The Karoo - “Place of Thirst” - is a boundless and mysterious area covered by vast sheep and game farms, where broad plains roll away toward distant koppies and multilayered mountains that seem to touch the indigo sky. One can stop almost anywhere in the Karoo and listen to the silence, breathe in the aged earth and the Karoo Bossies (which conjures up the taste of Karoo lamb!), and gaze at a startlingly clear horizon that seems drawn at the other end of the earth. The Karoo’s clear night sky is densely studded with countless stars and huge, bright planets; even other galaxies are visible with the naked eye, offering some of the best star-gazing in the world. Fossils of some of the earliest forms of one-celled life have been discovered in the Karoo, indicating that life has existed in this region for more than 3 billion years. The richness of predinosaur fossils in this region is world-renowned. To experience the magic of this area, you must venture off the N1 national road where you will discover eccentric little hamlets, sprawling farmsteads and historical towns populated by warm and welcoming people that love to share their stories and legends.
Tourism information officesEdit
There are two airports located in close proximity to the Karoo. The closest is the Port Elizabeth airport which is 162 km from the Karoo. The East London airport is 256 km away. There are regular flights from Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban and other South African destinations to the airports in Port Elizabeth and East London.
The Karoo is easily accessible by motorways from Cape Town (717 km), Durban (815 km), and Bloemfontein (453 km). You could also drive in from Johannesburg (1014 km) or Port Elizabeth (250 km). The road conditions are fairly good if you are coming from any of these cities.
All major South African coach companies offer regular schedules to and from destinations like Addo.
- Aberdeen, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Situated in the delightful plains of Camdeboo, Aberdeen was founded in 1856 and is a declared architectural conservation town and a veritable repository of styles including Victorian, Georgian, Karoo, German, Gothic Revival, Russian, Art Nouveau and Flemish Revival.
- Graaff-Reinet, ☏ . Graaff-Reinet is the oldest town in this area, known as the ‘Athens’ of the Eastern Cape, and is recognized as the home of magnificent examples of Karoo architecture and over 220 heritage sites, more than any other town in South Africa. Another unique characteristic of the town to look out for is one of the largest grape vines in the world, which was planted in 1870. The town lies on the banks of the Sundays River and is surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park.
- Jansenville. The little town of Jansenville owes its origins to the Dutch Reformed Church that formed a parish there in 1854, named after the last Dutch Governor of the Cape. Jansenville is game country with many game farms and hunting concessions in the area. The restored Sid Fourie House serves as the local museum and has a surprising variety of interesting collections relating to both the lifestyles of the past and the locality in particular. It offers travellers a welcome break in their journey through the Karoo Heartland.
- Nieu-Bethesda, ☏ . The village of Nieu-Bethesda lies at the foot of the Sneeuberge, approximately 55 km from Graaff-Reinet. The town came about after having been established as a mission station in 1875. It is known for its sacred Bushman rock art sites, fossils and the Owl House, which is a museum dedicated to the eccentric artist Helen Martins.
- 1 Pearston, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. The peaceful hamlet of Pearston, immortalised by Eve Palmer in the Plains of Camdeboo, personifies the Karoo. It is reached from Graaff-Reinet by driving across the Camdeboo, where the scenery is characterized by multilayered Karoo mountains and koppies in the distance across endless expanses of Karoo plains.
The Karoo is an outstanding choice for outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, swimming in natural pools, horseback riding, 4x4, quad-biking and fossils trails or walks For the nature lovers there are 235 bird species to identify and a wealth of plant life to discover. Other adventures include fly-fishing, golf, malaria free safari and hunting operations. Annual events include the Castle Lager Biltong Festival, the Spring Rose & Flower show, and the Bruintjieshoogte Cycle Tour & Bruintjieshoogte - ADD Marathon race between Pearston & Somerset East.
The Camdeboo National Park has 24 km of gravel road that offer tourists a chance to sight Buffalo, Red Hartebeest, Eland, Gemsbok, Springbok, Blesbok, Ostrich and Black Wildebeest. The park supports a diverse spectrum of wildlife including 43 mammal species, of which 13 are carnivores. Also located in the Karoo area is the Kamala Game Reserve, a Big 5 reserve that is situated at the confluence of the 6,000 ft (1,800 m) high Bruinjieshoogte and Boschberg mountain ranges.
- Camdeboo National Park, ☏ .
- Kamala Game Reserve, ☏ .
- Samara Samara Private Game Reserve (near Graaff-Reinet), ☏ .
- Noorspoort Guest Farm (near Steyterville), ☏ .
- 4X4 Trails. The Karoo offers 4x4 trails for every type of off-road vehicle, quads and mountain bikes, from a casual drive in the mountains, to more challenging adventures to undertake.
