Western Cape DestinationsBeaufort West, Karoo
Beaufort West lies between the Gamka and Kuils Rivers, just south of a ridge of hills and north of the Nuweveld Mountains in the Central Karoo, where rocks date back some 230 million years. Although for many South Africans, travelling on the N1, it is yet another typical ‘platteland’ dorp (town) in which they must stick to the speed limit or risk a fine!
This quirky town - the oldest in the Central Karoo - is rich in history that holds intrigue for the scientist, the historian and the eco-tourist. Not only was the first reptile fossil discovered near here, in what has subsequently been described as the world’s richest collecting ground for these fossils, but the town’s historic centre displays an eclectic mix of historical architecture that makes a stop-over here essential.
Beaufort West lies in an area that might be semi-desert today, but was initially a swamp. Some of the world’s most interesting Stone Age sites have been discovered near here and a legacy of rock engravings have been left by Bushmen on farms in the area and at Nelspoort. Collections of ancient reptile fossils now grace exhibitions in museums all over the world and they form the basis of work set to uncover the truth about life when the earth was young.
Included here is the Anglican Church, built in 1850 in a Romanesque style and designed by Sophie Gray, the wife of Robert Gray, first Bishop of Cape Town. The north end of the street houses a local jail, built in 1873 but obviously not very functional as its first jailer, also jailed for negligence on duty, managed to escape never to be seen again.
Local farms provide a popular eco-tourism stop offering walks, hikes and challenging 4x4 routes, whilst the Karoo National Park, just outside of town, is home to a huge variety of indigenous buck and birds. It is also a sanctuary for the endangered black rhino and riverine rabbit.
For more info about Tulbagh see our articles on the SA Travel News Blog:
• Beaufort West, so much more than a typical Karoo dorp.