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Central Karoo, Western Cape

The Central Karoo, South Africa, Activities

The Central Karoo extends from Touws River to Beaufort West, with most towns on or close to the N1 between Cape Town and Johannesburg. The charming town of Prince Albert, also in the Karoo, is south of the N1, en-route to Oudtshoorn and the Garden Route.

Many of these towns developed in the mainly sheep farming areas, when diamonds were discovered in Kimberley in the 1880’s and a railway line was built between Cape Town and Kimberley to transport all the people and goods to a thriving mining community.

Beaufort West is the capital of the Central Karoo and the home town of the famous heart surgeon, Chris Barnard. The local museum displays not only his memorabilia, but a life size replica of the operating theatre, where he performed the world’s first heart transplant at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.

The Central Karoo, South Africa, Scenery

The landscape, lifestyle, tranquillity and historic architecture has led to the “discovery” of some of these towns, attracting artists, foreigners and retirees, who restore them, and make the Karoo their home.

Scenery around Touws River, KarooThe scenery in the Karoo has its own beauty. Rugged mountains, table top hills, huge flat plains and the odd river. Underground water is plentiful and is the reason the windmill is iconic of the region.

The area is also renowned for its geology, where the rocks and deposits are among the oldest in the world, yielding a fascinating crop of fossils.

Matjiesfontein, the stop over for travellers in the 1800’s, hosted many famous visitors, including Winston Churchill, Cecil John Rhodes and Olive Schreiner. It has been restored to its former glory, and attracts visitors from all over the world, who get to experience that era firsthand.

Matjiesfontein, Karoo, South Africa

The Karoo’s vegetation is ideally suited to sheep farming, but due to the arid conditions, the carrying capacity of the land is low. The farms are huge and the population is sparse, giving the Karoo the wide open space that is so special. The clean air shows the night skies off in all their starry majesty, and the silence is part of the reason that visitors come to the Karoo, to chill from the hectic city lifestyle.

Karoo WildlifeActivities are mainly outdoors and include hiking, cycling, hunting, bird watching and 4×4 trails. Many activities on offer are on working farms, and farm stays are a popular option.

This region was occupied by the Khoi for thousands of years before the settlers arrived, as evidenced by the stone age artefacts and myriad of rock art sites.

More recently, big five game reserves have been established, like Aquila (Touws River) and Inverdoorn (60 km from Touws River), where the owners have restocked all the wildlife that once roamed this area, including lion.

The Karoo National Park is home to the once “extinct” quagga and a wide variety of indigenous buck, mountain zebra, wildebeest, wild ostrich and five tortoise species. Game viewing in this tranquil park is easy because of the arid landscape, and birding is excellent, making it a popular choice. CapeNature manages the Anysberg Nature Reserve, a beautiful spot, best known for its horse rides and Karoo succulents.

All in all, the Karoo has its own charms, just waiting to be explored.

More info on the Western Cape area

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