Nature enthusiast and amateur photographer.Travelled extensively in Southern Africa and the USA.
Hidden Gems in South Africa: Calitzdorp
To most South African’s, Calitzdorp is the name of a town somewhere in the backwaters of the country. “Never been there and probably never will go there”. A big mistake!
Where is Calitzdorp?
Situated on the R62 between Oudtshoorn and Ladismith, in what is commonly referred to as the Western Langkloof, it is a typical small platteland town with dusty streets and a few old houses, a Spar shop , a Police Station, a School and a Church Building. Blink as you pass through and you may just miss a gem or two.
The settlement is situated along the banks of the Dwyka River in what the locals refer to as the Wesoewer and Oosoewer (the western and eastern banks). A closer look will indicate fruit orchards and vineyards right in the town. This is dry Karoo Country but it is the water from the perennial river that provides the life to the agricultural products that grow in the rich soil. A notice board next to the road makes the amazing claim that this is the Port Capital of South Africa.
Important wine and fruit production area.
Right in town is situated a collection of wine cellars hidden amongst the old oak trees that were planted here by the earliest settlers who moved away from the British rule in the Cape to claim their independence. They brought with them vine plants and soon established vineyards in the area. So Bo-plaas, Die Krans,,Du’SwaRoo and other farms were established. In between the vineyards fruit orchards were also planted and so yellow cling peaches and apricots flourish in the warm, dry conditions.
In December and February one of the local farms offers “pick your own fruit” opportunities. Hannepoort Grapes, Apricots and Peaches are available as they ripen in season at really good prices. That was what drew us to the area in the first place and now it has become a yearly pilgrimage.
The Calitzdorp Spa.
About 22km from the town in a SE direction, the Calitzdorp Spa is situated. Here mineral rich hot water flows out of the ground providing a haven of warm water pools were people are able to heal their aches and pains. A fresh water pool also provides a place for relaxing after a hike into the nearby mountains. These are the northern reaches of the Outeniqua Range that separates the Langkloof from the Garden Route towns of George, Mossel Bay and Knysna.
Three hikes are available. The easy “Tortoise hike” starts near the mountain chalets and takes the hiker to a dramatic view of the nearby ravine and a beautiful mountain stream. The large variety of fynbos plants that flourish in the rocky terrain is certain to amaze. In the distance the call of a troop of Baboons can be heard.
The more challenging “Springbuck” and “Fish Eagle” hikes are available for the fitter and more energetic hikers. A leisurely walk around the campground will be enough for some to enjoy in the evening before a final swim in either the warm or cool pools followed by a braai (barbeque) as another dramatic sunset entertains. The night sky is a wonder to behold. Bright stars shine in the darkness, lighting up the night sky in a way that those of us who live in urban areas seldom experience
Delightfully situated Chalets at the foot of the mountains and others around the pool area provide comfortable accommodation. A large camping area with green lawns and shady trees provides grazing for the odd Mountain Tortoise and herd of Springbuck and space for tent or caravan accommodation. Several tennis courts are available for the energetic visitors and there are swings and climbing stands for the kids.
Farming in the rather arid region.
Dotted along the road between Calitzdorp Spa and Oudtshoorn are many Ostrich farms with large flocks of these strange looking birds staring curiously over the fences. Flocks of sheep and goats also seem to survive in the dry Karoo conditions and obviously are fed by the farmers who grow feed under irrigation.
Another 18 km into the nearby mountains is the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve. Again there are beautifully situated chalets high in the mountains. Here the wild life, hikes and dramatic mountain/rock climbing opportunities are the main attractions. Well worth a visit!
Old derelict houses are evidence of the rural depopulation but provide great photographic opportunities. This is a region in South Africa that is somewhat off the beaten track but certainly deserves a visit. A hidden gem in a country that is diverse in what it offers.