However, a visit to this town in the heart of the Klein Karoo can be especially memorable for those in the know. Oudtshoorn is located in the Western Cape Province with 80,336 human inhabitants and the world’s largest ostrich population. Many of these birds live in specialised ostrich breeding farms, such as the Safari Show Farm and the Highgate Ostrich Show Farm and visitors to the town can see these graceful birds at the farms and for the more adventurous visitor, ride them!
Originally inhabited by Bushman, the region boasts historical rock paintings in caves throughout the nearby Swartberg Mountains. Oudtshoorn went through several periods of economic hardship, caused by droughts to the area. The economic booms were caused by the surge in demand for ostrich feathers in the late 1800’s when an ostrich feather in one's hat was incredibly popular. While ostriches are no longer in such great demand, and many farmers have returned to more traditional crops, the birds' population remains high.
Oudtshoorn is by no means a grand and famous town, but its slightly quirky focus makes it a great destination to visit on your South African vacation. You can learn all about the resident ostriches at various farms around the town; some offer a chance to ride one of the birds, which is definitely a memorable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. For a detailed history of the farming of ostriches in Oudtshoorn, as well as the history of the town itself, head to the informative exhibits at the CP Nel Museum.
There is plenty to do besides watching and riding and eating (eggs, sausages and steaks) the ostriches. Oudtshoorn is also home to the natural heritage site, the Cango Caves, magnificent caves which were sculpted by nature through the ages. History and architecture buffs will enjoy the town's many churches, which date back as far as 1837. Oudtshoorn is also an excellent launching point for cycling and hiking in the region, as well as providing a more laid-back atmosphere than bustling Cape Town. Visits to this quirky town are highly recommended.