Camdeboo National Park Graaff-Reinet
About Camdeboo National Park Graaff-Reinet
One feels a humbling sense of awe when you’re standing on top of towering dolerite columns overlooking the vast Karoo plains. Particularly so when you find yourself at eye level with a magnificent soaring black eagle and pause to contemplate the fact that these pillars, rising to heights of up to 120 meters, were formed by volcanic and erosive forces over a period of 200 million years. This is the breathtaking Valley of Desolation in the Camdeboo National Park, which virtually surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet. Also known as the Cathedral of the Mountains, the site was declared a national monument of geological and scenic significance in 1935. The road to the top of the valley was tarred in 1978 and today provides tourists with easy access to the viewpoints with their panoramic views of the landscape of the Camdeboo and further afield.
The park is filled with activities for nature lovers and adventure seekers. This includes the picnic and braai sites, 4x4 trails, short and long hiking trails, mountain biking, game viewing, birding and watersports and fishing which are done at Nqweba Dam.
Picnic Spots in the Park
Camdeboo National Park has six picnic areas with braai and ablution facilities:
Game Viewing and Birding
Presently, approximately 19km of gravel roadways provide visitors with the opportunity to view the a range of indigenous species in their preferred habitats. The Game Viewing Area, situated on the plains north of the Nqweba Dam, is home to buffalo, eland, black wildebeest, gemsbok, red hartebeest, blesbok and springbok. The higher-lying areas provide the ideal habitat for klipspringer, the endangered Cape mountain zebra and mountain reedbuck. Over 240 bird species have been recorded across the national park. (Please see the Graaff-Reinet Bird Club page for an up-to-date, printable bird list.
There is also a bird hide in the game viewing area, where one can peacefully sit and observe birds on the edge of the dam.
Trails and walks
The Crag Lizard Trail (45 minutes) starts at the Valley parking area and extends for about 1.5 km via the Valley viewpoints. It is marked with the Crag Lizard logo.
The Eerstefontein Day Walk starts and ends at the Spandaukop gate. There are three route options of 5km; 11km and 14km with good rest spots at Eerstefontein and Agtersfontein.
The Gideon Scheepers Trail is an hour long walk, starting at the Gideon Scheepers Monument, commemorating a historic figure, and ending at Barbergat on the R63 to Murraysburg.
There is no charge for Hiking Trails in the park, apart from conservation fees. A permit can be obtained at the Park Office (Tel: 049 8923453) or the Tourism Office (Tel: 049 8924248).
Koedoeskloof 4x4 trail (grade 3 to 4 )
This trail provides a drive to the top of the mountain, providing unique and spectacular views of the Camdeboo Conservancy landscape. The trail can be completed with a return journey following the same track in about 3 hours but the Karoo tranquility and scenic vistas beg for a full day outing. The turning point of the trail, which lies on top of a mountain in the Winterhoek area of the Park, is the perfect place for a picnic lunch, braai or tea break. Koedoeskloof 4x4 trail is accessed via the Valley of Desolation gate, with a well signposted turn off to the trail about 3 kilometres after entering the park. No booking is necessary for those who wish to complete the trail and no fee is payable, apart from the Park conservation fee. Visitors can only attempt the trail in a 4x4 vehicle (no 2x4's with diff lock).
Driekoppe 4x4 Trail
This is a scenic grade 2 trail. Wildlife that may be seen in this section of the park includes Cape mountain zebra (an endangered species), kudu, mountain reedbuck, klipspringer and baboons. The lower lands support populations of springbok, black wildebeest and ostrich. Duiker and steenbok are also common. You can follow the track past the water supply pump, to the top of Hanglip with its panoramic view of the Camdeboo plains or follow the stream bed down Wolfkloof to the waterfall. You can also walk a circular route by following the left hand turn off. Both 2x4's and 4x4's can make use of the trail.
There is no charge for 4x4 trails in the park, apart from conservation fees.
The Nqweba Dam, which covers over 1 000 hectares, provides cool relief during hot summer days and a base for a variety of water activities. Boating, canoeing, fishing and windsurfing are allowed on the dam (permit fees apply).
Nqweba Dam attracts a wide variety of birds as well as wildlife such as buffalo, gemsbok, springbok and black wildebeest which come to drink from the waters. Fish species which occur in the dam include moggel (Labeo umbratus), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), African catfish (Clarias gariepinus), mullet (Mugil cephalus), round herring (Gilchristella aestuaria), mosquitofish (Gambusia affinus) and river goby (Glossogobius callidus).
Environmental Educational Programmes
The Camdeboo Environmental Education centre is ideal for school groups to engage in environmental co-learning. Holiday programmes are run for children on a regular basis.
Friends of the Camdeboo National Park
Read the Granaat Newsletters to keep up to date with developments in the park.
Use the Google Map below to get directions from any point of departure. These results will be printable.