Oudtshoorn

Travel Guide Africa South Africa Western Cape Oudtshoorn

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Introduction

An Ostrich

An Ostrich

© Taffski

Often tagged the 'ostrich-feather capital of the world', Oudtshoorn is a town with broad lanes, and some beautifully maintained Victorian and Edwardian buildings. The town was founded in 1847, but scarce local water supplies limited the town's growth. However, despite the lack of water, ostrich farming proved to be a prosperous local industry, leading to significant growth during two "feather booms". During the first boom, which lasted from 1865-1870, the value of ostrich feathers (per pound) nearly matched the value of diamonds. Overproduction led to falling prices, although a smaller boom occurred from 1900-1914. Today the town's economy is primarily reliant on tourism and ostrich farming, with the largest ostrich population of any place in the world. The human population is about 60,000, making it the largest town in the Little Karoo region.

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Sights and Activities

The town itself is quite small and, apart from some of the architecture and a plethora of ostrich farms, it doesn't really have much to offer. However, several things are certainly worth doing or seeing:

  • The nearby Cango Caves are certainly worth a day trip, as the extensive underground passageways contain huge halls and grand limestone formations.
  • The Cango Wildlife Ranch is another great place to visit and for a little extra money you can cuddle the little cheetahs for example.
  • The Meerkat Magic Safari is another local highlight where you can have a close encouter with these little fantastic creatures.
  • Go and see the Karoo from above with Oudtshoor Ballooning.
  • Highgate Ostrich Show Farm might be fun for kids, but it's a waste of time.
  • Oudtshoorn is also only a short drive (60 kilometres) away from the coast and Wilderness National Park.

If you stay at a backpacker's, ask for discount vouchers; many of the hostels offer vouchers up to 50% off for the Ostrich farms and the Wildlife Centre.

Ostrich Farms

The "feather barons" made Oudtshoorn the "ostrich capital of the world", and today tourists can visit some ostrich farms in town. In most cases these are show farms, set up specifically for visitors, and most offer the same experience - an hour-long tour that explains everything about ostrich farming, from incubation through ostrich products, a visit to see the animals including a chance to feed ostriches and ride an ostrich (subject to weight limits), and finally a trip to the gift shop to purchase ostrich souvenirs. Don't expect the same experience as you would get seeing wild ostriches roaming the savannah - ostrich farms are most definitely farms, and the animals are domestic animals raised for human consumption, so they are not treated with the same respect as their wild brethren. Nonetheless, if you can get past any moral qualms the farms are interesting places that are worth a visit. Many farms offer discounts to guests of hotels that they have partnerships with, so be sure to ask at your hotel before visiting a farm.

Other Sights and Activities

Bufflesdrift Game Lodge, ☏ +27 44 272 0000, ✉ info@buffelsdrift.com. This private game lodge is situated on a large open expanse and offers bush safaris, meerkat safaris, and the opportunity to feed or ride elephants. Animals on the property include hippos, elephants, giraffes, eland, zebra, buffalo, rhino, springbok and others. Note that these are not truly wild animals - the property is managed as essentially a giant ranch rather than a nature preserve - but the animals have plenty of room to roam, making it a far better experience than any zoo. No fee is charged for entry, which makes this lodge a particularly nice place to have lunch or enjoy a drink. Nature activities are all charged on a per-person basis. Tented and lodge accommodations are available for those looking for a more extensive wildlife experience.
Meerkat Adventures (Tours start from the intersection where the R328 from Mosselbay joins the R62 from Calitsdorp), ☏ +27 84 772 9678, ✉ deveyg@gmail.com. Meerkat Adventures offers the chance to spend time close (several meters) to a family of wild meerkats. Devey Glinister, a passionate and eccentric local who might best be described as the Crocodile Dundee of meerkats, has spent years habituating wild meerkats to the presence of humans, and now leads groups out before dawn to watch these animals awake from their dens and go about their morning routines. Time spent with the meerkats is entirely dependent on the animals - if the meerkats are feeling lazy the encounter can last for a few hours, but if they feel like foraging they might disappear into the brush after only ten or fifteen minutes. Devey meets participants near the main highway and then leads them onto a private ranch where coffee and tea are provided, as well as background on meerkat behavior, before everyone is handed a folding chair and led on a short hike to the meerkat den. Tour sizes are limited and usually fill up in advance so reservations are necessary. Children must be older than ten to join tours. R550 per person, R100 discount for guests staying at De Zeekoe Guest Farm.

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Getting There

By Plane

There is no airport in Oudtshoorn. The nearest airports are in George (very small, local flights only), Port Elizabeth (domestic flights only) and Cape Town (domestic and international flights).

By Train

Shosholoza Meyl has the following train:

  • Cape Town - Port Elizabeth via Oudtshoorn, 24 hours, premier class only, once weekly

By Car

Located just north of George on the Garden Route, take a turn off the N2 and take the N12 north. It's about an hour from George. It's a scenic drive on the R62 from Montagu and the trip from George over the Outeniqua pass offers some spectacular views. Worth the drive!

By Bus

The main bus companies serve Oudtshoorn on regular schedules. There are minivans going to and from George and Mossel Bay .

