Camdeboo National Park

The Camdeboo National Park is off the radar of most tourists who usually just drive by to visit Graaff Reinett before continuing on their journey through the Karoo.

Because of this, visitors to the aptly named Valley of Desolation will mostly have the place to themselves.What a loss to the guys that just drove past. Camdeboo means "Green Place" in the Khoi San's language and it certainly is different to the normal Karoo landscape.

The views across the valleys from the lookout points are unique in the whole of the Karoo.

If you want take photos of some of the most stunning views in the whole of the Karoo, you simply must visit the Camdeboo National Park. It is not just the views either. Black Eagles find sanctuary among the peaks and your chance of viewing one of these magnificent birds of prey gliding past is excellent.

Gemsbok, Springbok and other small mammals are found in the reserve. The only representative of the Big Five is the Buffalo which can be found in the game viewing section of the park.

The Camdeboo National Park in a nutshell:

The Camdeboo National Park surrounds the historic town of Graaff Reinett in the Karoo, Eastern Cape province of South Africa.

The 19 405 hectare park was proclamated in 2005 and incorporated the Karoo Nature Reserve. The greater portion of the park is along the foothills and slopes of the Sneeuberg Mountain Range. The views in the park are absolutely magnificent.

Day visitors are allowed to enter the park from 6AM to 7:30PM in summer and from 7AM to until 6PM in winter. These times are subject to change depending on the season so it is a good idea to check the times when entering the park.

The Karoo is a semi desert which can get very hot in summer and very cold in winter. It is a summer rainfall region with thunder storm activity. During heavy downpours flash floods can happen so do pay attention to the weather.

The Valley of Desolation:

The Valley of Desolation was declared as a National Monument of geological and scenic importance in 1939. Thousands of people visit every year to admire and enjoy the majestic landscape.

The surrounding mountain peaks are often covered in snow in winter. On a clear day one can see as far as the Cockscomb peak plus minus 200 km to the south. The panoramic views are unique in the Karoo. If you are an artist or a photographer you will love it here.

Nqweba Dam:

Day visitors can enjoy a variety of water sports on the Nqweba dam such as:

  • Boating
  • Canoeing
  • Fishing (Carp and Catfish, also known locally as Barble)
  • Windsurfing

Birders and wildlife enthusiasts will also enjoy watching the wildlife coming to drink. Some of the animals you will see are:

  • Black Wildebeest
  • Buffalo
  • Gemsbok
  • Springbok

Game Viewing:

Visitors to the Camdeboo can view the indigenous wildlife by driving along gravel roads in the park. There are plans to extend the roads. There is a picnic area at Impunzi where you can stop to stretch your legs.

The facilities are basic but adequate including water and a long drop toilet. Braai (Barbecue) stands, picnic tables and refuse drums are also provided.

Click here to download the official list provided by the South African National Parks.

Bird Watching:

Birders will certainly enjoy themselves with 225 different bird species that have been recorded ranging from as big as an ostrich to as small as a tit babbler. You also have the rare opportunity to view Black Eagles in their natural habitat.

  • Anteating Chat
  • Brownhooded Kingfisher
  • Cardinal Woodpecker
  • Diederik Cuckoo
  • Goshawk
  • Honeyguide
  • Cistecola

Click here to download the official list of all the bird species that you can find here from the South African National Parks.

Hiking Trails:

There are three trails which you can do:

  • The Crag Lizard Trail is a short walk which starts at the Valley Parking Area. This short route of roughly 1.5 km along the Valley Points is clearly marked and easy to follow.
  • The Eerstefontein Day Walk offers 3 route choices of 5, 11 and 14 km's respectively. It starts and ends at the Spandaukop gate.
  • The Driekoppe Trail, the name referring to the prominent hills in the eastern section of the Camdeboo Park, is an overnight route. The overnight hut at Waaihoek may be booked up to two consecutive nights and sleeps 8 people. You need to be fairly fit to hike this route.

How to get to Camdeboo National Park:

The nearest domestic airport is in Port Elizabeth which is approximately 251 km from the town of Graaff Reinett. From Port Elizabeth take the R75 through Jansenville on to Graaff Reinett. In Graaff Reinett take the R63 to Murraysburg.

The entrance to the Valley of Desolation is after about 4km on the left. The Game Viewing section entrance is approximately another 3km further on the right hand side.

The SanParks offices and the other entrance to the Game Viewing section is on the N9 towards Middelburg from Graaff Reinett also about 4km out of town.

The nearest international airport to the Camdeboo National Park is in Cape Town approximately 600 km away. If you are going to do a road trip from here you need to follow the N1 from Cape Town through Beaufort West. Turn right on the R61 to Aberdeen. Then take the N9 to Graaff Reinett.

You can off course take a domestic flight from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. This dramatically shortens the road journey to Camdeboo.

View Camdeboo National Park in a larger map



You can book accommodation in the camdeboo national Park through the SANParks website or you can make use of the SafariNow booking service to find suitable accommodation in Graaff-Reinett. They provide an excellent service of which I personally make use to find and book accommodation in Southern Africa.


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