Eastern Cape DestinationsSteytlerville, Baviaanskloof
The little town of Steytlerville, with its wide streets - originally to allow ox wagons to turn around - is exceptionally beautiful and worth a visit for this reason as well as the richness of local game and bird life. Steytlerville lies in the Baviaanskloof Wilderness area in the shadow of the great Winterhoek Mountains.
The Baviaans area boasts three converging biomes - Karoo, valley bushveld and fynbos. Over 200 species of bird have been identified in the area because of this. A major attraction in the area is the Draaikrans. This 61m high cliff is the exposed and twisted rock formed millions of years ago when the Karoo lay at the bottom of the Algoa Sea. At a depth of 4-7 km, the temperature under water was sufficiently hot for the rock to be pliable enough to bend without shattering and movement of the earth’s plates forced the sea bed to rise, forming these Cape Fold Mountains.
Established in 1876, Steytlerville is in the centre of the wool and mohair districts in the south eastern corner of the Great Karoo and, unsurprisingly, the area is rich in sheep, ostrich and goat farming. Its main street is flanked by little Victorian cottages and the town has one of the largest Edwardian churches in the area, possibly because of the efforts of the Reverend Steytler, after whom the town is named, to establish a new Dutch Reformed congregation.
The Karoo means ‘great thirst’ in the local Khoi-San language. With very little rain, intensely hot summers and bitter winters, this area is a broad expanse of endless plains broken only by flat-topped kopjes and on its perimeter, by beautiful mountains whose overhangs are filled with San rock art. Succulents, dwarf shrubs, umbrella shaped wild plum trees and ancient cycads manage to grow in this unique arid zone and clear skies and lack of light pollution make for beautiful evenings of stargazing and some awe inspiring sunrises and sunsets. People are struck dumb by the visibility of the milky way.
Some of the local farmers are re-introducing game such as kudu, duiker, steenbok, klipspringer, grysbok, wildebeest, zebra and impala aimed at tourists to the area.