Exploring the Karoo
South Africa’s Karoo region is a vast, semi-arid basin that extends over much of the south-
west of the country. This sparsely populated region is a land of dust, wind pumps, sheep farms
and endless plains.
While many South Africans regard the region as an endless wasteland on the route between
Cape Town and the northern provinces, others consider the Karoo to be a spiritual haven, a
welcome respite from city life, and an ideal destination for a spiritual wellness holiday.
For much of its history the Karoo was uninhabited by humans. In prehistory the area
experienced extensive seismic and volcanic activity,
before this subsided sufficiently for the area to support
a vast variety of prehistoric animal life.
The area was dotted with swamps, lakes and glaciers
before gradually morphing into a semi-arid desert.
There was little human activity in the area until well
after the arrival of European settlers in the region. The
dry scrubland provided insufficient foraging for cattle,
and would support only a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.
It took the influx of farmers from the Cape Region to inflate the population of the region.
These farmers brought sheep with them, capable of surviving the rigours of life on this arid
plain. Many of these settled around a handful of desert towns and oases.
The Karoo is dotted with small, rustic towns that appear to have taken a step aside from the
passage of time. Desert havens like Matjiesfontein and Prince Albert are popular spiritual
wellness holiday destinations, as are the more verdant towns of Richmond and Oudtshoorn.
In the past the area was frequented by the elite of the British
Empire, including the famous Cecil John Rhodes. Many of the
towns retain a distinctly Victorian character, and provide visitors
with a very real sense of the pace of life in a bygone era.
The Karoo is far more than an endless expanse of featureless
scrubland. The area is home to a variety of impressive natural