Did you know?
The book, The Plains of Camdeboo, is a South African classic first published in 1966 in which author Eve Palmer writes about life in this tough, yet extraordinarily beautiful, environment.
When you stand at the Valley of Desolation in the Camdeboo National Park surrounded by precariously balanced dolerite pillars rising to heights of 120m, you could imagine you're standing in God’s quarry.
This national park practically surrounds the historic town of Graaff Reinet and offers a variety of landscapes and activities to the visitor.
With the plains of the Great Karoo as its backdrop, prehistoric fossils on the valley floor tell of a landscape formed hundreds of millions of years ago.
Artefacts found in this area are also evidence of long-standing stone age occupation and later, Khoisan hunter-herders left their mark in this astonishing place. You can see some of their painted rock shelters in the east of the park.
The Camdeboo National Park is home to a rich biodiversity of 220 birds and 336 plants. Over 43 species of mammals include bat-eared fox; suricate (meerkat), kudu, grey duiker, red hartebeest and springbuck. Birders can spot ostriches, southern pale chanting goshawks, lesser honeyguides, speckled mousebirds and brown-hooded kingfishers.
Amid magnificent carpets of spring flowers, visitors describe the uncanny stillness and bizarre rock formations of the Valley of Desolation as an experience that verges on the spiritual.
So gather a few good friends and spend some time in this mountain wilderness. You'll find hiking trails, a 4x4 route and a tented camp next to a dam where you can soak up the silence.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
SANParks central reservations
Tel: +27 (0)12 428 9111
Camdeboo National Park
Tel: +27 (0)49 892 3453
How to get here
The park has two entrances. If you want to visit the Valley of Desolation and visit the game-viewing area you will enter via a gate 5km out of Graaff Reinet on the R63 towards Murraysberg. If you are staying over in the park then the entrance is on the N9 towards Richmond, about 4km from town. Port Elizabeth is 250km away and Cape Town about 600km.
Best time to visit
During spring you might catch the spring flowers.
Around the area
Visit the beautiful village of Nieu Bethesda (about 50km north of Graaff Reinet) to see the Owl House, a remarkable example of folk art created by a local artist Helen Martins. The town still has many resident artists and potters as well as the Sneeuberg Brewery & 2Goats Deli where you can sample the local brew with some delicious cheese.
You'll need a self-drive vehicle.
What will it cost
The daily conservation fee for international visitors is R70 a day. A Lakeview Tented Camp costs around R570 a night for two and camping is R205 for a stand.
Length of stay
Spend a couple of days here to explore the area properly.
What to pack
The Karoo is hot in summer and can be bitterly cold at night in winter (although it's sunny during the day).
Where to stay
The park has two camps: The Lakeview Tented Camp which has four rustic tents sleeping two with a fully equipped communal kitchen. There's also the Nqweba Campsite which has 15 stands for tents or caravans. The park is close enough to Graaff Reinet which has ample B&B accommodation.
What to eat
You can stock up on groceries in Graaff Reinet.