Oudtshoorn, the largest town in the Klein Karoo, nestles in the fertile valley bordered by the Swartberg Mountains in the north and by the Langeberg and Outeniqua mountains in the south. It is a sizeable, modern town that thrives off farming, tourism, and the perennial ostrich industry. Ostriches are native to Africa, and Oudtshoorn is home to the largest Ostrich population on earth today.
The Swartberg Pass (Oudtshoorn to Prince Albert) is one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the world. The untarred road zig-zags to the summit with steep and sudden switchbacks. Opened in 1888, this handmade pass was the last masterpiece built by famous roadbuilder/engineer Thomas Charles Bain.
Meiringspoort is a tarred road through the Swartberg along a river. Opened in 1858, the road is a remarkable engineering feat, but its overwhelming feature is its magnificent natural beauty and incredible rock formations. Scenic spots include the Skelm Waterfall tumbling into a dark pool which, according to legend, is a bottomless pool where a beautiful mermaid was said to have lived.
The road from Amalienstein in the Klein Karoo pierces the Klein Swartberg Mountains through the Seweweekspoort (Seven Weeks Gate) into one of the most breath-taking and mighty mountain ravines in the country. Author and poet, C Louis Leipoldt, called it one of the “seven wonders” of the old Cape Colony.
The Cango Caves is situated about 29 km norh of Oudtshoorn in the Precambrian limestone at the foothills of the magnificent Swartberg mountain range. It is one of the world’s great natural wonders, with its fascinating and impressive limestone formations sculptured by nature over 20 million years.
Gamkaskloof – “The Hell”
The Gamka River cuts through the Swartberg in the huge gorge, Gamkapoort. In the middle of this gorge lies a remote valley in which one of the strangest little settlements anywhere is to be found that was cut off from civilisation. Travel 50 km in 2 hours, and journey back in time more than 100 years.