Oudtshoorn: An Oasis in the semi-desert Karoo
Everytime I thought about Oudtshoorn, I immediately connected it with the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK), and while this festival is still a great reason to visit the Grootvoëlparadys, there are so many reasons for you to travel here any other time of the year as well. With temperatures reaching a high of 36°C during summer and staying as high as 26°C during winter, Oudtshoorn is a great place for outdoor adventures all year long. We were lucky enough to visit Oudtshoorn during June and had the chance to discover for ourselves whether this is the truth …
De Zeekoe Guest Farm
If you’re looking for your home away from home in this Klein Karoo town, De Zeekoe Guest Farm should surely be at the top of your list! Take the turn-off onto the gravel road just outside Oudtshoorn to check into your sanctuary for the weekend. De Zeekoe boasts 21 luxurious rooms at the main house, four log cabins overlooking a dam and three deluxe cottages with views of the unique natural scenery you’ll only find in the Karoo. All of their accommodation options include a buffet-style breakfast in the dining room at the main house. This includes eggs of your choice, cereals, fruit salad, cheese, cold meats, freshly-baked farm bread, muffins, pancakes, and more. Be sure to bring your appetite!
You’re probably wondering by now why De Zeekoe of all places. Well, if you truly want to experience Oudtshoorn in a beautifully-decorated nutshell, this is truly the place to stay. The list of activities at this guesthouse are nearly endless ─ you’ll barely have time to leave the premises! Spa treatments, bird watching, canoeing, biking, star-gazing, fishing, and their well-known meerkat adventures are all offered on site. The experienced guides of Five Shy Meerkats will take you on an adventure of a lifetime, but be sure to make a booking ahead of time so that your spot is guaranteed and you can join them for a sunrise walking tour to see these little creatures in their natural environment.
Take note: De Zeekoe also serves dinner in their dining room, so if you’re too exhausted after a day out on the town, swing by their dining room and treat yourself to a delicious home-made dish. The Springbok carpaccio pizza and ostrich bobotie is definitely worth trying!
Highgate Ostrich Show Farm
Make your way to this historical ostrich farm just around the corner from De Zeekoe. Highgate was established in 1938 and is said to be ‘the world’s first, finest and most original ostrich show farm.’ The history of this town is linked to the ostrich feather industry from the 1860s. During the Edwardian Period, ladies loved to incorporate ostrich feathers into their clothing as it was high fashion at the time, especially in England and Europe, and the great demand lead to Oudtshoorn being dubbed the ostrich capital of the world.
The ostrich tours are something the whole family can enjoy. Come and learn about ostriches and modern ostrich breeding from the wonderful, knowledgeable guides, visit the hatching room, watch the staff demonstrate various crafts using ostrich feathers, leather and eggs, feed a couple of peckish ostriches, and if you’re lucky (and brave enough) you’ll get an ostrich hug from the loving Geraldine! Afterwards you can sit down for a meal at the Pepper Tree Restaurant and wander through the showroom selling genuine, South African-made ostrich products.
Fun fact: We all know how the ostrich industry started, but why did it dwindle down? It turns out the culprit is the convertible! Apparently, the windy conditions in a convertible did not mix well with the ladies’ ostrich feather accessories, and as the convertible was the bee’s knees at the time, the ostrich feathers became a thing of the past.
Next up is Grundheim, a wine farm established in 1858 where every product still enjoys personal attention ─ from bottling to labelling. The farm boasts a simple, unpretentious and welcoming tasting room where you can take your pick of their unique products, including gin, muscadel, port, home-made liqueurs, potstill brandy, and last but certainly not least, witblits. The bull terrier on the witblits label is very fitting as the witblits has an equally alarming bite and that same tight grip ─ trust me, I’m still recovering. Whether you’re looking for a refreshing gin to spice up your summer, or a drink with a kick to warm you up from the inside during the colder months, here you’ll definitely find something to tickle your tastebuds.
Wilgewandel Holiday Farm
If you’re traveling with little ones, be sure to stop over at Wilgewandel. The restaurant on the premises overlooks the dam and is the perfect spot for Mom and Dad to get a bite to eat, while the kids run around, exploring all there is at Wilgewandel. And don’t worry, there’s even a play pen for the smaller ones where baby can play and crawl all over the place. Activities for the kids include pedal boats, a petting zoo, donkey-cart rides, waterslides, putt-putt, quad buggies and camel rides! Yes, that’s right, the hot temperature in the semi-desert Karoo is just what these desert horses need. So, get your ticket to hop on the back of Kaptein or one of his friends, and don’t forget to take a picture when you’re done ─ Kaptein loves a photo shoot!
Cango Caves Estate
Head on over to Cango Caves Estate’s deli and coffee roastery just down the road for some coffee and cake ─ the carrot cake with ice cream is absolutely delicious! Not only does the roastery offer at least eight types of coffee from around the world, but the deli is also very proud of its famous wood-fired pizza, some would say the best in the area! Sit out on the verandah in the sun or opt for the comfortable couches inside to make yourself at home. But, don’t get too comfortable. The shuttle that’ll take you up the mountain will be there shortly. Where to? Oh, to zipline 500 metres in the air of course!
Surval Boutique Olive Estate
After such an adrenaline-filled activity, it’s time to kick back on Surval’s deck overlooking the meadows of the Schoemanshoek Valley. Treat yourself to an exquisite olive tasting paired with a glass of local wine, or choose the guided olive tour through the orchards where Frikke will tell you more about the agricultural aspect of olive growing and production, before you feast on all of the tasty olive products ─ the olive chutney is to die for!
Not only does Surval boast a restaurant with great meals inspired by the produce of the local Klein Karoo, but guests can also use the kayaks and a row boat to row out into the Willow Dam, bring their mountain bikes to take on the trails, enjoy a picnic basket prepared by the estate, tackle the Oudtshoorn Parkrun that takes place every Saturday morning, and so much more.
Thorny Creek Brewery
Next up is Thorny Creek Brewery and The Red Bus Café. A winding dirt road leads to Rob and Olga’s oasis in the semi-desert of the Klein Karoo, just outside Oudtshoorn, where they welcome all who appreciate organic, craft and artisanal foods. Rob’s philosophy is to keep the process as natural as possible and his whole-grain, craft beers have become the main attraction. The beer selection includes an IPA, Stout and Amber Ale (a favourite). So, come on over for a unique craft beer tasting.
The climate of the Klein Karoo dictates what grows in Olga’s vegetable garden and this includes several unique vegetables, such as blue tomato, black carrot and purple mustard leaf. She doesn’t use any pesticides, industrial fertilisers, tunnels or hydroponics, and sticks to a strictly organic and natural method. These organic, unique vegetables are then used to create delicious and healthy meals for you to enjoy while you are sipping on delicious craft beer.
We had the absolute best time in Oudtshoorn and now that we’ve experienced Karoo hospitality first hand, we can honestly say there is none other like it. With this itinerary, you can also come and experience it for yourself.
A special thank you to De Zeekoe Guest Farm for their excellent hospitality and to the Oudtshoorn Tourism Office for arranging our visit to this beautiful part of the Klein Karoo.
Feature image: Daniëlle Terblanche
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