Known as the Ostrich Capital of the World, Oudtshoorn is said to host the largest population of ostriches on the planet. This charming semi-desert town claims to have four summers a year, with the highest number of sunny days in South Africa, making it a great destination all year round.
Oudtshoorn is the best place in the country to see the largest birds on earth - ostriches. These powerful, flightless birds reach the fastest land speeds of any bird, standing up to 2.8 m (9 feet) tall.
The ostrich feather boom in the late 1800s and early 1900s made this dusty arid region the prime destination to acquire the gorgeous and highly fashionable feathers. The high demand for these fluffy accessories by Europe's elite saw the rise of the feather barons and the building of feather palaces in and around the Little Karroo town of Oudtshoorn. At the height of its heyday, a pair of ostrich feathers could fetch up to $1500 a pair. Today the demand for feathers has significantly declined and the industry relies more on the production of ostrich meat and leather to drive profits, as well as tourism.
The most popular destination in the Oudtshoorn area is without a doubt the 20 million-year-old Cango Caves, a short 30km drive from the town centre and an experience not to be missed. Cango Caves is a cultural and heritage landmark and is South Africa's very oldest tourist attraction. Considered to be right up there with some of the world's greatest natural wonders these subterranean chambers and limestone formations were sculpted by nature over thousands of years creating an other-worldly wonderland in the depths of the earth.
The dripstone caverns display incredible examples of stalactites and stalagmites as you wander through the series of hidden chambers. The numbers of visitors on every tour are limited in an effort to preserve the site. Of the two tours available, one is known as the easier Heritage Tour and the second is the Adventure Tour. The Adventure Tour takes you into intriguing sections of the caves, such as King Solomon's Mine, the devil's Chimney, the Lost Chamber, Jacob's Ladder the Coffin and the Devil's Kitchen, with a final leopard crawl through a narrow passage to reach the exit. Not for the faint-hearted!
The vast 1,2km caverns of Cango are open to the public, while the rest of the hidden chambers which stretch 5,3km into the earth are closed to the public. New caves and secret passageways are still being discovered today. The Cango Caves were discovered in 1780 by a farmer while he was searching for his lost livestock. In 1898 the first official guide to the caves, Johnny van Wassenaer, reportedly walked for 25 hours into the cave along an underground river and estimates to have ventured about 25km into the depths of this mysterious underground world.
Cango Caves will satisfy the adventurous spirit in anyone and leave you in awe of nature's beauty and timeless power.
Oudtshoorn is nestled in a wide valley between the majestic Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains, in the heart of the arid Little Karroo. It is a region of incredible contrasts and stark landscapes, enjoyed for its biodiversity under harsh conditions and the abundance of unusual succulents.
Oudtshoorn itself is the largest town in the region with a population of about 60 000 residents. The economy is supported by ostrich farming and tourism, bolstered by the annual Klein Karroo Nasionale Kunstefees (KKNK). Started in 1994, the annual event takes place in March/April, attracting thousands of cultural revellers to the town to celebrate the Afrikaans culture through visual and performing arts.
Other attractions in the surrounding area include the start of the Route 62 wine region, Buffelsdrift Game Lodge, the Cango Wildlife Ranch and many ostrich farms - three of which are recognised as show farms.
The area was once the home of the indigenous Koi-San people and traces of their existence can be found in the many rock paintings in the caves of the area. The Vrede and Meiringspoort waterfalls are also well worth a visit. The famous 27km Swartberg Pass is considered by many to be one of the most spectacular mountain passes in Africa. The gravel road snakes its way to an altitude of 1583 metres above sea level, with spectacular views at every hair-raising zigzag turn and an awe-inspiring example of human engineering. Other places of interest are the Meerkat Magic conservation project where visitors will get a chance to watch these wonderful little creatures go about their daily business.
Use the Google map to explore Oudtshoorn & Cango Caves. Feel free to Print the Street Map when you're ready.