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Camdeboo National Park & Valley of Desolation, Eastern Cape

The 19,405ha Camdeboo National Park in the north-western interior of the Eastern Cape embodies the essence of the unique and ancient Karoo landscape of South Africa, as well as some unique and dramatic mountain range features.

The recently proclaimed reserve (2005) surrounds the Eastern Cape town of Graaff Reinet, and incorporates low level plains and mid to high elevation habitats in the Sneeuberg range, between 740 and 1480 metres above sea level.

Most of the Park consists of foothills and astounding mountainous areas that are characterised by dolerite pillars jutting high above the plains – 90 to 120 metres above the eroded sedimentary areas beneath. This area is called the Valley of Desolation – a truly ancient area that has one of the world’s richest seems of fossils.

The Park also incorporated the Nqweba Dam, which has a surface area of 1000ha when full. This is of course a great place for game viewing in the otherwise scrub and bush landscape of the Karoo.

Don’t let the semi-arid conditions deceive you – the Camdeboo is full of life, and not just around the dam. The ‘scrub’ consists of hundreds of varieties of succulents, flowering and other plants which support many species and sub-species adapted to often very arid conditions, and the park can get lush with tree growth and grasses after rains.

Over 220 bird species have been recorded there and animals that can be seen there include springbok, the bat-eared fox, meerkat, vervet monkeys, giraffe, Cape Mountain Zebra, red hartebeest, gemsbok, steenbok, blesbok, black wildebeest, buffalo, kudu and grey duiker. In total 43 mammal species have been recorded in the Camdeboo, including 13 small predator species.

A camp is being built but is not completed at the time of writing, so accommodation would be sourced at Graaf Reinet.

Travelling through the Park is either self-drive by car or on foot up into the 350 million year old dolerite formations above the Valley of Desolation, where you will find restrooms and a rather amusing sign. This area is a declared National Monument and has been protected since 1979.

For more information

Getting there: Go to Graaff Reinet. When you get there, you are surrounded by the Camdeboo. The Valley of Desolation is just 14kms from Graaf Reinet.

Note: The Karoo gets as hot as hell in summer; temperatures can get to 45 deg. On the other hand, it’s freezing cold in winter. And don’t throw rocks into the Valley of Desolation, even if you are really really itching to…

More info on the town of Graaff Reinet More info on the Karoo Heartland area