Road Trip Report 1: Oudtshoorn

There’s a lot to do in Oudtshoorn. At least for a town of the size of Oudtshoorn (population 95,000), there is.

Having only around 24 hours to spend there, we narrowed our options down to three: The Cango Caves, The Cango Ostrich Farm and The… er… Cango Wildlife Ranch. All three came well recommended by friends and all three now come well recommended by us as well.

The Cango Caves don’t have to work too hard. They’ve got everything in place and they just need to show it to you. Mathilda was our guide and demonstrated the acoustics of the massive Van Zyl’s Hall (named after local farmer Jacobus van Zyl who discovered the caves in July 1780) with a fantastic rendition of Amazing Grace.

The lighting and the informative guide are the finishing touches for the natural beauty of the caves. With small children, we were limited to the Heritage Tour (we did the Adventure Tour last time), but that was certainly enough to enjoy the spectacular sights under the Swartberg mountains.

Back towards town then, and the Cango Ostrich Farm, where we were wowed by witnessing an ostrich chick “mid-hatch” (I’m sure there’s a technical term for this, but I don’t know what it is). Liesl took us around and yes, it was all very touristy: I got to kiss an ostrich (a bit beaky), I got a neck massage from the ostiches (warm, but not relaxing) and the kids got to sit on an ostrich and, in Alex’s case, ride one too. He was so proud of himself, and rightly so. But it was also really educational. Ostrich farming is a HUGE business in SA and it was great for the kids to get such an interactive experience. Here’s Scoop hands on with a half hour old ostrich:

Alex has gone to school today with the ostrich egg he bought at the farm and he can’t wait to share his experiences with his classmates.

Finally, the Cango Wildlife Ranch. Expensive, but well worth it, especially if you’re into your big cats. Or their big cats, anyway. Most of which were asleep for the majority of time we were there.

They have cheetahs (+ 2 cubs), leopards, lions, servals and Bengal tigers in the Big Cat section, plus three types of lemurs, crocodiles, duikers, cape vultures and an amazing snake house. It does cost a bit, but it’s a great (and again, educational) experience and at least part of your entrance fee goes towards their conservation and captive breeding projects for many of the endangered species they have at the park. Included in the price is a guided tour, which lets you see far more than if you were going around alone. Ed was our guide, made us feel very welcome and was able to answer all our questions.

To fit in all of this in one day was a bit of a squeeze, but we made it by being on the first tour (9am) at the caves (booking essential) and being the last ones out of the Wildlife Ranch at closing time, by which time we were all pretty exhausted.

Our departure from Oudtshoorn the following day was delayed by a military parade which we were told was to mark the anniversary of the Infantry School in the town and the 150th anniversary of the inaugural town council meeting.

It was actually a rather understated affair, but the kids loved seeing the band and the big army vehicles and it was a decent send off before we headed South over the Outeniqua Mountains towards the coast. More of that (and more photos) tomorrow, but in the meantime, the first pics can be found on Flickr here.

We stayed at the Turnberry Hotel, which was clean, friendly and well organised and was a great base for our activities. The family room was nicely set up with a separate annex for the kids, which was very helpful. Oh, and before I go, a shout out to Jemima’s Restaurant which provided us with an amazing opening meal to our trip. Best steak I have had in several years and superb service for the kids. Excellent.

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