Oudtshoorn, also referred to as ostrich capital of the world is the biggest town, in the Klein Karoo area. Situated in the Western Province area South of the large desert land of Karoo, which covers a large part of South Africa. Located just a few hours from Cape Town, it’s an often underestimated as travel destination, but it has a lot to offer. As of latest measurement Oudtshoorn has a population of 80 thousand people.
Situated in the shadow of the Swartberg Mountains, the climate is somewhat different from most of the Western Cape’s warm, rainy average, with occasional snow topping the Swartberg during the winter months, and although the surrounding valleys are very fertile, the area is generally dry.
Oudtshoorn and the Little Karoo have an interesting history and a unique culture. The Khoisan, known upon their encounter with the Afrikaans settlers as Bushmen, were most likely the only humans to have occupied the area. The mountains, hills and caves just outside of Oudtshoorn are home to some of the more famous Iron Age rock paintings, and for a prime insight into Khoisan culture, they are definitely worth experiencing.
Some of the caves to not have paintings, but are still worth visiting, such as the Cango caves, an extensive network of tunnels and passages, estimated at a total of four kilometers, where impressive limestone formations and stone relics can be admired under the auspices of a professional guide.
Another major attraction of Oudtshoorn, and one of the defining features of its economic history, is the abundance of ostrich farms. Ostrich products became very fashionable during the beginning of the twentieth century, and the proceeds from this export have funded many of the historic buildings in the village.
Nowadays, although ostrich feathers are no longer the trend, ostrich meat has become increasingly popular, but some farms have diversified and cater for tourists, such as the Highgate Ostrich Show Farm, where visitors are exposed to the life cycle of the ostrich, with an extended tour of the farm. For the more adventurous type, several open farms allow visitors to ride the massive birds, a truly unique experience.