Come along with me on my Klein Karoo story from the ostrich capital of the world to the southernmost tip in Africa.
By Anje Hill
On a recent trip, I was reminded again how travelling can reset the body, inspire you and give you much-needed perspective. Besides, it is also beneficial for your health and good for the soul. It also provides an opportunity to see new places and experience other cultures, do new things, eat yummy food, and meet interesting people…do we need any more reasons to travel?
My love for travel started at a young age. Travelling all over SA with my parents was one of the biggest gifts they have ever given me. One of my fondest memories as a youngster was a visit to the Safari Ostrich Farm in Oudtshoorn in the 90s…who doesn’t have a great childhood memory of travelling to Oudtshoorn and the Cango Caves?
When the opportunity to revisit this part of SA arrived, it was a no-brainer. We set off on our adventure via the N2 from Cape Town in the distinguished Ford Everest Sport. The cruise control system made for a fuss-free driving experience and the spacious cabin with generous head and legroom made our 5 and half hour trek to Oudtshoorn super comfortable.
SAFARI OSTRICH FARM
As soon as we arrived at the Safari Ostrich Farm a wave of nostalgia hit me. This working ostrich farm is situated just 6 km outside the ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn, and is a ‘must-see’ Cape Country Routes activity member.
Tours are offered daily, every hour between 08:00-16:00
You can get ‘up close and personal with South African, Kenyan and Zimbabwean ostriches and even their Emu cousins too on a guided tractor tour (I loved feeding these feathered friends and so will the kids). Indulge in
the rich history of the ostrich feather industry and learn all about ostrich farming today, from incubation to
Watch how ostrich eggs are carved, see, touch and feel ostrich leather with a lovely display of the best ostrich
feathers in the world. Pop into the Farm shop for a range of high-quality Ostrich leather goods before enjoying a delicious meal at the farm-style restaurant.
WILDEHONDEKLOOF PRIVATE GAME RESERVE
Upon entering the game reserves’ gates, a wave of calm hits you as you are greeted by the beauty of the succulent Karoo, Cape Thicket Fynbos and the mighty Swartberg Mountains. Wildehondekloof Private Game Reserve is a 4 000-hectare farm with a luxury game lodge, situated just 40 km outside Oudtshoorn. The lodge offers nine luxurious bedrooms, all en-suite, and air-conditioned with beautiful mountain and river views. Enjoy a range of hiking trails in the wide-open spaces of the Klein Karoo or discover the beautiful riverbeds, winding paths, and single tracks on the back of your mountain bike. Chances are good you might encounter wildebeest, nyala, eland, kudu, and few of over the 20 species of wildlife on the farm, some of the diverse birdlife and other small animals like the honey badger.
Interesting fact the Swartberg Mountains contain the highest mountain in the Cape Fold Belt and the highest point in the Western Cape province.
Cool off in the lodge’s saltwater pool or the refreshingly cold water of one of the rivers or waterfalls, and in the colder months warm up at the cosy fire in the restaurant whilst sipping on a glass of homemade glühwein.
We enjoyed a glass of the Cape’s finest red on a sunset game drive and spotted most of the wild animals on the reserve while savouring the sunset. Sunrise game drives are also on offer. Why not book a star gazing experience and take in what big city life can’t offer you?
Fancy a family getaway to the bush? Stay in the most recent addition, a 6-sleeper self-catering family villa (four adults, two children), with three (two en-suite) bedrooms, a kitchen, an inside braai, lounge, a dining area, shaded private parking, free WiFi and the use of the swimming pool. The Villa is perfect for a luxurious and tranquil escape to the Klein Karoo.
I have travelled extensively over the last year and all the places visited were special but something that stood out remarkably about Wildehondekloof was their hospitality. Paula and her team went above and beyond to make our stay unforgettable. This is the ultimate bush escape and is one of the hallmark properties of Cape Country Routes.
No trip to Oudtshoorn is complete without a visit to the spectacular chambers of the Cango Caves. Formed deep under the Swartberg mountains and estimated to be 20 million years old is the biggest show cave system in Africa. There are two guided tours on offer: the Heritage Tour (60min) and for thrill seekers the famous Adventure Tour (90min).
Wear sensible footwear and light clothing. The temperature in the caves remains constant at 20°C. www.cango-caves.co.za
5 SHY MEERKAT EXPERIENCE
De Zeekoe Guest Farm just 7km outside Oudtshoorn is another treasure of the Cape Country Routes Collection and offers an activity I am certain you have never done before – the 5 Shy Meerkat Experience. We rose early one morning to hopefully have ‘breakfast’ with this member of the Shy 5. Upon arrival, you can enjoy a hot chocolate or coffee with homemade rusks before grabbing your chair & blanket and walking to their burrows. Patience is key but so worth seeing these creatures in their natural habitat. Devey our guide gave us extended insight into their world and kept us entertained with his stories of observing these little guys since 2008.
Meerkats are members of the Shy 5, along with the Bat-eared Fox, the Aardvark, the Porcupine and the Aardwolf.
Booking is essential and weather dependent as meerkats will not venture outside their burrows on rainy days. After your encounter head to the restaurant at De Zeekoe Guest Farm for a hearty brunch.
AGULHAS COUNTRY LODGE
We left the Klein Karoo in our reliable Ford Everest and travelled 4 hours to L’Agulhas, the southernmost tip of Africa. We booked into the Agulhas Country Lodge, owned by Sue and Phil Fenwick who built this oldest guest house on the southernmost tip of Africa in 1997 and have been operating it ever since along with daughter Chelsea at the GM helm. Agulhas Country Lodge is another hallmark member of Cape Country Routes. Built from natural limestone that blends into the background of the rocky hill and thanks to its elevated position there are remarkable sea views from nearly every viewpoint.
The lodge has eight en-suite rooms and the two honeymoon suites are fitted with jacuzzi baths and double showers. All rooms have sea-view balconies with modern amenities.
We enjoyed a glass of wine in the cosy, fully stocked bar while owner Phil told us stories from his days as a helicopter pilot in the South African airforce. The bar counter was the original bank counter from the Koegas
Village, a mining town that was built in 1888 and decommissioned in 1977.
Most of the lodge, although it is a relatively new building, was constructed using old Oregon pine windows and doors bought on auction in the Kalahari from the demolished Koegas asbestos mining town. The windows in the passages originate from the Koegas prison. A hotel close to the mine provided yellowwood door lintels and the doors to the lodges’ cigar lounge.
All in all, uniting a combination of old and new has created an unusual atmosphere which blends well with the stark natural surroundings of L’Agulhas. Sue’s passion for food is evident as she spoilt us with the most delightful vegetarian meal starting with a delicious roasted cauliflower and garlic soup served with a lovely homemade
gluten-free seed loaf, followed by a creamy tomato, spinach, and feta risotto, yum! For dessert, she presented avocado mousse and wafer served with a brush of lemon curd.
We honestly did not expect such a gastronomical treat. Breakfast is served daily, and lunch and dinner can be supplied when booked in advance for groups of 8
Activities are plentiful. Swim at the longest uninterrupted natural white beach in SA at nearby Struisbaai or take a dip at one of the two tidal pools within walking distance of the lodge. We set off early one morning on a hike from the lodge into the Agulhas National Park, past the second-oldest working lighthouse in South Africa to find the point where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet – a must-see attraction. Continue and
encounter the Meisho Maro shipwreck, a Japanese fishing vessel that ran aground in 1982. You will also come
across ancient Khoisan fishing traps and kilometres of untouched coastline.
The Agulhas Country Lodge is the place to stay this far south on the continent and makes for the perfect
romantic weekend away.