#KarooSecrets: A long-weekend in Oudtshoorn

2017-06-11 10:05 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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On any given morning, the routine of an annoying alarm clock is the painful reminder that some things can only be achieved when your eyes are opened early.

But not this time round. Getting me out of the too warm and too comfy bed of the Queen's hotel, was just like in the movies. The sound of a gentle breeze, sun rays peeping through the curtains and the thought of a good breakfast prepared in-house by a private chef was all I needed. Bear in mind, it's not springtime, as winter has arrived across most of the Western Cape - but with no obvious seasonal evidence showing in the blue skies of Klein Karoo.

The sunrise could not have been more perfectly scripted as we embarked on a tour to Swartberg Pass, creating an atmosphere of excitement shared by the entire group.

I have always thought the region to be a very dry place with not much taking place, but Buffelsdrift Game Lodge introduced me to another dimension - the wildlife beauty dimension. 

And places like the Cango Caves Zipline might not have made to the list of "most Instagrammed" places just yet, but it certainly bumps up the adrenaline factor to realise that Oudtshoorn is a worthwhile journey of discovery. 

Also, it is food heaven!

Between taking turns of indulging in what the region is most famous for - Ostchich -  meal times saw us visit some of the most chilled hangout spots such as farms and game drives ended with Sundowners under clear skies. This place is such a beautiful secluded secret spot, rich in history and it's about time it is listed as one the of must-dos if you're heading to the Garden Route or meandering the iconic Route 62.

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For most of our group, the trip to the Cango Wildlife Ranch rang distant bells of childhood, as the group reminisced about feeling like a kid out on a school excursion again. Here you'll be provided with the educational tours that sees each resident species given a conservation voice, all adding to a unique experience.

And the group certainly set out to explore as much as possible of Oudtshoorn, expertly guided by Jan Bester - this guy is a real South African gem and full of life, helping us to learn a lot more about the history of this place.

Try these suggestions for a mini discovery escape in Oudtshoorn:

Where to sleep

Queens Hotel

The Queen's Hotel is a colonial-era, non-smoking hotel in the heart of Oudtshoorn. It offers rooms decorated with antique furnishings and a swimming pool in a secluded courtyard. Free WiFi is available. Each of the guest rooms includes air-conditioning, satellite TV, a clock radio and direct-dial telephone. The Colony at the Queen's offers gourmet dining made with top South African produce and an extensive wine list. Cafe Brule, situated at the front entrance of The Queen's Hotel, offers coffee and light meals.

Contact: +27 44 272 2101

Protea Hotels by Marriott Oudtshoorn Riempie Estate

Situated in a farm-like setting with well-appointed thatched rondawels, the hotel has a cozy-country atmosphere in a tranquil setting and is only 20 minutes away from the Cango Caves.

The hotel is close to the exotic crocodile and ostrich farms the town is famous for and a short drive from the town’s central business district. It offers an excellent restaurant that serves excellent country fare and guests can keep their heart rates up with golf, tennis, squash, gym and lawn bowling amenities nearby, plus our conference facility is ideal for hosting country-style events.

We spent our last night here, accommodated at one of Africa's coolest brands. Sharing a meal with the Mayor of Oudtshoorn and engaging in conversations about life, setting goals for the future as well as realising the importance of appreciating the moment as it happens.

Contact: 044 272 6161

What to see

Cango Caves

About 29km from Oudtshoorn, at the head of the picturesque Cango Valley, lies the spectacular underground wonder of the Cango Caves. 

Situated in a limestone ridge parallel to the well-known Swartberg Mountains, you will find the finest dripstone caverns, with their vast halls and towering formations.

The Cango Caves is the only show cave in Africa, which offers a choice of either a Heritage or Adventure Tour. All tours are lead by experienced, knowledgeable and accredited Caves Guides - offered in English but also Afrikaans, German, French language options.

Contact: +27 44 272 7410

Cango Wildlife Ranch

With a facility that has been in existence for 30 years, it has over 90 different species of animals and 100 full-time staff.

Contact: 044 272 5593

What to do

Game drives at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge

During the two-hour-long game drives, you can expect to experience true Karoo vegetation from the open game viewing vehicles. Their wide range of animals includes hippo, elephant, giraffe, eland, zebra, buffalo, rhino, springbok and much more.  Midway through the safari, there is a refreshment break at one of the scenic lookout points.  These offer 360° panoramic views of the area as well as the Swartberg Mountains.

Contact: +27 44 272 0000

Meerkat Safari

Spy on adorable wild meerkat families in their natural surroundings at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge. You might have to wait patiently before the fascinating critters peep curiously out of their burrows to welcome the new day.

A well-informed tour guide provides an informative introduction to these mongoose-like creatures while you enjoy the Karoo sunrise.

Contact: +27 44 272 0000

Safari Ostrich farm

Established in 1956 as a tourist activity, it is still a must-see attraction when visiting Oudtshoorn on your holiday.

Safari Ostrich Farm is situated in the heart of “Ostrich Country” and is only 6km outside of the centre of Oudtshoorn and is home to the beautiful and rare White Ostrich. On your tractor tour, you can also expect to see the second biggest bird in the world after the ostrich, the Emu. The farm has taken the decision to stop Ostrich rides - read more about the issue here - Pros and Cons of animal interactions: Oudtshoorn farmer ruffles feathers.

Contact: +27 44 272 7312

Highgate Ostrich farm

Highgate has been in existence since 1938 offering tours to visitors from all over the world. You can expect to meet ostriches face to face and learn about ostrich farming. If you are into ostrich races, you can still try this at Highgate.

Contact: 083 236 3456

Where to eat

The Pepper Tree Restaurant 

Enjoy a meal of fine local cuisine under a relaxed friendly atmosphere of The Pepper Tree Restaurant, where you can dine in the cool shade of the giant ancient Pepper Trees that gave the restaurant its name. Or you can dine on the ‘stoep’ or inside the renovated and air-conditioned historic homestead.

Contact: 044 272 7115/6

#Disclaimer: Traveller24 Unathi Nkanjeni was hosted by Wesgro for the duration of his stay in Oudtshoorn.

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