The towns of Oudtshoorn and De Rust are in the Klein Karoo between the Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains.
Oudtshoorn is the ostrich capital of the world.
Ostriches are found in great numbers and the region produces the best feathers, leather products and ostrich meat in the world. But the world's biggest bird is just one of the many attractions in this area of exceptional contrasts and natural beauty.
The history and development of Oudtshoorn is inextricably connected with the growth of the ostrich feather industry from as early as 1860. By the turn of the twentieth century (during the Edwardian Period) the use of prime ostrich feathers in ladies’ clothing was high fashion, especially in England and Europe.
Feathers were light and easily imported and fetched incredibly high prices. The resultant prosperity had a profound effect on Oudtshoorn and its immediate environment.
Numerous immigrants, particularly the Jews of Eastern Europe, were drawn to the “boom” town, mostly because their relatives and friends had already established contact by “smousing” (trading).
Oudtshoorn acquired such a large Jewish community at the time that it became known as “little Jerusalem”. With so much money available, the town expanded rapidly. More churches were built as well as many public (schools) and commercial buildings.
The farming community, who had suddenly become extremely rich, vied with each other to display their wealth and built magnificent “Ostrich Feather Palaces” decorated and embellished with stained glass windows, turrets and handsome cast-iron work (locally known as “broekielace” - cast-iron decorations that remind one of the lace decoration on ladies’ underwear).
Several of these “Ostrich Feather Palaces” are still to be viewed in Oudtshoorn and its immediate environment. The distinctive sandstone used for these buildings was readily available because it was locally quarried. The skill of the Scottish stonemasons, originally imported for the building of the Dutch Reformed Church (“Moederkerk” - Mother Church) is evident in these fine buildings.
A number of well-known architects such as Charles Bullock, George Wallace and J.E. Vixeboxse opened offices in Oudtshoorn and were responsible for the design of many an Ostrich Palace.
Even today their designs provide a distinctive architectural heritage for Oudtshoorn, reflecting the opulence of the Ostrich Feather Boom of 1860—1914.
It was primarily the invention of the motor car and the advent of the First World War that brought the Ostrich Feather Boom Era to an end. Faster open vehicles played havoc with the ladies’ splendid feather decorated fashions and fashion trends in 1914 and onwards were generally more sober and less flamboyant.
Greater Oudtshoorn The largest town in the Klein Karoo, Oudtshoorn (pronounced "oats - horn") offers all the amenities of a regional capital - with all the charm of a traditional "plattelandse dorp" (rural town).
Although water is scarce in the semi-arid Klein Karoo (which is why there is no heavy industry in Oudtshoorn), it is a fertile farming area and the town - once the village of Veldschoendorp - owed its early affluence to the feather booms of the 1880's and the early twentieth century. But wealth disappeared as quickly as it came, leaving only a legacy of beautiful architecture in the Art Nouveau and Victorian styles.
Today, the economy of Oudtshoorn relies on agriculture and tourism - its major attractions being the natural environment (including Cango, the largest show cave in Africa), events like the Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (South Africa's biggest Arts Fest), endurance races like the Cango Marathon, the "To Hell And Back" mountain bike race - and, of course, the curiously handsome ostrich.
Every road into the Klein Karoo crosses a spectacular mountain pass - and all lead through the fantastic Cape fynbos.
The Klein Karoo is described as a botanical hotspot. It is the only place where fynbos (the Cape Floristic Kingdom) overlaps thicket and succulent vegetation - and the Swartberg Mountains are listed as part of the Cape Floral Kingdom World Heritage site (and, as part of the Gouritz Initiative, will soon be part of a major conservation corridor that will link the Klein Karoo to the Indian Ocean).
But perhaps one of the best things about Oudtshoorn is that it is in the Klein Karoo - which means that, within just an hour's drive from town, you can be at the coast at Mossel Bay or George - or inland and in the mountains on your way to the Great Karoo
It is also:
home to the spectacular Cango Caves, Africa's largest show cave system.
in the vicinity of an ecological hotspot where three distinct plant biomes (succulent karoo, cape thicket and fynbos) converge.
nestled next to the Swartberg mountain range, which is part of the Cape Floral World Heritage Site.
1 Cango Caves
One of the world's great natural wonders with its massive caverns and naturally coloured limestone formations.
2 Ostrich Farms
The Ostrich is the largest living species of bird and lays the largest egg of any living bird. Take a guided tour or ride an Ostrich on one of the many Ostrich Farms in this area.
3 Wildlife Adventures
Touch a Cheetah, dive with crocodiles, view wild Meerkats, go on Safari and meet the Big Five.
