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Small South Africa flagSouth Africa

Klein Karoo & Groot Karoo Accommodation

Explore on Map Map of Klein Karoo & Groot Karoo Accommodation

Once a Vast Inland Sea of Lakes and Swamps

To the East of Touws River in the Western Cape and stretching to the Northern and the Eastern Cape lies the Karoo which is made up of the Great (Groot) Karoo in the North, and the Little (Klein) Karoo in the South.

The Klein Karoo is essentially a long valley bordered on its northern edge by the Swartberg and in the South by the Langeberg and Outeniqua mountains, which separate the region from the coastal strip known as the Garden Route. The valley is dry and arid and was once the home of huge herds of elephant, kudu, buffalo together with rhinos, hippos and lions. All of these have been hunted out and the only fauna left in the area are a few leopards and baboons with a plentiful supply of ostriches in the Oudtshoorn area, which became famous at the turn of the previous century when ostrich- feathered boas became all the rage in Europe.

To the West of Oudtshoorn and in the Swartberg mountains lie the world famous Cango Caves of the Klein Karoo. The caves were first discovered by a Hottentot herdboy while looking for missing cattle. The caves extend underground for over two kilometers and include the Wonder Cave. The main caves may be visited only with a guide and tours set out every two hours. The caves were declared a National Monument in 1938.

A few kilometers to the East of Oudtshoorn lies the charming little village of De Rust, a haven for artists and an area famous for its dessert wines and cheeses. Almost next door to De Rust is the small town of Dysseldorp, established by the London Missionery Society in 1838, the town witnesses a symbolic annual pilgrimage to the local Roman Catholic chapel on Good Friday and visitors from all over the country during the Easter weekend.

The Groot Karoo is a vast and desolate region that sits to the North of the Swartberg. The huge plain was once a vast inland sea of lakes and swamps inhabited by dinosaurs which roamed over the region for 125 million years until their sudden end. Most of the time this desolate land appears dull and uninteresting, but the Groot Karoo can turn green overnight after a sudden rainshower, and the plains can be filled with colour as flowers spring into life.

The town of Beaufort West lies on the N1 highway from Johannesburg to Cape Town and is considered to be the capital of the Groot Karoo. The town has developed over the last few years into a major commercial centre. The whole Groot Karoo region is ideally suited to sheep farming. Beaufort West has become a major holiday destination especially in wintertime, and there are plenty of recreational activities that can be enjoyed in the town. The Karoo National Park is situated just outside and to the northwest of the town. The park is inhabited by several species of buck, and the visitor may also catch sight of baboons, black-eared foxes, jackal and kudu. The lower levels of the park have a typical Karoo vegetation, while the upper slopes are dominated by sour grass.

The Groot Karoo, though appearing sparsely populated by fauna, houses one of the world’s largest collections of fossils and is a mecca for the palaeontologist. The Groot Karoo is unique in that the rock strata contain a virtually unbroken record of fossilized species over a 50 million year period, including the evolution of the first mammals.

The Klein and Groot Karoo regions at first appear as desolate plains, but on closer inspection have proven to be regions that deserve to be visited by young and old alike.

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Explore in pictures...

Snow on the Swartberg Mountains near Klaarstroom
Gibbaeum is a genus of about 21 species of small succulent plants of the family Aizoaceae, indigenous to the Little Karoo region. The name "Gibbaeum" comes from the Latin gibbosus (hunchback)
Landscape at the Anysberg Nature Reserve. The reserve was established in 1988 to conserve Succulent and Fynbos flora in the Cape Fold Belt, and to reintroduce game which formerly occurred here
Keen entomologists will spot the now very rare silver-backed beetle. This is looking down Donkin St in Beaufort West
Meiringspoort via Klaarstroom, 55kms east of Prince Albert en route to Oudtshoorn and the coast
R381 road from Loxton in the Northern Cape to Beaufort West in the Klein Karoo & Groot Karoo region, Western Cape
Where the N1 meets the R323 in the Karoo - you'll find the town of Laingsburg
Laingsburg Flood Museum, on Main Street. The Museum specialises in the history of the flood that washed away part of the town on 25 January 1981
Rugged landscape in the Laingsburg region, Karoo
Flowering Karoo, near the N1 Highway, between Laingsburg and Prince Albert Road
Leopard in the Karoo. Roaming free, thanks to CapeNature who acquired five farms, covering an area of 12,800 hectares, to create a new reserve called Grand Canyon
The Lord Milner at Matjiesfontein. The historic Matjiesfontein Village was built between 1895 and 1907. It was developed as a spa and as such it became the meeting place of historical figures like Cecil Rhodes and Olive Schreiner
Street scene in Matjiesfontein, Karoo. Unfortunately the petrol pumps are no longer in service
Street scene in Matjiesfontein, Karoo
Chances are that if someone mentions Oudtshoorn, this fella will be top of mind! Oudtshoorn may be the ostrich capital of the world, but there is so much more to see...
The Cango Caves are located in Precambrian limestones at the foothills of the Swartberg range near the town of Oudtshoorn. The extensive system of tunnels and chambers go on for over 4 km (2.5 mi), but only about a quarter of this is open to visitors
Visitors - giving scale to the caven at Cango Caves, Oudtshoorn
The caves were rediscovered in modern times in 1780 by a local farmer. The chamber he first was lowered into was found to be as long as a football field, and is named Van Zyl Hall in his honour
Spectacular views of the the vast Olifants River Valley and Swartberg Mountains, Oudtshoorn, Karoo
Visitors can buy dried and fresh fruit at the Weltevrede Farm, Prince Albert, Karoo
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View overlooking Prince Albert from the town's "Koppie" (hill)
Swartberg (black mountain) Pass , south of Prince Albert. It was built using convict labour, and opened on 10 January 1888. The dry-stone retaining walls, supporting some of its hairpin bends, are still in place and almost 120 years old
Views, views, views! From the top of the Swartberg Pass, near Prince Albert, Karoo
Dutch Reformed Church and Hall, Prince Albert
The N12 road passes through Meiringspoort, a 20 km (12 mile) gorge with cliffs of up to 700 m (2300ft) in the Swartberg, a mountain range that separates the Great Karoo from the Little Karoo
White-backed Mousebirds (Colius colius) is a large species of mousebird. They prefer scrubby dry habitats, such as thornveld, fynbos scrub and semi-desert - with the Karoo being a perfect spot
The solitude of a Karoo farmhouse at sunset
The Fossil Trail at the Karoo National Park, on the outskirts of Beaufort West
Agama aculeata perfectly suited for the rocky environment in the Karoo
The Diictodon was a small herbivorous animal dating back some 250 million years. Roughly 45 cm (18 inches) long, it lived in burrows, probably to escape the heat, and whose behaviour could be likened to a modern day gopher
Big sky at Klipspringer Pass, Potlekkertjie Loop, Karoo National Park, Beaufort West, Karoo
Gemsbok (Oryx gazella) at Klipspringer Pass, Potlekkertjie Loop, Karoo National Park, Beaufort West, Karoo
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Branch: Master