The Karoo - The gem of South Africa

The Karoo, also known as the `Great Karoo’, and `South Africa’s Living Desert’, is a vast semi-desert that is an envied rarity globally. It is said that the silence in the Karoo is so pure that you can hear God think, and the stars so clear and so bright that it feels as though you only need stretch out your hand to touch them.

The area used to be the hunting grounds of the Khoi and San people, many of whom still live in the area, and the name Karoo comes from the Khoi word Karusa, meaning dry, barren thirst-land. The Khoi also left a legacy of tock-art that can be found in many areas in the Karoo.

The Karoo is home to some of the world’s most famous and important archaeological sites, as it is a fossil-rich land which is also home to over 9,000 different plant species. The world’s scientists, geologists, archaeologists, botanists, palaeontologists and ecologists deem the Karoo to be integral to their work, as the 190 to 500 million years old evolution of reptiles to mammals is recorded here in stone.

Beaufort West

Beaufort West was established in 1818 by Lord Charles Somerset, Governor of the Cape, to attempt to curb the lawlessness in the area where explorers, smugglers, traders, adventurers, outlaws, and hunters often crossed swords. He named the town for his father, the fifth Duke of Beaufort.

Beaufort West is ideally situated as a central base from which to explore the Karoo and the Swartberg Mountain passes and is the gateway to various holiday resorts in the Southern, Eastern and Western Cape.

The Prince Albert District

The Prince Albert District includes Prince Albert, Klaarstroom, Leeu Gamka, Meiringspoort, the magical valley of Gamkaskloof, the Swartberg Nature Reserve and the Swartberg Pass.  

Prince Albert is a charming and delightful little village nestled in the shadow of the Swartberg Mountains, at the foot of the famous27km Swartberg Pass, considered one of the most spectacular mountain passes in the world.

Bask in the tranquillity of the Victorian and Karoo architecture, the lush gardens and orchards, art galleries, craft and curio shops, and spectacular sunsets. Enjoy the olives, figs, and deciduous fruit grown on surrounding farms, visit the Fransie Pienaar Museum or a prize-winning dairy.

Take a ghost-walk with the town story-teller who will bring the history of the district to life for you; view the remains of the 1890 gold diggings or the prehistoric reptile footprints or visit some of the other sights in the area. 

The Laingsburg District

The Laingsburg District includes Laingsburg, Matjiesfontein, Anysburg Nature Reserve and the scenic splendour of Seweweekspoort.

Laingsburg is a geological wonderland where layers of fossilised mudstone and a yellow ridge of volcanic ash blown across from South America 250 million years ago lays alongside the main road. Continental drift, a white quartz band similar to that found in South America, runs like a chalk line across the veld. Chips of this material were used by San to make arrowheads.

Interesting places to visit in the area include:

Vleiland/Rouxpos drive with its unbeatable mountain scenery
Anysburg Nature Reserve en route to Ladismith for its camping site, day-walks, horse trails, and mountain bike trails Seweweekspoort for breathtaking mountain scenery and lovely natural picnic spots.  
Matjiesfontein, The Grand Duchess of the Karoo, for its rich historic tapestry
Karoo National Park, which hosts two of South Africa’s most highly endangered species, the riverine rabbit and the black rhinoceros, indigenous buck, mountain zebra, wild ostrich, once-extinct quaggas, and much more.
Ou Schuur Information Centre is located within the Karoo National Park and serves to inform visitors of the area’s cultural and ecological history, accounts of ghosts and other unusual phenomena and a complete history of all the farms that were incorporated into the Park.

The Murraysburg District

The Murraysburg District incorporates Murraysburg and Three Sisters

Murraysburg, at the foot of the Sneeuberg Mountains is an isolated and tranquil spot for outdoor enthusiasts, eco-watchers and environmentalists, as well as for crafters, which has earned it the title "Crafters Mecca of the Karoo."

Crafts include metal-ware collectables made from old tins, pottery, decoupage, paper maché work and fabric painting, ship's anchor rope mats, ornaments from ostrich eggs, various stained glass products, hand-knitted items, upholstered and wooden items, cheese, preserves, candles, and much more.

Places of interest include:

Toorfontein - the farm takes its name from the perennial fountain from which water constantly bubbles, which was thought to be `Magic’ in this semi-desert region; the Afrikaans words for magic fountain are toor fontein
Three Sisters - a popular fuel and refreshment stop on the main N1 arterial highway. The “3 Sisters” are three identical dolerite-topped `koppies’ or peaks.

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