Rogge Cloof Private Estate Sutherland has a view of the brightest Star Plains of the Great Karoo skies in the heart of the Upper Karoo, which is also located near to the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) and SALT Southern Africa Large Telescope) which is in prime stargazing territory and spans an area of over 20 000 hectares. Sutherland is South-Africa’s premier stargazing and night photography destination.
Experience a unique stargazing adventure in an area home to the greatest heavens on earth under zillions of stars.
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Live Conditions at Rogge Cloof
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About The Karoo
Map of the Western and Northern Cape
What is the Karoo?
The Karoo from a Khoikhoi word, possibly garo “desert” is a semi-desert natural region of South Africa. It broadly translates as “hard, dry, thirstland”. What this blunt rendition fails to convey is the special place the Karoo holds in the hearts of those who perceive beauty in its endless, sun-drenched spaces and flat-topped koppies (hills). They sense it in the evocative clunk of windmills urging sweet, untainted water from underground boreholes, and in isolated farmsteads where hospitality to travellers is a deeply rooted way of life.
Windmill and Salpeterkop, Rogge Cloof, Sutherland
Vast, remote, open spaces, silence, serenity and dramatic landforms combine with an extreme climate and unique vegetation to make up the alchemy called Karoo magic. The dust and wind, Petrus and Johannes with Vlekkie and Ou Boet the dogs returning with the sheep and goats in the evening to the kraal, Oom Karel Witbooi and Tannie Saartjie Plaatjies and a few farmworkers from the neighbouring farms on their usual trek to town on their donkey cart are constant reminders that this is the Karoo. That’s what visitors fall in love with.
There is no exact definition of what constitutes the Karoo, and therefore also not its extent. The Karoo is partly defined by its topography, partly its geology but, above all, its low rainfall, arid air, cloudless skies, and extremes of heat and cold. It formed an almost impenetrable barrier to the interior from Cape Town, and the early adventurers, explorers, hunters and travellers on the way to the Highveld unanimously denounced it as a frightening place of great heat, great frosts, great floods and great droughts. Today it is still a place of great heat and frosts, and an annual rainfall of between 50–250mm, though on some of the mountains it can be 250–500mm higher than on the plains. However underground water is found throughout the Karoo, which can be tapped by boreholes, making permanent settlements and sheep farming possible.
Map of the Great and Little Karoo
It’s made up of five regions and the boundaries are marked by subtle changes in vegetation:
- The Little Karoo
- Tankwa Karoo
- Moordenaars Karoo
- Upper Karoo
- Great Karoo
In the south, the Southern Cape Fold Mountain Belt divides the Karoo from the wetter Cape region. To the west, the frontier is the Cederberg mountain range. To the east and north-east, the lines are drawn by the rolling grasslands of the Free State. And in the north, which is where you find Sutherland, the Karoo eventually gives way to kokerboom (quiver tree) country.
The xerophytic vegetation consists of aloes, mesembryanthemums, crassulas, euphorbias, stapelias, and desert ephemerals, spaced 50cm or more apart, and becoming very sparse going northwards into Bushmanland and, from there, into the Kalahari Desert. The driest region of the Karoo is, however its southwestern corner, between the Great Escarpment and the Cederberg-Skurweberg mountain ranges, called the Tankwa Karoo, which receives only 75 mm of rain annually. The eastern and north-eastern Karoo are often covered by large patches of grassland. The typical Karoo vegetation used to support large game sometimes in vast herds.
Today sheep thrive on the xerophytes, though each sheep requires about 4 hectares of grazing to sustain itself.
The Karoo is sharply divided into the Great Karoo and the Little Karoo by the Swartberg Mountain Range, which runs east-west, parallel to the southern coastline, but is separated from the sea by another east-west range called the Outeniqua – Langeberg Mountains. The Great Karoo lies to the north of the Swartberg range; the Little Karoo is to the south of it.
The only sharp and definite boundary of the Great Karoo is formed by the most inland ranges of Cape Fold Mountains to the south and south-west. The extent of the Karoo to the north is vague, fading gradually and almost imperceptibly into the increasingly arid Bushmanland towards the north-west. To the north and north-east, it fades into the savannah and grasslands of Griqualand West and the Highveld. The boundary to the east grades into the grasslands of the Eastern Midlands. The Great Karoo is itself divided by the Great Escarpment into the “Upper Karoo” (generally above 1200–1500m) and the “Lower Karoo” on the plains below at 700–800m. A great many local names, each denoting different subregions of the Great Karoo, exist, some more widely, or more generally, known than others.
In the Lower Karoo, going from west to east, they are the following sub-regions occur:
- Tankwa Karoo
- Camdeboo Plains
The better-known sub-regions of the Upper Karoo are:
Though most of it is simply known as the “Upper Karoo”, especially in the north.
The Little Karoo’s boundaries are sharply defined by mountain ranges to the west, north and south. The road between Uniondale and Willowmore is considered, by convention, to form the approximate arbitrary eastern extremity of the Little Karoo. Its extent is much smaller than that of the Great Karoo. Locally, it is usually called the Klein Karoo, which is Afrikaans for “Little Karoo”.