- Hiking & Walking Trails, Somerset East. The diverse nature of the vegetation and typography of the area creates a landscape that is well suited to the interest of hikers. There are one and two day hikes available on the mountain.
- Crag Lizard Trail. This 1½ km walk starts at the parking area of the Valley of Desolation and is clearly marked with the Crag Lizard logo.
- Eerstefontein Day Walk. Hikers have a choice of three route options ranging from 5 to 16 km. A number of good picnic sites can be found at Eerstefontein and Agterstefontein. The trail starts and ends at Spandaukop Gate (Berg-en-dal).
- Driekoppe Overnight Hiking Trail, ☏ . This overnight hiking trail through the mountains of the eastern section of the Camdeboo National Park can either be attempted by foot or by 4x4 vehicles.
- Compassberg, ☏ . Compassberg (2502 m) is the 2nd highest in the Eastern Cape and highest peak in the Sneeuberg range. To climb to the top and descend, it takes approximately five hours, while the base of the mountain is a forty minute drive from Nieu Bethesda. There are different degrees of difficulty, depending on the route you choose to follow.
Ganora Guest Farm, ☏ . Located 7 km from Nieu-Bethesda, Ganora is a working sheep farm that offers excursions to rock art, Anglo-Boer War engravings, a fossil museum and a fossil walk. Picnic baskets are available on request.
Camdeboo National Park, ☏ . This park is most famous for the awe-inspiring Valley of Desolation, as well as the peak called Uitkyk from which paragliding enthusiasts from all over the world come to share the thermals of the vast Karoo skies with the resident Verreaux Eagles. Kudu and Cape Mountain Zebra are among the list of animals that can be seen in the Camdeboo National Park. It is an absolute Mecca for hikers, photographers and those interested in flora and fauna.
Fly- Fishing, ☏ . Fly fishing in the Karoo is very much out of the ordinary as one does not expect the variety or quality of fishing in what is perceived as an arid area. Indigenous Yellowfish are abundant in the river systems and trout fishing is wild. There are dams that are open to the public, but many more if accompanied by a guide.
Hunting. In the Karoo, game is plentiful, making it the perfect destination for hunting enthusiasts or for a camera safari. Prime hunting is offered on the rugged Karoo terrain with Blesbuck, Duiker, Gemsbok, Kudu, Mountain Reedbuck, Springbuck, Steenbok and Wildebeest.
Golf. The highly-rated 9-hole (18-tee) golf course in Somerset East is said to be one of the most beautiful in the country. There’s also the Graaff-Reinet Golf Club, with magnificent views of Spandau`s Kop.
Water Sports. Although the level of the Nqweba dam fluctuates widely as a result of unreliable rainfall, the dam is periodically used for a variety of water sports such as power boating, skiing, yachting, canoeing and windsurfing.
Karoo lamb is widely known in the whole of South Africa, and is a must if you visit Karoo.
Drink a lot of water during the hot summer month from November to March. Make sure you have enough water on board when travelling around.
Nieu Bethesda does not having filling stations, and shops and restaurants accept cash only.
Karoo Moons Guest House (Aberdeen), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. This urban guest house offers accommodation in the main guest house and in various historical cottages. All the luxury suites have extra-long king-sized beds, and the guest house features rooms with en suite rooms opening onto Victorian verandas.
Golden Valley Country Inn (Cookhouse), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. This inn is situated between the Addo Elephant National Park and the Mountain Zebra National Park in the Karoo Heartland. They offer 13 rooms, 6 of which have en suites. Two of the en suite rooms are family rooms.
Koffylaagte Game Lodge (Jansenville), ☏ , fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. The lodge has 14 bedrooms, spread between three luxury safari tents, 3 luxury rooms at the hunting lodge, a self-catering bush camp with 2 permanent tents, and the farm house which has two 2-bedroomed self-catering bedrooms with two single beds.
The Stone Cottage (Pearston), ☏ . This cosy cottage sleeps 5 people and is ideal for families or couples. The main room has a double bed and the family room has a double bunk and a single bed. There is also a kitchenette and braai area. The cottage is equipped fro self catering, however meals can be arranged.
Angler and Antelope Guesthouse (Somerset East), ☏ , fax: , ✉ email@example.com. They offer both self catering and guest house accommodation. The guest house consists of 7 rooms and is a four-star graded accommodation establishment. The self catering accommodation is a three bedroomed house which can accommodate up to 6 guests.
Local telephone directory: 1023
International telephone directory: 10903
Ambulance: Tel: 10177 or +27 49 891-0356
Police: Tel: 10111
Fire Station: Tel: +27 49 892-2121 or +27 82 853-7036