The Karoo Gariep Conservancy is a natural and diverse part of South Africa, located on the “dry and hard” side of the “big river.” The name “Karoo” is derived from the Quenna word meaning “dry and hard,” while “Gariep” means “big water” or river. The conservancy is situated halfway between Cape Town and Johannesburg, along the popular N1 route.
Founder P.C. Ferreira established the conservancy in 2005 with the goal of bringing big game back to the Karoo and boosting tourism. The conservancy covers 12,000 hectares and is home to the only hippos in the Karoo, which were reintroduced after being hunted to extinction more than 200 years ago. This achievement won P.C. the prestigious Kudu award from the South Africa Parks Board for his contributions to conservation.
Nighttime drives in the Karoo Gariep Conservancy open up a world dominated by nocturnal creatures such as aardvarks, bat-eared foxes, and aardwolves. The diversity of habitat in the conservancy supports a variety of wildlife and birdlife, including the rare blue crane, which is the South African national bird and flocks to the area in large numbers from July to August.
Stargazing is a unique experience in the conservancy, with clear, clean skies and abundant birdlife, including rare species like the clapper lark, ludwigs bustard, blue korhaan, and burchal’s courser. The conservancy is also a great place for fitness-conscious travelers, with more than 100 kilometers of mountain bike routes available. Touring the conservancy on a mountain bike is highly recommended for a stronger, first-hand experience of the Karoo.
Popular activities and tourist destinations at the Karoo Gariep Conservancy
The Karoo Gariep Conservancy offers a range of activities and tourist destinations for visitors to enjoy.
Wildlife viewing and bird watching
The conservancy is home to a variety of wildlife, including the reintroduced hippos, and an abundance of birdlife, including the rare blue crane. Visitors can take part in guided wildlife drives to get up close and personal with these fascinating creatures.
With over 100 kilometers of mountain bike trails, the Karoo Gariep Conservancy is a popular destination for cyclists. Visitors can take a guided tour of the conservancy on two wheels, immersing themselves in the natural beauty of the region.
With clear, clean skies, the Karoo Gariep Conservancy offers an unparalleled stargazing experience. Visitors can relax under the stars and marvel at the beauty of the night sky.
The conservancy is home to a range of hiking trails, from easy walks to challenging hikes. Visitors can explore the natural beauty of the region on foot and take in the breathtaking scenery.
The bushman etchings found on the conservancy are a testament to its rich cultural history. Visitors can take a guided cultural tour to learn about the history and heritage of the region.
In addition to these activities, there are several popular tourist destinations in and around the Karoo Gariep Conservancy.
The Gariep Dam
Located nearby, the Gariep Dam is a popular tourist destination and offers a range of water-based activities, including fishing and boating.
The N1 route
The N1 route runs through the conservancy and is a popular road trip destination, offering visitors the chance to explore the stunning scenery and historical sites along the way.
The Karoo National Park
Located nearby, the Karoo National Park offers visitors the chance to see a range of wildlife, including the iconic black rhino and Cape mountain zebra.
Whether you’re interested in wildlife viewing, cultural tours, or outdoor activities, the Karoo Gariep Conservancy has something for everyone. So, why not plan your next adventure today?
Sea Cow River Restaurant
The Sea Cow River Restaurant, located at the New Holme Karoo Guestfarm, is a popular destination for tourists visiting the Karoo Gariep Conservancy. Surrounded by the picturesque beauty of the Karoo, this restaurant offers a unique dining experience for visitors. With a range of options from romantic dinners on the ‘Star Deck’ to casual light lunches, there is something for every mood.
The restaurant boasts an underground wine cellar stocked with over 400 bottles of some of South Africa’s finest wines, ensuring that each meal is accompanied by the perfect local vintage. Dining tables are set amongst lush gardens and a pool area, providing a tranquil and picturesque backdrop for diners. The menu is focused on showcasing the best of local cuisine, with an emphasis on Karoo lamb, springbok and beef, as well as fresh herbs and vegetables grown on the farm. In the style of traditional Afrikaans farm food, all meals are served with homemade bread and jams.
Visitors are entertained by a backdrop of wildlife, including birds, Eland, sheep, and horses, adding to the authentic Karoo experience. The Sea Cow River Restaurant truly offers a memorable and delightful dining experience that is not to be missed.
The Hanover Museum is a must-visit destination for history buffs and anyone interested in learning more about the rich heritage of this small town in the Karoo Gariep Conservancy. With a collection of artifacts, photographs, and other memorabilia dating back to the pioneer days, the museum offers a window into Hanover’s past. The museum is run by local volunteers who have generously donated their time and some of their own personal artifacts for display. Visitors can admire a diverse range of items, including furniture, appliances, documents, and even a model of the town’s church.
The Hanover Museum is a great place to learn about the town’s history, but it’s only one of the many attractions that Hanover has to offer. The quaint town is a great place to visit, with plenty of opportunities to explore, shop, and dine. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or just a quiet place to relax, Hanover is a must-visit destination in the Karoo Gariep Conservancy.
