Reserve

Safari Ostrich Farm, De Zeekoe Guesthouse and Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve are members of Cape Country Routes, a nifty website that offers the best accommodation, activities and trip planning advice for the Western and Eastern Cape. View their special offers and holiday packages.

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