The Little or Klein Karoo, which is a long valley bordered by the Swartberg and the Langeberg Mountains in the Western Cape, forms the southern sibling of the larger Karoo – the Great or Groot Karoo occupies the northern part thereof.
This is the land of succulents – their thick, fleshy diversity unparalleled anywhere else in the world – peppered only by the odd bush and tree that gives the Karoo, at first glance, the appearance of arid, dry and very flat land devoid of living matter and given over to hot days and cold nights. Herds of buffalo, elephant and kudu once dominated these plains only to be hunted or driven out by modern development.
Today the mainly visible animal in the area is the Ostrich, farmed for his meat, eggs and feathers, but stay awhile and you’ll hear the rustlings of the bat-eared fox, the suricate or meerkat and the common barking gecko.
This bleak landscape is, on second glance, an area of towering cliffs, clear streams and a unique biome dominated by the aloe and dwarf baobab tree with its yellow peeling bark and midsummer red tubular flowers.
Majestic mountains lend a blue haze to the distant horizon and spring flowers draw huge numbers of tourists from all over the world for a few weeks every year when sand becomes a tapestry of flowers.
This semi-arid climate with winter rainfall gives rise to various microclimates that allow Karoo winemakers to produce a wide variety of quality wines from vines grown typically along the fertile river banks. Little villages and hamlets make intermittent appearances and towns like Calitzdorp, Ladismith, Van Wyksdorp and Uniondale give the visitor a good idea of a typical South African dorp or town.
The Great Karoo is a vast and unforgiving landscape of which the Karoo National Park is but a small portion. Being the largest ecosystem in South Africa, the Karoo is home to a fascinating diversity of life, all having adapted to survive in these harsh conditions. Karoo National Park is dominated by the lofty Nuweveld Mountains and rolling plains, where many species that originally occurred here now occupy their former ranges.
The Karoo National Park has a wide variety of endemic wildlife. Many species have been relocated to their former ranges – such as brown hyena, lion and Cape mountain zebra. Over 20 breeding pairs of black eagle find sanctuary within the park. There is also a wide diversity of succulent plants and small reptiles.
Note to Karoo National Park Travellers
- Please note that tourist roads may be closed at times during heavy or prolonged rainy conditions or as a result of road maintenance
De Zeekoe Guest Farm is situated only 7km outside Oudtshoorn, in the Garden Route, surrounded by the famous Swartberg and Outeniqua mountains, and is one of the world’s 17 “hot spots” with 3 overlapping flower zones. Surrounded by a variety of Oudtshoorn Attractions like ostrich farms, longest wine route in the world (R 62), Cango caves, Wildlife ranch, waterfalls and museums, makes this the ideal destination for a visit or a stay over in the Klein Karoo. This owner managed, 2000 hectare working farm, is malaria free and child friendly.
Formed as a result of 20 million years of rainwater scouring and dissolving rock and limestone to form halls and passageways, the caves were declared a National Monument in 1938 and include the Wonder Cave that has some superb examples of drip stone formations and a resident bat population.