Jako Hall Explores the Karoo Heartland of South Africa: An Arid, Yet Rich Place

Originally published on theodysseyonline.com

South Africa hosts a gem for travellers looking for an adventure off the beaten track: the Karoo Heartland. This destination beholds quaint, partially forgotten towns nestled away in the boundless and majestic semi-desert land. The land lay seems to have preserved a past time when life moved at a simpler and slower pace.

Captain Jako Hall, a skilled mariner and world traveller, highly recommends the Karoo Heartland in the Eastern Cape of South Africa be added to any traveller’s bucket list. In this article, Jako dives deeper into what this beautiful part of South Africa holds and provides more insight into a few of the unique and special small towns anyone can visit.


Located along the Great Fish River, Cradock is a historical town purposed for a Boer fort to hold the Xhosa, cattle farmers fighting for grazing grounds in the area. Cradock upholds a characteristic described as peaceful. This ordinary Karoo farming town is home to The Schreiner House museum, a restored cottage home to writer Olive Schreiner.


The village of Nieu-Bethesda is the perfect location for complete isolation as only two roads lead travellers into and out of the area. The mountain village shares a valley with the view of Kompassberg, the highest free-standing mountain in South Africa. Nieu-Bethesda is where The Owl House lies, inhabiting Helen Martins’ unique art.


Graaff-Reinet, also known as the ‘gem of the Karoo,’ is a place to see to admire history as it is the Eastern Cape’s oldest and South Africa’s fourth oldest town. In this area lie over two hundred buildings labelled as National Monuments. Governor Cornelius Jacob van de Graaff founded Graaff-Reinet in 1786. About fourteen kilometres outside Graaff-Reinet is the Valley of Desolation, and travellers commonly stay in Graaff-Reinet to visit the famous valley and the Camdeboo National Park. Onlookers describe the Valley of Desolation as a site that highlights unusually stacked dolerite pillars.

Somerset East

Journey folk can find this small serene town at the base of the Boschberg Mountains. Somerset East came into existence in 1825 by Lord Charles Somerset and is known today for its views of natural beauty and local heritage sites. This area is excellent for chasing waterfalls, hiking, bird-watching, and trout fishing. Somerset East is also home to some of South Africa’s most delicate roses.


In the centre of Karoo is the one-of-a-kind town of Middleburg. One of the most visited attractions sits on the outskirts of Middelberg: the Karoo National Park. Middelberg is another fabulous location for nature lovers to check out as the town is known for its naturally growing herbal plant life and San Rock Art in caves from the first known human inhabitants, the San Bushmen.


Jansenville is nestled above the Addo Elephant National Park and north of the Zuurberg Mountains. The town largely came to be from the parish there formed by the Dutch Reformed Church in 1854. Travellers can identify evidence of past guerilla activity in the region due to the Anglo-Boer War Fort located north of Jansenville.

About Jako Hall

Jako Hall is an experienced mariner and a former naval officer known for his strong work ethic and ability to lead and motivate crews. He pursued Maritime Studies at the University of Technology in Cape Town and has received the highest level of training in Navigation and Seamanship during his years in the Navy. After 13 distinguished years in the Navy, Jako joined the superyacht industry, following his passion for creating unique and exclusive experiences for high-net-worth clients. He’s managed multi-million euro projects that required attention to detail and efficiency and has a proven track record of operating at sea in remote and unsupported areas.