Bo-Karoo a Place Of Unique Friendliness, Hospitality And Wonderful Game Viewing



In the Bo-Karoo the windmill pumps stand alone at the end of the day that brings a explosion of orange, red and gold.

Not many people live in the Bo-Karoo. The water in this area comes at a premuim. “You need to be born here to live here.” This is a quote from Old Oom Scalk in Priska.

This is the Bo-Karoo (Upper Karoo) where a wilderness plateau covers the southern region and the Orange River forms the northern boundary. This area is south of Johannesburg and north from Cape Town.

The name Karoo was given to the area by the local Hottentots that means [the place of big drought].

The dry arid landscape is covered with a variety of succulents and can be viewed, all at once, at the Ria Huisamen Aloe Garden in Prieska and near Marydale in the North West. The Quiver Tree Forest is a must see for visitors to the Bo-Karoo.

Because of the sparse vegetation game viewing is wonderful.

Caracal, Porcupine, Red Hartebeest, Black Wildebeest, Klipspringer and Springbok are all regularly seen. Other species are less obvious due to smaller size, nocturnal habits or restriction to the wilderness areas of the Bo-Karoo. Because of its aridity and low shrubby vegetation the Bo-Karoo never supported the diverse array of herbivores found in the African savannas.

This semi-desert region makes up about 35 % of the land surface of South Africa. Within the area are Tanqua, Nama, Succulent and Great Karoos, the Klein Karoo, the Great Escarpment, Namaqualand, Bushmanland and parts of the Free State and Eastern Cape.

Generally the Karoo is an exposed, windy region, hot in summer and cold in winter. Annual rainfall varies greatly from year to year. In the north-western Karoo annual rainfall is less than 100 mm, while the figure rises to 400 mm in the east. Droughts are the rule, good seasons the exception.

Temperatures range from – 5 degrees in winter to + 43 degrees in summer. Snow is recorded in winter, particularly in mountains. The summer the normally dry rivers can become raging torrents.
Plants throughout the region have adapted themselves to the exstreems.

The flora of the Karoo today is very different from that seen by the first western visitors and White. In those early days there were no fences. The only stock, belonged to Khoisan tribesmen.

Plant-eating animals of the Karoo were highly mobile and the earliest explorers reported millions of buck and larger game species roaming the plains, finding plenty of grazing. There were even hippos in some rivers, according to early reports and these animals alone need a daily feed intake of hundreds of kilograms. Yet, there was no over-grazing.

The natural migratory system of the huge herds and tribesmen allowed the veld long rest and recovery periods. Old records indicate there was much more grass on the plains of the Karoo when the earliest farmers arrived. Today, this is considerably less and the carrying capacity of the veld is 28 hectares for a single sheep.

Whether you visit the quaint small towns of the Bo-Karoo for holiday or business you will always be aware of the friendliness and hospitality of the people.

Take time off and explore the wide-open spaces of the central part of South Africa.

Take Note: Prieska is known for its semi-precious stones, especially tiger’s eye. The Schumann Rock Collection at the municipal offices and the residence of John Zelubowski welcome visitors.

The entire area is extremely rich in cultural historical attractions and offers the visitor something excitingly different.

Prepare for your tip to the Bo-Karoo. Bring a jacket for the cold nights and a hat for the sunny days and remember to bring your camera and book your accommodation well in advance.

The best time to visit the Bo-Karoo is in the month of April.

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Gerald Crawford

I was born in Johannersburg South Africa. I live in Stellenbosch and love my country. - Paid my dues at the The University of Life - If you have any questions or comments please e-mail me. My E-mail Address is

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  1. Van Zijl Guesthouses and Restaurant is situated in the bulb capital of the world, Nieuwoudtville, bordering the Namakwaland, Hantam Karoo, Bokkeveld, Boesmanland and the Knersvlakte. Nieuwoudtville is about 5-6 hrs drive from Cape Town and about 52 km east of Vanrhynsdorp and the N7.

    The guest houses are beautifully restored traditional sandstone buildings typical of the architecture and stone masonry of Nieuwoudtville. Van Zijl Guest Houses are open throughout the year.

    All guest houses excepting The Greendoor, are fully equipped for self-catering although it is highly recommended that you indulge yourself in the country cuisine served by your host, Hendrik Van Zijl, at his Smidswinkel Restaurant. The Restaurant is within walking distance of all the guest houses, so you are not inconvenienced by long drives for an excellent meal, local wine and good company.

    The Smidswinkel Restaurant & Information Centre is situated in a large sandstone building which, many years ago, was occupied by the last blacksmith at Nieuwoudtville. The Restaurant offers traditional farm style meals and for the adventurous they will even prepare baked “skilpadjies” (liver) or a sheep’s head.

    The Restaurant is suitable for wedding receptions, music recitals, art exhibitions and conferences. It houses a botanical and history library, an extensive collection of maps, and one of the most complete collections of antique smithy tools in South Africa. A vast collection of Clivias is housed in the garden of the Smidswinkel Restaurant.


    Tel: +27 (0) 27 218-1535
    Fax: +27 (0) 27 218-1426

    Facebook: VanZijlGuesthouses

    Physical Address: Neethling St, Nieuwoudtville, Nothern Cape, South Africa.

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