Klein Karoo

As the smaller and more southerly sibling of the Great Karoo, the Klein Karoo or Little Karoo is a fertile valley bordered by the Swartberg, Langeberg and Outenique mountains. Though at first glance the area appears arid, dry and bare, the Klein Karoo holds plenty of special environmental secrets that makes it a prime farming and wine making spot in South Africa.

Things to spot on train journey

Passing through the sweeping, open landscapes of the Klein Karoo, passengers aboard the luxury train journey should keep eyes peeled for the region’s unique family of vegetation – the succulents. Coined the land of succulents, the Klein Karoo’s land is largely populated with a sweeping blanket of these thick, fleshy plants.

The diversity of these steadfast succulents is unparalleled anywhere else in the world. With flat plains giving way to areas of towering cliffs, glassy mountain streams and unique vegetation dominated by healing aloes and dwarf baobab trees peppered with red tubular flowers, the area is a far cry from the haunting barrenness of the Great Karoo.

While herds of stampeding buffalo, elephant and kudu once dominated the Klein Karoo plains, today travellers are more likely to spot the region’s favourite non-flying bird, the ostrich. While unable to fly, the ostrich makes up for feathery flaws by boasting a superior sprinting ability that allows it to reach maximum running speeds of 70 kilometres per hour. Not just a world-class sprinter, the ostrich is farmed for its delicious meat, large eggs and fashionable feathers which are dyed and shipped around the world.

Picturesque villages and tiny towns along the way give African rail tour passengers the opportunity to spot a typical South African dorpie or town. Making intermittent appearances along the way, towns such as Calitzdorp, Ladismith, Van Wkysdorp and Uniondale are just some of the gems smattering the sweeping landscape of the Klein Karoo.

Oudtshoorn – Ostrich farms and Cango Caves

One cannot talk about the Klein Karoo without mentioning the famous ostrich farms and Cango Caves in Oudtshoorn.

Although not a destination on the Cape Town Journey, those on the African Collage Journey can visit an ostrich farm during their stop in the town. Find out more about these trips here.

Undoubtedly one of the gems of the Garden Route, Oudtshoorn is the main hub of the Klein Karoo region. While a popular location for festivals, the charming town remains an incredibly popular tourist destination due to its proximity to the magnificent Cango Caves.

Hidden just a half an hour drive from Oudtshoorn, legend has it that the caves were discovered by a young Hottentot boy looking for missing cattle. Extending underground for over two kilometres, the one-of-a-kind stone formations and stalactites lining the caves come across like a work of art rather than a natural phenomenon.

Formed as a result of 20 million years of rainwater polishing and dissolving rock and limestone to form passageways and secret cellars, the caves were declared a National Monument in 1938.

Wine

At first glance, the Klein Karoo appears arid and bare – hardly the environment to make wine. However, nature has its own plan, providing a unique platform for the cultivation of grapes in the area.

The semi-arid climate and winter rainfall give rise to various microclimates which allow Klein Karoo winemakers to produce a sweeping array of quality wines from vines grown along the fertile river banks.