Slow living in The Great Karoo

Megan Wilkins


Come home to a crackling fire, with sherry in crystal glasses and 'Ouma’s roosterbrood' fresh out of the oven. You’ve spent the day hiking through the mountains, exploring the ancient landscape in search of cave paintings. The vast, opal sky stretches out before you, with promises of fresh adventure to come, as the cicadas sing their evening lullaby. Peace and tranquillity engulf you. This is what awaits all who come to the Karoo - the beating heart of South Africa.

Unmissable hiking in the Baviaanskloof

Baviaan comes from the Dutch word for baboon, which is something you’ll be sure to encounter on your hikes through this majestic part of the country. Your day begins with an early start, just as the sun peeks over the horizon. The hiking trails range from beginner footpaths to experienced crag climbing.

Baviaanskloof is considered a world heritage site, containing seven of South Africa's eight biomes, with aloes, spekboom, fynbos, and 17 protea species. It is also home to the Cape Leopard. But don’t worry, they are far more interested in the baboons than you. Not only is this area a nature lover’s dream, but it should also be on every adrenaline seeker’s to-do list. With 4x4 tracks and rock climbing, you’ll never be short of pockets of adventure along the way. 

Adventure seekers explore the Cango Caves

On the topic of adventure, the Karoo is bursting with opportunity. If you love history and don’t mind small spaces, you should spend a day visiting the Cango Caves. Along the limestone ridge near the Swartberg Mountains, you will find the awe-inspiring dripstone caverns, with their echoing halls and towering rock formations.

Tours of the caves are offered daily, in multiple languages. For those who prefer a slower meander, you’ll get the chance to walk through the caverns with your guide, as they tell you of the ancient history surrounding you. For those with more of a thrill-seeking spirit, one of the tours takes you deep within the caves as you twist, turn, and climb your way through tight crevices, exploring the caves as those who discovered it once did. 

Feast on proper ‘boerekos’

One of the best things about South Africans is their hospitality. And this is never more true than when speaking about the Afrikaans farming community that resides in the Karoo. On your journey through the Karoo, you’ll find many a 'klein dorpie' (small village) where 'oumas' (grannies) or 'tannies' (aunties) are cooking up a storm, waiting for visitors to arrive.

On the menu, you’ll find classics like 'bobotie', a heart-warming comfort food. Or, eat as the locals do, with a lamb potjie, mashed potatoes, and vegetables harvested from the farm. No matter where you stay, you’ll almost always be able to find 'roosterbrood' with creamy butter and homemade apricot jam, or dessert favourites like 'melktert' and 'koeksisters'. In need of a snack? You absolutely have to try 'biltong' or 'droëwors' or else your South African experience would not be complete. Every meal will be accompanied by a good brandy and no doubt a story or two. As a guest in South Africa, especially in the Karoo (with traditional values), you’ll quickly become a part of the family. 

Potjie Kos

Go ghost hunting in Prince Albert

Prince Albert, a small, eclectic town in the Karoo, is considered to be one of South Africa’s most haunted places. Ailsa Tudhope runs a tour service that takes guests on a nighttime tour of the town, regaling the history of the area and all the stories that make the town so special. As part of the tour, guests are invited to explore the haunted buildings and streets, in search of otherworldly residents who just won’t leave.

This walk takes about an hour and a half, and it’s easy enough for persons of any age to attend. The tales are sure to delight children and adults alike, and the history of the region is worth every moment of suspense, waiting for a ghost to jump out at you. But, fear not. Apart from a few eerie encounters, Ailsa has never lost an attendee…yet. 

Life’s a drag at the Karroo Theatrical Hotel

One of the hidden gems of the Karoo can be found on the outskirts of the small hamlet of Steytlerville. This touch of luxury in the middle of nowhere is more than just a place to rest your head. It doubles as a theatre for outstanding, fantastical, and downright hilarious performances from some of South Africa’s best-loved drag queens and artists.

From set design to light to costumes, the in-house drag performers have built a cabaret of culture and extravagance. Their Saturday night performances showcase local talents as well as performers who travel just to be a part of the show. Burlesque, cabaret, drag, and opera all await you, and the pianist promises to “play it again, Sam.” 

Grimaldi’s Theatre Hall at the Karroo Theatrical Hotel

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