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Eat

Whilst in Oudtshoorn, try an ostrich burger or steak. It is a local speciality, and most of the restaurants in town have them included on their menus. Ostrich meat tastes similar to lean beef and is low in fat and cholesterol, as well as high in calcium, protein and iron. When minced it tastes just like beef, and is very versatile (don't surprised to see ostrich lasagne on the menu!).

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Drink

The Barons Palace Hotel, Corner High & Hope Street, ☏ +27 44 279-1727, fax: +27 44 279-1747, ✉ info@baron.co.za. Reveals to her guests an era of affluence and opulence. The hotel was built at the beginning of the 20th century by a wealthy Ostrich Baron. Lush drapes, high ceilings, ornate fireplaces and original ostrich plume showcases recreate an era of gracious elegance. Ascending the majestic staircase to the sweeping reception rooms and vast veranda, one imagines the lavish entertaining that took place in celebration of the flourishing ostrich feather industry. The hotel is ideally equipped to host weddings and other special functions.
De Oude Meul Restaurant, Schoemanshoek (R328, 14 km from Oudtshoorn en route to the Cango Caves), ☏ +27 44 272-7308. 7 days/week. An à la carte restaurant, specializing in ostrich & venison dishes.

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Sleep

Karoo Soul Travellers Lodge, 170 Langenhoven Road/ 1 Adderley Street, ☏ +27 44 272-330. Art, travel, peace, action, sharing, magic space, highest hill in Oudtshoorn with stunning views. Style, comfort and generosity. From R100pp.
Miles B&B Guest House, 104 Church Street, ☏ +27 44 272-4311. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00. Five minutes away from the centre of town, but near the hiking trails in the area.
La Pension Guest House, 169 Church/Kerk St, ☏ +27 44 279 2445. This B&B is located on a one acre plot that includes several buildings, all in good repair. Gardens, a pool, gated parking, and common rooms create a pleasant environment that is enhanced by the very friendly owners, who will do their best to provide travel advice and ensure that you are having a pleasant stay. R800 for a king room.
Straussennest, 46 Lategansvlei, ☏ +27 44 279-1800. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00. Located in beautiful surroundings for long walks and hiking trails. Has rooms in different sizes. All 3 of the rooms are stylishly and comfortably furnished. From R200pps.
De Oude Meul Country Lodge (15 km from Oudtshoorn towards the Cango Caves along the R328), ☏ +27 44 272 7190, ✉ deoudemeul@mweb.co.za. Check-in: 14:00, check-out: 10:00. This lodge is situated in Schoemanspoort and is completely surrounded by mountains. The willow trees and river provides a peaceful tranquil setting for couples, families, individuals as well as groups

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Keep Connected

Internet

Big cities and most of the popular places in the country usually have an internet café though they are not as abundant as in, for example, Asia or South America. It's also relatively expensive, usually 20-30 rand an hour, sometimes even more. Many of the accommodation options have internet access available, either wireless with your own laptop or by their own computer(s). Wireless access is also available throughout the country in more and more cafes and eateries, sometimes free and sometimes for a small fee. Note that you usually have to login anyway and agree with the terms and conditions. It is cheapest to buy a prepaid cell phone starter pack (less than R10) and access the Internet with GPRS or 3G. Generally R2 per MB for out of bundle data from most providers (50c for Virgin Mobile), but it becomes a lot cheaper if you buy a data bundle. In general coverage is good except the more rural parts of the northern and northwestern parts of the country (especially Northern Cape).

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

South Africa's country code is 27. Telephone numbers in South Africa are 10 digits, including the local area code. There are also some prefixes like 0800 (toll free), 0860 (charged as local call) and 0861 (flat-rate calls). The general emergency number is 10111, ambulance is 10177 and police is 1011.

South Africa has very good phone facilities, which are also becoming more and more competitively priced, now that more operators are active on the market. The main ones are Neotel and Telkom South Africa. Local phone calls are cheap (about one Rand an hour), domestic long-distance calls are about twice as expensive. International calls start at around 6 Rand an hour but can be (much) higher to less usual countries. Note that public phones are about twice as cheap as new private phone centres. Phone calls tend to be the cheapest during the weekend and during business hours (8:00am to 5:00pm) on weekdays and more expensive during the evening and nights at weekdays.

There are also good mobile-phone facilities, with GSM and 3G networks. There are five cell phone providers in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C, Virgin Mobile and 8ta. SIM card prepaid starter kits are available from R10. You will need a passport and a proof of residential address and it has to be registered before you can call or receive calls. You can buy credit for prepaid phones just about everywhere, remembering you will usually need cash to do so from service stations.

Post

The SAPO (South African Post Office) is the nation's postal service. They have a track & trace system for parcels as well. Post offices are open from 8:30am to 4:30pm from Monday to Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Domestic and international deliveries are reliable but can sometimes take up to several weeks. If you want to send something oversees of any value, try using one of the private mail services, like Postnet. Also international courier companies like TNT, UPS and DHL tend to be fast, very reliable and competitively priced.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: -33.5928
  • Longitude: 22.2025

Accommodation in Oudtshoorn

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as well as Kieran-M (4%), Ofelia (3%), Hien (1%), Lavafalls (1%)

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This is version 25. Last edited at 12:51 on Jun 2, 20 by Utrecht. 6 articles link to this page.

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