After spending two days overlooking the beach in Plettenberg Bay (see part 1), our group of lady journalists took a quick hop over the Outeniqua Mountains to spend two days in the desert town of Oudtshoorn.
Oudtshoorn is part of the Klein Karoo (or “Little Karoo”), the southeastern border of the Great Karoo, which is the sprawling, semi-desert region that occupies a huge section of central South Africa.
I had been to the Garden Route before and I had been to Oudtshoorn before, but I had no idea how close together the two places are. George, the biggest town in the Garden Route and travel hub for the area, is actually closer to Oudtshoorn (just under an hour) than it is to Plettenberg Bay (just over an hour).
The stark, windswept scenery in Oudtshoorn was such a sharp contrast to the lush, green coastal views we had in Plettenberg Bay. Visiting the two places together was a really interesting experience.
Two Days in Oudtshoorn
The first notable part of our trip to Oudtshoorn is the route we drove to get there. The Outeniqua Pass, crossing the mountains via the N12 highway, is one of the prettiest stretches of road in the country, with jaw-dropping views of the green Outeniqua Mountains. If you drive this route, allow enough time to stop and take photos at a few of the viewpoints along the way.
In Oudtshoorn, our group stayed at the De Zeekoe Guest Farm a few kilometers outside of town. I really loved staying at this place. De Zeekoe is a real, working farm — I know this because we witnessed a farm-hand rescuing an adorable little calf who fell down into a ditch — with a wide variety of accommodation options, from self-catering cabins to luxurious guest suites. I stayed in a beautiful suite with a view of the mountains.
The actual lodge at De Zeekoe was also great, with a homey vibe and a lovely restaurant serving tasty, hearty Karoo food.
I had one of the best massages of my life at De Zeekoe, from Liezel at the Karoo Tranquility Spa. Liezel has magical hands that loosened up my tight muscles without making me wince in pain even once. Also the massage table was heated — there’s nothing better than a heated massage on a chilly winter afternoon in the Karoo.
De Zeekoe has a five-kilometer hiking trail around the farm, which I really enjoyed, and lends out bicycles to guests who want to explore the area on two wheels. We also went on a short but adventurous canoe outing on the river (which is currently more of a small dam due to prolonged drought conditions) at De Zeekoe.
The best activity on offer at De Zeekoe, by far, is the meerkat expedition that I wrote about in a previous post. Whatever you do, DO NOT MISS THE MEERKATS.
More to Do in Oudtshoorn
Our visit to Oudtshoorn was brief and we spent most of our time enjoying De Zeekoe. But we did explore the surrounding area a bit. Here are a few of the other places we went.
1) Safari Ostrich Farm
Oudtshoorn is the ostrich farming capital of the world. Ostriches were first farmed here for their feathers, which were used for outlandish ladies’ hats, then for their meat and skin. (Check out photos of high-end ostrich leather bags in my old post about Via La Moda.)
The Safari Ostrich Farm is a tourist attraction (and also a commercial ostrich farm) where visitors go to learn about ostriches and the ostrich industry, and ride around the farm in this funny little wagon-train.
I was a bit suspicious of the idea at first. But I must confess I loved getting up close and personal with the ostriches and I laughed pretty much the entire time we were there. (Note: There is no ostrich-riding allowed at the Safari Ostrich Farm.) Also I learned many interesting facts about ostriches. For example: 1) An ostrich’s brain is about the same size as its eyeball; and 2) An ostrich egg can withstand more than 200 kilograms without cracking.
Safari Ostrich Farm has a restaurant that serves delicious (you guessed it) ostrich steak, among other things, and a shop selling ostrich leather purses and wallets, painted ostrich eggs, and other ostrich-related souvenirs.
2) Oudtshoorn Wine and Booze
The Klein Karoo is a significant South African wine region, which I didn’t know before this trip. We visited a couple of wineries, Grundheim and Karusa, and they were both particularly fun places that I would love to go back to.
On our way out of town we stopped for a bite at the Smitswinkel Restaurant and Farmstall. I didn’t have the best meal at Smitswinkel but I do love me a quirky Karoo farmstall. It’s worth a stop simply for the kitsch.
From Smitswinkel we drove back over the Outeniqua Mountains to George Airport, and I was back in Joburg by evening. Thus concluded a fabulous journey from the beach to the desert.
De Zeekoe and Safari Ostrich Farm are members of Cape Country Routes, who hosted my visit to Oudtshoorn. Opinions expressed are mine.
Love the photo of the meerkats and you never rode on an ostrich?
Hahaha, no. Ostrich riding (similar to cub petting or elephant riding) is considered unethical these days.
Interesting, never knew that.
I think it’s a new development.
Great ostrich photo. The landscape reminds me so much of Southern California — is it also only green in winter?
On the coastal side I think it stays pretty green…But winter is their dry season so it might be a bit less green in December.