4 Adventure Activities
Ride a quad bike. Learn how to abseil. Go caving. Go ballooning. Meet the Meerkats. Take a hike. Go Mountain biking. Go for a scenic drive.
5 Natural Beauty
Oudtshoorn is part of an ecological hotspot with some of South Africa's most beautiful natural diversity.
A World all in One.
Karusa Vineyards is the first and only winery on the scenic Cango Route. Karusa is also the first and only premium private winery in Oudtshoorn and specialises in the production of Methode Champenoise and mediterranean styled wines.
Karusa lends itself to the perfect breakaway for a few hours, with their Karoo Tapas restaurant and the great Swartberg Mountain as backdrop. Come sit back, relax and enjoy aa ice cold Cap Classique!
Architecture Oudtshoorn has unique architectural styles - much of which has to do with the ostrich booms of the 1880s and the early 1900s.
With massive inflows of capital, the feather barons were able to build fantastic Ostrich Palaces in the Art Nouveau, Victorian, and Neo-Renaissance Revival styles - for which they employed architects like Karl Otto Hager, Georges Wallace (Snr. and Jnr.) and Charles Bullock (who was known for the turrets and lace with which he decorated his buildings).
Particularly unique to Oudtshoorn is the use of sandstone, which dates back to the 1860s, when the first Scottish stonemasons arrived to help with the construction of buildings like the St Jude’s Anglican Church (the oldest stone building in the town, it was completed in 1861), the Oudtshoorn Synagogue, the CP Nel Museum and dozens of Feather Palaces both on the ostrich farms and in the town.
Many of the best examples of the Oudtshoorn style can be seen on Baron van Rheede Street.
The Le Roux Townhouse Museum and "Arbeidsgenot", home of C.J. Langenhoven, the Afrikaans lawyer and author of part of our National Anthem, provide interesting and authentic glimpses of life as it was once lived in the Klein Karoo.
Many of the older buildings in Oudtshoorn showcase fine examples of traditional Karoo architecture.
Also visit the unique suspension bridge originally made in England and erected to cross over the Grobbelaars River.
National Heritage CP Nel Museum
Even if you are not very much interested in the historical side of life, you should experience the C.P. Nel Museum, one of the best country museums in South Africa, situated in Oudtshoorn, the heart of the Klein Karoo.
The C.P.Nel Museum is also the only museum with a Synagogue inside - still in use.
Wilgewandel Holiday Farm and Camelrides
Wilgewandel Holiday Farm have B&B and self-catering accommodation.
A licenced restaurant serve homecooked meals, bobotie and ostrich steaks.
Activities such as Camel-rides, bumperboats, zip-line, farm animals, putt-putt are available.
Wilgewandel are 25km from Oudtshoorn on the Cango Caves Road
Bird watching in Greater Oudtshoorn The Klein Karoo, and particularly the Oudtshoorn area, offers a large variety of bird-friendly habitats. This ensures that a diverse variety of birds can be observed within a relatively short drive from hotels and guest houses in the area.
These habitats include vegetation along permanent streams, the thickets on the slopes of hills, the fynbos which is found on the tops of hills and on the Swartberg itself, the open karroid veld with its succulent shrubs and man-made habitats such as dams, the sewerage works and treerich local gardens.
All the habitats host their own specially adapted birds, some of which are species endemic to the Western Cape.
Along the streams and flood plains you will encounter:
doves & pigeons
Amongst the thickets the following species dominate:
In the open karroid veld you will find smaller birds such as:
Larger varieties include:
pale chanting goshawk
The Swartberg mountain plays host to the following species:
Decent and delectable cuisine is synonymous with Oudtshoorn.
Quality restaurants, run by “food families” and famous chefs, are aplenty and often focus on local produce. Some restaurants have been voted in the top ten countrywide, for a number of years.
Nostalgie Restaurant At Nostalgie Restaurant you will be wined and dined on local wine and food.
Nostalgie Restaurant aims to please through excellent service and fantastic food - the ostrich dishes are especially...
CANGO CAVES: Standard Tour:
09:00 - 16:00 - starting every hour
Duration of tour: 60 min
09:30 - 15:30 - starting at half past every hour
Duration of tour: 90 min
Open every day except on Christmas day.
MEERKATS Experience the magic of Walking with Wild Meerkats, guided by the Meerkatman . This is the only meerkat conservation project in the world. Observe & Conserve with this unique eco-tourism project.
QUAD BIKING Join us for an Unforgettable Outdoor Experience Multi-activity day trips – Hiking - Quad biking – Caving – Abseiling and much more...
Suitable for all ages!
HORSE RIDING We offer day trips on horseback. Situated 12km outside of Oudtshoorn on the way to the Cango Caves.
