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article imageVisit Oudtshoorn: Stalactites, stalagmites and ostriches galore Special

By Anne Sewell     Jul 14, 2013 in Travel
Oudtshoorn - While visiting the Western Cape in South Africa, it is well worth driving the scenic Klein Karoo Route 62 to the lovely town of Oudtshoorn, where you can visit the local ostrich farms or delve into the depths of the Cango Caves.
Located in the Klein (or little) Karoo region of the Western Cape, and not far off the scenic Garden Route, is the town of Oudtshoorn.
The area was originally home to the Bushmen, as is evidenced from many rock paintings in caves in the Swartberg range close by.
Surrounded by beautiful scenery and framed by the Swartberg range of mountains, the town is home to the world's largest ostrich population. In the area it is possible to visit a number of specialized ostrich breeding farms, such as the Safari Show Farm and the Highgate Ostrich Show Farm.
The town's main income is from the ostrich farms, along with tourism, and apparently at one stage Oudtshoorn was really rich.
During the second Anglo-Boer War of 1899 to 1902, a boom started in Oudtshoorn, and during this period most of Oudtshoorn's famously opulent "Feather Palaces" were built.
Rietfontein Ostrich Palace  against red conglomerate hills and the Swartberg  20 miles west of Oudts...
Rietfontein Ostrich Palace, against red conglomerate hills and the Swartberg, 20 miles west of Oudtshoorn, Western Cape.
Reinderd Visser
According to a local ostrich farmer, that particular boom was short-lived and its demise was blamed on Henry Ford and the arrival of the motor car. In those days, ladies wore large hats with ostrich plumes, and it was found that these were not suitable to wear in motor cars as they tended to blow off at high speed.
The ladies stopped buying the fashionable hats, and for a while, the region's economy was ruined, and most farmers found they had to return to more traditional crops.
Nowadays one of the main ostrich farms in the area is the Highgate Ostrich Show Farm, located 10 kilometers south of Oudtshoorn. Highgate specializes in the breeding of ostriches and is also open to visitors. The farm provides specialized information about the various stages of the birds' development and gives the opportunity to visit young offspring and an ostrich pen.
Highgate Ostrich Show Farm located 10 kilometres south of Oudtshoorn in South Africa.
Highgate Ostrich Show Farm located 10 kilometres south of Oudtshoorn in South Africa.
While the farm focuses mainly on ostrich development, tourism is also an important source of income to keep the farm running.
Another farm worth visiting is the Safari Show Farm, located 5 kilometers outside of Oudtshoorn. This farm specializes in the breeding and conservation of ostriches and has over 2,500 animals.
On the grounds, visitors can view a museum and tour around the farm every half an hour.
Ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn  Western Cape  South Africa
Ostrich farm in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, South Africa
Utilisateur:Bel Adone
The video above was taken by German tourists visiting the Straußen ostrich farm and shows people interacting with and feeding the ostriches. Below is a photograph showing the farmhouse and surrounding garden.
Straußen farm  Oudtshoorn
Straußen farm, Oudtshoorn
More adventurous tourists can actually ride the ostriches on various of the local farms:
Cango Caves:
The other major attraction in the area is the fabulous Cango Caves. Nestled in the foothills of the Swartberg range, close to Oudtshoorn, the caves are set in Precambrian limestones.
Stalagmites and stalactites Van Zyl hall of the Cango Caves  in the Swartberg  South Africa.
Stalagmites and stalactites Van Zyl hall of the Cango Caves, in the Swartberg, South Africa.
Rute Martins
The principal cave is one of the country's finest, best known and most popular tourist caves and attracts many visitors from overseas and locally.
The extensive system of chambers and tunnels runs for over four kilometers. However, only around a quarter of this is open to visitors, who may proceed into the cave only in groups supervised by a guide.
Cango caves  Oudtshoorn
Cango caves, Oudtshoorn
There are tours run at regular intervals most days, including a standard tour, which takes an hour, and an adventure tour which runs for an hour and a half. The adventure tour gets its name as it consists of crawling through narrow passages and climbing up steep rock formations guided by small lights.
Monumental stalagmite & stalactite formations dramatically lit with spotlights in the Cango Caves  O...
Monumental stalagmite & stalactite formations dramatically lit with spotlights in the Cango Caves, Oudtshoorn, South Africa.
John Charalambous
In the caves, spectacular halls and limestone formations are viewed, as can be seen from the photographs.
Surrounding scenery:
The scenery alone is enough to make a visit to the area worthwhile, with the traditional "fynbos" (or natural shrubland or heathland vegetation) wreathing the hillsides.
Aloe ferox  taken near the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn  South Africa
Aloe ferox, taken near the Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn, South Africa
John Atherton
Quaint buildings can be seen dotted around, like this church building of the De Hoop congregation, 10 miles west of Oudtshoorn.
Church building of De Hoop congregation  10 miles west of Oudtshoorn  Western Cape
Church building of De Hoop congregation, 10 miles west of Oudtshoorn, Western Cape
Reinderd Visser
Cute local residents are also on view:
A group of meerkats in Oudtshoorn  South Africa
A group of meerkats in Oudtshoorn, South Africa
Local Festival:
The Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees (Little Karoo National Arts Festival) is an Afrikaans language arts festival that takes place annually in the town.
Including both visual and performing art this festival is officially recognized by the South African government as a national arts festival and based on the number of visitors, it is also the largest arts festival on offer with South Africa.
A typical old building in Oudtshoorn  Western Cape  South Africa.
A typical old building in Oudtshoorn, Western Cape, South Africa.
The first festival took place in 1994 and was the idea of a businessman from Oudtshoorn, Nic Barrow, and a former Public Relations Manager for the South African publishing firm Naspers, Andrew Marais.
CP Nel Museum in Oudtshoorn  South Africa
CP Nel Museum in Oudtshoorn, South Africa
The festival attracts more than 1,000 artists each year, performing or exhibiting in more than 200 productions and exhibitions over eight days. The festival usually runs at the end of March or the beginning of April.
The festival is a great source of growth for the town and the surrounding region, and many private institutions and hotels benefit from offering accommodation, along with halls and grounds for the festivities.
Staying over in Oudtshoorn:
For those wishing to experience a little of the former historic opulence, the Queen's Hotel, built in 1880, is a great choice, right in the heart of Oudtshoorn. If on a lesser budget, there are plenty of lovely and more affordable bed & breakfasts available too.
Queens Hotel in Oudtshoorn  South Africa.
Queens Hotel in Oudtshoorn, South Africa.
Queens Hotel Oudtshoorn
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