Oudtshoorn Tourist Attractions
Many visitors following the Garden Route make a side trip (70km/43mi inland) to Oudtshoorn, the world's principal ostrich- breeding center.
Its period of greatest fame was around 1900, when ostrich feathers from Oudtshoorn were sent all over the world. These days of glory are now past, but Oudtshoorn still makes a good living from ostrich farming. Ostrich feathers and ostrich meat find a ready sale, and Oudtshoorn's ostriches have been successfully marketed as a tourist attraction.Another reason for visiting Oudtshoorn, the largest town on the LiIttle Karoo, is the beauty of the surrounding country. It lies in a fertile valley (tobacco, fruit, vegetables, grain), surrounded by the Swartberg and Outeniqua Mountains.Oudtshoorn was founded in 1847, but its rise to prosperity began in the 1870s, when ostrich feathers were much in demand as a fashion accessory. Between 1880 and 1915 there were anything up to 750,000 ostriches on farms in this area. The ostriches flourished in the warm, dry climate, bringing the ''feather barons'' unprecedented wealth. After the out- break of the First World War ostrich feathers were no longer in demand in Europe and ostrich farming declined, though it was never entirely abandoned.Oudtshoorn is a country town of modern aspect, with several large hotels. A number of luxurious mansions (known locally as ''feather palaces'') have been preserved from the heyday of ostrich farming.
A number of ostrich farms in Oudtshoorn offer visitors a conducted tour lasting one or two hours on which they learn all about ostrich breeding. They will be shown round the breeding houses, they will discover how hard the shells of ostrich eggs are (well able to stand the weight of a man) and with luck may see the ostrich chicks emerging from the egg. Other attractions are a ride on an ostrich (not always possible to avoid falling off!) and ostrich races. Tours of this kind are offered, for example, by the Highgate Ostrich Show Farm and the Safari Show Farm (both near R 328, the road to Mossel Bay, some 10km/6mi southwest of the town center and the Cango Ostrich Farm, on the road from Oudtshoorn to the Cango Caves.And when in Oudtshoorn visitors should not miss the opportunity of sampling the delicate lean meat of the ostrich, for example in the Godfather Restaurant.
C.P. Nel Museum
In Oudtshoorn's main street is the C. P. Nel Museum housed in a sandstone building of 1907 with a striking bell-tower. Its collections range from artifacts illustrating the culture of the Bushmen to fashionable costumes with ostrich feathers and domestic equipment.
Cango Wildlife Ranch & Cheetahland
On the outskirts of Oudtshoorn (on R 328, the road to the Cango Caves) is the Cango Wildlife Ranch and Cheetahland, with over 300 crocodiles as well as snakes, cheetahs, lions and leopards, ponies and hippopotamuses.
De Zeekoe Guest Farm and Reserve
De Zeekoe Guest Farm and Reserve is a 2,000 ha farm offering on-site accomodations for a traditional African experience. Visitors can enjoy hiking, cycling, lovely scenery and the chance to get up close and personal with meerkats.