Barry Naude’s Rugby Addict collection
Barry Naude’s Rugby Addict collection is a must-visit for any rugby fan. Located in the Karoo Gariep Conservancy area, the collection showcases Barry’s love and passion for the sport. With over 200 Rugby jerseys, more than 800 rugby books, photographs, blazers, badges, signed balls, flags, and more, it is a rugby lover’s paradise.
Some of the items in the collection date back to 1907, making it a fascinating journey through the history of rugby. Barry’s most prized possession is De Wet Barry’s Springbok jersey that was actually worn during the 2003 Rugby World Cup. The collection has items not only from South Africa but also from around the globe, showcasing the widespread popularity of rugby.
Visitors can make an appointment for a personal tour of the collection, allowing them to get an up-close look at Barry’s extensive and growing collection of all things rugby. It is a unique opportunity to see the history of the sport and understand the passion that drives collectors like Barry.
The Spider Lady
The Spider Lady, Marie de Jager, is a must-visit destination for those who have an interest in creepy crawly creatures. Based in the Karoo Gariep Conservancy, she has transformed her home into a living museum that showcases her love for spiders and scorpions. With a deep knowledge and understanding of these creatures, Marie is passionate about dispelling the misconceptions and fear that surrounds these important parts of the ecosystem and food chain.
Marie keeps a collection of spiders and scorpions, locked securely in cages and tanks, including 5 venomous species such as the Spider Crab which is nearly 10 years old. Other species include velvet spiders, button spiders, and tarantulas. Visitors can learn about the fascinating world of spiders and scorpions through Marie’s personal tours, where she shares her wealth of knowledge and experience.
Karoo Gariep Conservancy MTB Route
The Karoo Gariep Conservancy MTB Route offers a unique and challenging experience for mountain bikers of all skill levels. The scenic route, which starts at the New Holme Karoo Guestfarm, winds through a variety of terrains including sand, plains, rocks and kopjes. With its diverse landscape and abundant wildlife and vegetation, the Karoo Gariep Conservancy area is the perfect place for a mountain biking adventure.
For more experienced riders, the route offers a technical park with endless ridges that will test your balance and strength. The circular route ranges from 30 to 58 kilometers in length and typically takes between 3 to 4 hours to complete. Whether you are a beginner or an experienced mountain biker, the Karoo Gariep Conservancy MTB Route promises a memorable and exhilarating experience.
A Touch of Karoo Madness Pub and Grub
Located in the heart of the Karoo Gariep Conservancy, A Touch of Karoo Madness Pub and Grub is a quaint and charming pub that offers a touch of history, art, and culinary delight. The pub, decorated with antiques and quirky art, takes you back in time to the traditional pub atmosphere of the Karoo. The menu is filled with freshly prepared dishes, including mouthwatering pizzas, hearty meals, and more. On a chilly day, you can cozy up by the roaring fire inside, while in the summer, the beautiful garden and veranda provide the perfect setting for a meal under the sun. Whether you’re a local resident or a visitor to the conservancy, A Touch of Karoo Madness Pub and Grub is the perfect spot to enjoy a delicious meal while surrounded by the unique beauty and history of the Karoo Gariep.
The Transkaroo Hiking Trail
The Transkaroo Hiking Trail is a must-visit destination for adventure and nature lovers. Situated on a 10,500-hectare farm near Middelburg in the Groot Karoo, the trail offers a unique experience for hikers. With the option to adjust the difficulty and length of the hike to their individual needs, divided into one, two, and three-day trails, hikers can tailor their experience to their own preferences.
The hike takes you through breathtaking landscapes and diverse wildlife, from mountains to valleys and typical Karoo veld. The trail’s starting point is a farm near the village of Noupoort, about 40 km from Colesberg and is a circular route, taking about 3 days to complete and covering a distance of 42 km. The trail is rated as moderately fit and it is recommended to visit during the months of March to May or September to October, as the weather is more comfortable during these times.
The farm provides a map with clearly marked day routes and the trail’s markings are easily visible, making it easy for hikers to navigate. For those looking for a more relaxed hike, the farm can provide back-up vehicles and transport backpacks, turning it into a slackpacker trail.
The first day takes you up Visserskloof, with interesting rock formations and swimming holes, followed by an ascent via the ‘Stone Desert’ with views of the Kompassberg. The gentle descent leads to the Uitsig hut, a magical spot described by hikers. On the second day, you’ll walk past ruined buildings and a beacon, followed by a relaxed walk through the veld and a descent to a stream. The third day takes you past a couple of dams, up to a plateau with incredible views, before heading back to base.
The Transkaroo Hiking Trail is an excellent destination for those seeking an adventure in nature. With its breathtaking landscapes, diverse wildlife, and unique accommodations, the trail provides a once in a lifetime experience for those who visit.
The Karoo is malaria-free, making it a safe and inviting destination for travelers from all over the world. The conservancy’s focus on conservation and wildlife preservation is evident in the bushman etchings found on the property, making it a must-visit destination for nature lovers and adventure seekers.