Camdeboo National Park

Camdeboo National Park



The Camdeboo National Park is a 19000ha gem in the Karoo Heartland that includes the Plains of Camdeboo, Nqweba Dam and the towering, magnificent Valley of Desolation. The vast spaces and big sky views are a humbling reminder of the geographic and cultural history of this special area of the Eastern Cape. 

The national park was established in 2005, with the assistance of the World Wildlife Fund in South Africa (WWF-SA) from the Karoo Nature Reserve and other properties to expand and almost entirely surround the town of Graaff-Reinet. The Valley of Desolation, believed to have been formed over 200 million years ago, is a cathedral of dolerite cliffs rising 120m from the valley floor and offering unequalled views across the Plains of Camdeboo and an estimated 100,000 people visit this site every year. It is, however, not the only attraction of the vast Camdeboo National Park. 19km of dirt roads provide ample opportunity for game viewing: 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. Visitors to the park will be interested to know that it boasts almost 270 recorded species of birdlife, 336 plants and 43 mammals in addition to hiking, mountain biking and 4×4 trails crisscrossing the park. The Nqweba Dam offers a cool respite from the blistering Karoo heat.  

Hiking trails in the park include the 1,5km Crag Lizard Trail, which starts at the valley parking lot and extends around the valley viewpoints. It’s a good choice if you are time-limited or planning a picnic at the valley afterwards. The Eerstefontein Day Walk which offers three route options of 5km, 11km and 14km, and the Gideon Scheepers Trail, named for an Anglo-Boer War historic figure. 4×4 enthusiasts can enjoy the towering heights above Graaff-Reinet and the plains below, bracing fresh mountain air and the thrill of grade-two Driekoppe and grade-three-to-four Koeduskloof. 

If the opportunity presents itself, visitors are encouraged to pack a picnic and enjoy the sunset at the Valley of Desolation. As the sun kisses the plains with gold, it is easy to imagine a time when the plains were teeming with wildlife, possibly even a time when dinosaurs roamed the valley – this is the gift of the Camdeboo National Park: the gift of imagination, of a time before that is easily visited in the quiet moments of the Karoo Heartland.