The Karoo is a vast semi-desert, which is bounded by the coastal mountain ranges in the south and west and by the Orange River in the south and east. The semi-desert has two main sub-regions - the Great Karoo in the north and the Little Karoo in the south. The Great Karoo covers about 400.000 square kilometres, which is about one third of South Africa.
|The word “Karoo” comes from the San word “kuru” meaning “dry” or “rough” describing the climate and the vegetation of the high plateau. The vegetation of the Karoo is dominated by the wide steppe – grassland that is preventing the soil from drying out.|
Some big parts of the Karoo lost its original vegetation because of agricultural use – mostly through sheep farming. But the Karoo is still growing and some experts reckon that the semi-desert almost doubled it size in the last 100 years.
How to get around?
You'll need a car to discover the Karoo. There is some public transport mainly around Graaf-Reinet, but renting a car is by far the best way to get around the stunning Karoo. Make use of google maps for a detailled and individual route description.
Where to sleep?
Finding accommodation isn't such a big problem in the Karoo. You can find all kind of accommodation - from posh hotels to backpackers.
Graaf Reinet, founded 1786 and named after the governor of that time "Cornelis Jacob van de Graaff", lies in the middle of the Karoo National Park where another wonder of nature, Valley of Desolation, keep silent memories of times gone by.
This tour will take you over the Outeniquea Mountains and to the fertile valleys and spectacular countryside of Little Karoo. Once you arrive to Oudtshoorn, the largest settlement in Little Karoo and with broad streets and smart sandstone Victorian houses, you will be taken to Cango Caves, hidden away in the foothills of Swartberg Mountain 28kilometres from Oudtshoom. The tour offers a fantastic opportunity to see the caves avoiding long queues and only accessible with a pre-booked tour. Witness the bizarre formations representing millions of years of slow chemical processes and walk through chambers with hanging stalactites and stalagmites formed by the erosion of underwater currents. After your cavern experience, stop at the Cango Wildlife Ranch to appreciate the beauty of the Bengal tiger, wrap yourself in a python or come face to face with Nile crocodiles. Also at Oudtshoom you will find yourselve surrounded by ostrich farms, your final visit will be to one of these farms which are rarely opened to the public.
Not too far from the Karoo region is Addo National Park, home to roundabout 400 elephants. If you don't have the chance to go further north to see and explore Hluhluwe-Umfolozi or Kruger National Park, visit Addo. Addo is also home to the so-called BIG 7 (Elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo, leopard + whales and the Great White Shark).
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