The word Camdeboo, derived from the Khoi word meaning ‘green pool’ or ‘green hippo pool’ from the Khoi Cam-/Kam- ‘green’ and -debo(o) ‘pool, hippo pool’, has become synonymous with a sense of magical mystery. It was first popularised in Eve Palmer’s book “The Plains of Camdeboo”, published in 1966 and stretches from the south of the Sneeuberg to as far as Pearston and Murraysburg.
Surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park, Graaff-Reinet, the heart of the “Great Karoo” – Place of Thirst – is a boundless and mysterious area covered by vast livestock and game farms, where broad plains roll away to distant koppies and multilayered mountains that seem to touch the indigo sky. Listen to the silence, breathe in the aged earth and the Karoo bossies (which conjure up the taste of Karoo lamb!), and gaze at a startlingly clear horizon that seems drawn at the other end of the earth. Our clear night skies are studded with countless stars and huge bright planets; even other galaxies are visible with the naked eye, offering some of the best star gazing in the world. Fossils of some of the earliest forms of one-celled life have been discovered here, indicating that life has existed in this region for three billion years. The richness of pre-dinosaur fossils in this region is world-renowned.
We invite you to experience the magic of this area, discover eccentric little hamlets, sprawling farmsteads, the historical town of Graaff-Reinet and the nearby villages of Aberdeen and Nieu Bethesda, populated by warm and welcoming people that love to share their stories and legends.
GRAAFF - REINET
Established in 1786, Graaff-Reinet is the country’s fourth oldest magisterial district and has been named the “Gem of the Karoo”. The town is recognized as the home of magnificent examples of Cape Dutch, Victorian and Karoo architecture, and has over 220 heritage sites (more than any other town in South Africa!). The past is preserved in five extraordinary museums which hold collections of photographic memorabilia, firearms, artworks and fossils, tracing the story of the Karoo - and the town - from pre-history right up to the present day. This lovely town is the only one in South Africa that is virtually surrounded by a nature reserve, Camdeboo National Park, and is situated on the banks of the Sundays River. The lush gardens, parks and tree-lined avenues are in sharp contrast to the semi-arid vastness of the surrounding Great Karoo. Visit Graaff-Reinet for a true Karoo experience.
Situated in the scenic plains of Camdeboo, Aberdeen was founded in 1856 and has been declared an architectural conservation town. The town is a veritable repository of architectural styles including Victorian, Georgian, Karoo, German, Gothic Revival, Russian, Art Nouveau and Flemish Revival. This town offers the authentic Karoo lifestyle experience.
It will feel as though you have time travelled to the past when visiting the beautiful village of Nieu Bethesda nestled at the foot of the magnificent Compassberg, only a 30 minute drive from Graaff-Reinet. The town was first established as a mission station in 1875. It is renowned for its sacred Bushman rock art sites, fossils and the Owl House, which is a museum dedicated to the eccentric artist Helen Martins. This quaint village has no fuel stations, banks, ATM’s or credit card facilities, so fill up your tank and wallet beforehand.
7 TOURISM ROUTES TO EXPLORE….
Explore the gems of the Camdeboo area through our 7 Tourism Routes:
Heritage, Oral History, Palaeontology, Eco-Tourism, Kids Activities, Artists and Culinary….