Most visitors to South Africa and especially the Western Cape, visit or have heard of the beautiful Garden Route, with its green foresty areas and stunning ocean views. But head inland over the breathtaking Outiniqua pass, through vast expanses of karoo land and you arrive in Oudtshoorn.
Oudtshoorn’s history and growth dates all the way back to 1860 and the start of the ostrich feather boom that dominated ladies fashion in Europe at the time, sparking a growth spurt for the town. As fashion trends changed, together with the start of the First World War, the ostrich feather boom came to an end in the early 1900’s.
Since then the town has grown even further and remains THE place to go for everything ostrich. Having recently paid a visit to Oudtshoorn you realise that there is so much more to the town than just ostriches.
Here are my top 5 things to do for the first time visitor to Oudtshoorn:
- 1. Ostrich farms – The two most well-known are Highgate Ostrich farm and Safari Ostrich farm. Both offer tours showcasing the birds where you learn about these fascinating creatures, have an opportunity to feed one by hand and even sit on or ride an ostrich.
2. Cango Caves – First discovered in 1780, the caves have become one of the most well known in South Africa. Originally thought to only be roughly a kilometre long, explorations have revealed the cave system to be over 5 kilometres in length, consisting of 3 sections, namely Cango one, two and three. The 2 tour options available only explore Cango one, the other 2 sections are not open to the public. The Heritage tour guides visitors through the main first chambers of Cango One while for the more adventurous visitor the Adventure tour goes deeper in, where some crawling and sliding through a few tight squeezes is needed. Before you try the Adventure tour you can test your “squeezability” in the welcome area where a mockup of the smallest areas is there for you to try out.
- 3. Cango Wildlife Ranch – The ranch has multiple attractions to suit every visitor, both young and old. Cheetahland houses a multitude of large cats from lions to tigers and of course cheetahs. The Valley of the Ancients is a walkthrough with various animals and has the option for the brave of heart to cage dive with crocodiles. One for the kids is Lemur Falls where visitors can have an encounter with the furry creatures. The ranch’s main aim is conservation and has breeding programs for endangered animals such as the Cheetah.
4. Buffelsdrift Game Reserve – With a stunning restaurant and viewing deck right on the water of a large dam, Buffelsdrift offers great accommodation and dining experiences as well as game drives for visitors to the reserve. There are a few game drive options for those staying at the lodge or for the day visitor. Guides are friendly and knowledgeable and the reserve has a great selection of wildlife for you to see.
5. Rust ‘n Vrede Waterfall – Those looking for something relaxing to do and perhaps just be in nature, a visit to this waterfall is a must. Rust ‘n Vrede translates to peace and quiet and the walk to the falls is exactly that. The path is an easy walk through the trees and across bridges with the noise of the falls getting louder as you approach and rounding the corner to reveal the breathtaking falls. Take a picnic with to nibble while you relax at the falls.
Other activities in the area range from wine tasting to a cultural village experience. Excellent accommodation is plentiful and caters for every price range, from simple self-catering to fantastic hotels. Visit Oudtshoorn and experience the best of the Klein Karoo area.