With much regret we leave the wine region and start the 450 km drive to Oudtshoorn. On the way we made a nice stop at The Eight Bells Mountain Inn in Mossel Bay. We visited this hotel 20 years ago during our honeymoon. You can read more about this hotel here.
During the ride the landscape quickly changes from green and lush to bald and dry. The hot and dry climate in the Little Karoo proved excellent to raise ostriches. When ostrich feathers became a fashion trend at the end of the 19th century, the region florished. The trend lasted more than 40 years, and, during that time, beautiful country houses were built by the rich ostrich farmers. Many of these so-called 'feather palaces' still exist.
After the first World War, the fashion changed and the ostrich industry collapsed. A few decades later, they experienced a resurgence because the ostrich bird leather became popular. Even today it is still one of the more expensive leather types. Ostriches are now also grown for their meat (similar to beef, but slightly sweeter).
What to do in Oudtshoorn?
Visit an ostrichfarm
Of course, you must visit an ostrich farm in this area. There are two so-called 'show farms' Highgate Ostrich Show Farm and Safari Ostrich Show Farm. Nearby Oudtshoorn are signs everywhere towards these two farms. They offer a guided tour through the farm telling you all about ostrich farming. You learn that an ostrich egg can carry about 100 kg of weight and you can test it yourself by standing on them. If you weigh less than 70 kg, you can sit on an ostrich (decide for yourself if it's ok) and you can see an ostrichrace. If you don't feel like sitting on an ostrich, you can feed them.
A visit takes about two hours.
Cango Wildlife Ranch
This ranch, near the center of Oudtshoorn, is an animal shelter. In 1995, the Cheetah Conservation Foundation was established, and now the ranch is one of the most important cheetah breeding programs in Africa. In addition, it is one of the top five settings for animal protection. Of course, you cannot visit the part where the animals are bred and prepared for a life in freedom. However, there is a large animal park attached to the breeding farm. Here you can see cheetahs, crocodiles, porcupines, vultures, etc.
Most of the animals came here after they were injured or taken away from owners who kept them as pets. As a consequence, these animals can no longer be released and must remain here.
Cuddling with wild animals is very controversial, but if you want a close encounter with, for example, a cheetah, this seems to me a good address.
The first of these giant caves was discovered in 1780. It took until the mid-1970s before the two other caves were discovered. Only the first cave is open to the public, but a visit is really worth it. The short tour takes you past Cleopatra's Needle and the Frozen waterfall to Van Zyl's Hall, a space of more than 100 meters long and 16 meters high. For the sports enthusiasts among us there is a 1.5 hour stroll where you must climb more than 400 steps. Even though it is rather cold in the caves, due to the high humidity it’s a strenuous trip.
This pass, with spectacular views, starts at Prince Albert (follow from Oudtshoorn the R328 to the North). This 24 km long gravel road seems to be a great ride. Due to lack of time we had to skip this one. In any case, it is a good reason to come back again.
Where to stay in Oudtshoorn?
During our honeymoon, 20 years ago (read all about it over here), we stayed here in Rosenhof Country House. As the hotel was still highly recommended, we decided to stay here again. The rooms are still as beautiful as two decades ago. Watch this video to get a short impression. In our room was a bottle of Vonkelwijn with a welcome back note. We ate one evening at the hotel and that was more than okay. If we ever pass again in Oudtshoorn, they can certainly expect us again.
Where to eat in Oudtshoorn?
In Oudtshoorn you will find plenty of restaurants. We chose The Black Swan. If you are very hungry, I recommend the ribs. The African stews are spicy but tasty.
We stayed two nights in Oudtshoorn, which is basically enough to visit the main sights. After that we left for Knysna for the last part of our trip. More about this you can read in the next post.
You want to know more about Cape Town or the wineregion? Read the following posts: