Region: Colloquially known as the Karoo
This route offers the traveller an attractive balance of history, adventure, nature, culture and traditional Karoo “slow food”.
Take the N12 arterial heading away from the Western Cape to reach the heart of the Karoo. The Karoo Oasis Route begins in Victoria West and stretches northwards along the N12, passing through Britstown, Hopetown, Kimberley and Warrenton.
Things to do on the Karoo Oasis Route
The Karoo is typified by arid, semi-desert terrain dotted with flat-topped “koppies” (small hills) where some seven million sheep find grazing. It is also a biodiversity hotspot that is home to 6 000 plant species (2 400 of which are endemic) and the critically endangered riverine rabbit. Solar and wind farms are becoming a familiar feature on the Karoo landscape.
Dominated by the beautiful and distinct camel-thorn trees from which the park derives its name, the Mokala National Park is situated approximately 70km south-west of Kimberley near the N12 highway. Visitors to the park can expect to see species such as roan and sable antelope, and tsessebe. The park also makes for a perfect stop for people travelling between Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Adventure and adrenaline
Along the Karoo Oasis Route, adventure is the name of the game, with plenty of adrenaline-rushing and soul-soothing activities to make any getaway one to remember. Gazella Game Lodge, situated 45km from Hopetown, offers a number of outdoor activities such as angling, fly fishing and canoeing on the Orange River. Game drives, sundowners, paintball and various other activities can also be enjoyed.
Culture and leisure
Stop at Kambro Accommodation and Farm Stall, 21km north of Britstown, with its scenic walks, children’s playground and swimming dam, and explore the many sites of historical interest in the area. Visit private farms sporting excellent examples of Khoisan art (by appointment only), and immerse yourself in the Karoo’s history at the Indraf Kafee informal museum and the Methodist Church museum. Beautiful old buildings such as the library, old police station and magistrate’s office are also worth stopping at.
Eat and sleep
Britstown may be small, but there’s plenty to do – such as experiencing bona fide Karoo “slow food” and hospitality at the Transkaroo Country Lodge. This boutique hotel, which has been in operation for more than a century, has made a name for itself as a preferred stopover in the vast expanses of the Karoo between Cape Town (via Three Sisters) and Johannesburg (via Kimberley). Why not stay a night and book a stargazing experience to witness the majesty of the almost pollution-free Northern Cape skies by night?
Highlights on the Karoo Oasis Route
Wildeklawer Schools Rugby and Netball Tournament
The annual Wildeklawer Schools Rugby and Netball Tournament takes place every April in Kimberley. Each year, thousands of visitors and participants converge on the City of Diamonds to take part in this tournament.
Acclaimed as the last art deco cinema in the country, the Apollo Theatre in Victoria West has an illustrious history. The theatre was built in 1928 by Andrew Aristides Bassil, a Greek immigrant who had set up home in the town in 1923. It was renovated in 1950 to its current form, imitating the then fashionable art deco style, and has been declared a heritage site by the National Monuments Council. These days, the Apollo Theatre entertains the locals as a cinema and hosts international film festivals.
The Vaalharts Valley
This beautiful yet little-known Vaalharts Valley is only one hour’s drive north of Kimberley, in Warrenton. The surrounds are like a breath of fresh air, with the lush green farmlands contrasting with the usual yellows and browns of the nearby countryside. Visitors can cool off in the canals (or even ride down them), enjoy breathtaking views of the valley in a microlight, or simply take a peaceful morning horse ride while watching water birds on a shallow lake.