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Klein Karoo

The Garden Route

A beautiful semi-desert valley encircled by soaring mountains, in the Little Karoo you can visit an ostrich show farm and the sensational Cango Caves, taste world-class port and interact with wild meerkats.

The Klein (or “little”) Karoo is a long valley that lies between the Swartberg and Langeberg mountain ranges. It is the domain of succulents with the most diverse range of these plants in the world. This bleak landscape is, on second glance, an area of towering cliffs, clear streams and a unique biome dominated by the aloe and dwarf baobab tree. Majestic mountains lend a blue haze to the horizon and rock formations and ancient cave paintings add to its unique appeal.

The main town is Oudtshoorn, which has prospered due to its position as “capital of the world ostrich farming industry”. The Oudtshoorn ostrich is a cross between the resident Little Karoo breed and birds imported from North Africa. By the 1880s the ostrich industry was firmly entrenched. Initially the birds were mainly bred for their feathers for export to Europe and the USA but today it is a sustainable, dynamic industry. The main appeal of the modern ostrich is its meat, popular due to its low fat content. Ostrich skin is used for jackets, handbags and shoes while the eggshells are used for decorative purposes. Feathers are still a fashion item, albeit not as prominent as a century ago. Visitors can tour a number of ostrich farms, where you can see how the birds are bred as well as the various ways in which ostrich products are fashioned and marketed.

A highlight of the region is the Cango Caves. Formed as a result of 20 million years of rainwater scouring and dissolving rock and limestone to form halls and passageways, the caves were declared a National Monument in 1938 and include the Wonder Cave, which has superb examples of drip stone formations and a resident bat population.

Because of its climate the Klein Karoo is an interesting wine producing area and vineyards that are famed for their variety and high quality of wines, especially port, can be found along most river banks.