The Karoo is an enormous semi-arid desert area of South Africa that can be found inland from the Garden Route. It is an ancient fossil-rich land with an array of interesting plants, wildlife and historical sites and towns. Across the Karoo National Park many activities are on offer including many great hiking and 4x4 trails; take in the Valley of Desolation with its sheer cliffs and precariously balanced columns of Dolerite rising over 100 metres from the valley floor for some of the region’s most spectacular scenery. A visit to the Ou Schuur Information Centre will provide visitors with a great introduction to the area’s cultural and ecological history from the early Khoi San tribes who once inhabited the region and left their marks in the many caves, to the 19th century farmers who chose to settle in this arid region.
Wildlife lovers will be in their element as the Karoo National Park is home to a wide variety of indigenous buck, mountain zebra, wild ostrich and five tortoise species, the most in any conservation area in the world. Visitors may even be lucky enough to spot the quagga, which had become extinct in 1883. The zebra-like creature is now again roaming free in the park after it was recreated from portions of its genetic code found in tissue samples taken from a stuffed museum exhibit.
The many small towns of the Karoo are very proud of their heritage and have made great efforts to maintain buildings in their original state. Spending a night in small Karoo town accommodation is a great way to get a feel for the place and will feel like you have stepped back in time to an era of outlaws, smugglers, explorers, and adventurers.
We would recommend visits to the town of Graff-Reinet, with its Religious and Historical monuments and perfectly maintained examples of Cape Dutch Architecture. Further west and also worth a visit is the town of Beaufort West, with its historic town centre and Anglo-Boer War Block House that still guards the Railway Bridge.