Arbeidsgenot is the home of C.J. Langenhoven, known as the father of the Afrikaans Language.
217 Jan van Riebeeckweg - Oudtshoorn
Days: Monday to Friday
Time: 09:30 - 13:00 and 14:00 - 17:00
C.P. NEL MUSEUM
In 1972 the CP Nel collection was brought to its present home - the former Oudtshoorn Boys' High School. As a result of this, the sandstone building, with its beautiful clock tower, was saved from demolition. The building as a whole
Backpackers and Budget Accommodation Bed & Breakfast BACKPACKERS PARADISE AND JOYRIDES
WHO RUNS IT
Your hosts Petra and Marius - proud hands on owners!! We are ready to welcome you and show you some true South African hospitality, and also provide you with valuable local information so you see and do everything during your stay here.
The reception forms part of our lounge area, it has satellite TV, internet cafe, free coffee and tea, free games and book swop!
Take time out in our comfortable lounging room, so go for a chat, catch up on your emails or watch TV...
Relax with some cool drinks or party the night away in theirr pub! They also have a pool table here for you to show off your skills against fellow travellers. The bar is located away from the hostel so you won't be disturbing the night's slumber of the other guests as you party on!!
Raymond the friendly do it all guy also made sure that we could take some awesome pictures in the caves and get to ride on a Ostrich!!!!
African carvings, colourful fabrics, jewellery, ostrich egg shells and lots of other creative curiosities, many made by local craftsmen.
Cool down, hang out, or just chill in the Splash-Pool... This works overtime during the summer and everyone loves it, especially with the girls bronzing their bodies in the sun!
Welcome to Ostrich Country !! Where Comfort & Quality meet budget.
Come home to this family run hostel, where personal attention is the order of the day. Paradise is THE destination! The hostel is within walking distance of the local restaurants, movies, museums, supermarkets and banks. Well organised daily activities ensure an unforgettable experience in the Little Karoo! They offer amazing activities, meals and loads of freebies
Double room with shared bathroom
En suite family room:
Family room with shared bathroom:
6-10 Bed dormitory:
JOYRIDE DOWN SWARTBERG PASS
You are driven by bus to the top of the Swartberg Mountain from where you cycle DOWN – You are able to come down in your own time, you can stop where you want – whenever you want! You are able to stop at the Cango Caves, Camel Farm, Tea Garden for lunch and a swim, Ostrich Farm and the Cango Wildlife Ranch en-route back. Distance 54km and you can be back at the hostel between 12H00 – 13H00 if you cycle straight back without stopping anywhere – if you are on the baz bus – you need two nights here in Paradise!
CYCLE FROM THE CANGO CAVES
You are driven by bus to the Cango Caves, from where you cycle back to the hostel in your own time, you can stop where you want whenever you want! You are able to stop at the Cango Caves, Camel Farm, Tea Garden for lunch and a swim, Ostrich Farm and the Cango Wildlife Ranch en-route back. Total distance 30km. If you are on the baz bus – you need two nights here in Paradise! You do not get to see the Swartberg Mountain Pass!
PLEASE NOTE – NONE OF THE COSTS INCLUDE THE ENTRANCE FEES TO THE ATTRACTIONS, however, you are given Paradise discount vouchers, so you DON’T pay full price anywhere!
CYCLE FROM THE TEA GARDEN
You are driven by bus to the Cango Caves, after your tour here, you are driven by bus with your bicycle to the Tea Garden, from there you cycle back to the hostel in your own time, you can stop where you want – whenever you want! You are able to stop at the Ostrich Farm and the Cango Wildlife Ranch en-route back. Total distance 12km. If you are on the baz bus – you need two nights here in Paradise! You do not get to see the Swartberg Mountain Pass!
Riding an ostrich is included in the price at the ostrich farms. To CROC cage dive, pat the cheetahs and tigers cost extra at the Wildlife Ranch.
TRANSPORT BY BUS
You are driven by bus to the Cango Caves, after your tour we will pick you up and drop you at the Ostrich Farm and then you can walk to the Cango Wildlife Ranch (right next door). After your tour at the wildlife ranch you can ask their reception to give us a ring to arrange a pick up if you didn’t arrange it previously. You can also walk back to the hostel it is a 20 minute walk. If you are on the baz bus – you need two nights UNLESS YOU ONLY VISIT 2 ATTRACTIONS IN THE MORNING
CANGO WILDLIFE RANCH: Season time:
Opening Hours: 08:00 - 17:00
Out of Season time:
Opening Hours: 08:00 - 16:30
You can also stroke a Cheetah: (You must be 16 years and older)
There are no set times for tours.