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Oudtshoorn has so much on offer for the Backpacker

Oudtshoorn was home to rich feather barons until the turn of the century. The collapse of the feather industry meant the area had to find other attractions in order to survive. And boy, has it done a good job of that? You need daaaaays to “do” Oudtshoorn.
The Cango Caves, with its awesome display of stalagmites and stalactites, the magnificent Swartberg Mountains and the warm sunny weather of the little Karoo are all major draw cards. The cheetah ranch, the opportunity to ride an ostrich and watch one hatch (or scoff the poor bastard while it’s still an egg) all add to the deck…

Oudtshoorn is the capital of the Klein Karoo and home to the ostrich breeding business in South Africa.

The mysterious and world famous Cango Caves also chose to dig their hole here. Sculpted by the great gods over a million years ago, this natural subterranean wonder comprises of five limestone caves, one of which is 18km long and was declared a national monument in 1938. With stalactites, stalagmites and helictites over 9m big, it’s a definite must. Also topping the “must” list is traversing the Swartberg Pass - one of the most spectacular passes in Africa which offers magnificent views over the Matjies River valley.
The Cango Wildlife Ranch, crocodile and butterfly farms and 4x4 tripping into the Hell, complete the list of have-to’s. Allow for three nights and you’ll probably see most things…

April fools

The Karoo Arts and Culture Festival is held every April. This celebration of Afrikaans culture rivals the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown.

Don’t miss the Swartberg Pass

This magnificent and scenic pass is yet another of Thomas Bain’s master pieces. It was built between 1881 and 1888 by convicts who were housed in stone buildings the ruins of which still stand alongside the road.
The pass is 24kms long and reaches a height of 1 436m above of its beginning in the Klein Karoo. The road winds beneath overhanging rocks in steep, zigzag curves where Protea, Watsonias and other indigenous wild flowers bloom in profusion.
Heavy snow often causes the pass to close in winter.
Not one ounce of mortar was used in this engineering feat.


In Oudtshoorn, Ostriches are pretty much flavour of the day.
They are the world’s biggest bird and unable to fly (thank heavens - imagine ostrich shit on your shoulder!)
Male birds reach a height of about 2,4 meters and weigh up to 135kgs. They posses a formidable kick although they rely predominantly on speed for defence and can reach up to 50km/hour over a short distance. Though generally docile, they are temperamental during the breeding season when their skin turns bright pink and they display their feathers, dance and bow before the hens.
Hens lay clutches of up to 20 eggs and the chicks hatch after about 6 weeks.
Pairs often remain together for life.
The birds live to about 40 and make a roaring noise rather like a lion when agitated.