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TThe Valley of Desolation is situated in the Camdeboo National Park, this parks surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape of South Africa. The Valley of Desolation was formed hundreds of millions of years ago & today it's one of South Africa's great natural wonders. Camdeboo National Park provides the visitor with insights into the unique landscape and ecosystem of the Karoo, not to mention awesome scenic beauty. The Valley of Desolation is a premier tourist attraction in the Karoo region with more than 100 000 visitors per year. 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. The viewpoints at the Valley itself provide a breath-taking view of piled dolerite columns against the backdrop of the plains of the Great Karoo and a timeless sense of wonder at a landscape said to be the product of the erosive and volcanic forces of nature over a period of 200 million years. There is amazing game viewing & Birding opportunities whilst visiting the area, with approximately an additional 19km of gravel roadways throughout the park, provide visitors with the opportunity to view the entire range of indigenous game species in this, their preferred habitats. For birding enthusiasts, nearly 250 bird species have been recorded in the Park. There are numerous walking trails available throughout the park • The Crag Lizard Trail (45 minutes) starts at the Valley of Desolation parking area and extends for about 1.5km 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, which commemorates a historic figure, and ending at Barbergat on the R63 to Murraysburg. Your day ticket to visit the Valley of Desolation also allows you to access the following 4x4 routes 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 landscape. The trail can be completed with a return journey following the same track in about three 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 the mountain in the Winterhoek area of the Park, is the perfect place for a picnic lunch or tea break, with a picnic table provided here. The Koedoeskloof 4x4 trail is accessed via the Valley of Desolation gate, with the turn off to the trail well signposted about three 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, kudu, mountain reedbuck,klipspringer and baboons. The flatter bottom-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. Fishing is also an option in the nearby Nqweba Dam that forms part of the Camdeboo National Park. The dam, when full, covers over 1 000 hectares, providing 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). The 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). In the past year numerous developments have taken place within the Camdeboo National Park. 1. Inaugural Roof de Karoo mountain bike traverse held in March 2017 – A Mountain Bike race starting at a picnic site in the Mountain Zebra National Park outside Cradock and ending the following day at the historic Winterhoek homestead at Camdeboo National Park, Graaff-Reinet. 175km of amazing Karoo landscape. 50 teams partook & it was a great marketing opportunity for Graaff-Reinet. 2. The Corridor between Mountain Zebra & the Camdeboo National Park is comprising of numerous private farms, who all have conservation ideals. 3. Additional abolition facilities were added at various spots throughout the park 4. Additional 4x4 routes were added in the Eastern section of the park, to ensure 4x4 enthusiasts have plenty routes to pick from. 5. A viewing deck at the Valley of Desolation was varnished & maintained. 6. In the pipeline is a route (new) to make the Valley of Desolation viewpoint accessible for people with disability. This year is planned to add handrailings. A future wheelchair friendly route will be available. 7. Winterhoek Homestead offers accommodation with guests having exclusive use of this section of the park for birding & game viewing. Hiking is also permitted in the area. 8. The annual birding weekend was held in March 2017 & was received with great delight by birding ethusiasts from the Eastern Cape, who travelled to the Graaff-Reinet area to enjoy the numerous birding excursions on offer. (Birdwatching whilst canoeing was introduced this year). 9. An active Sanparks forum, that is well representative of the diverse spectrum of the Graaff-Reinet community, ensures that all population groups feel they benefit from the park in the area. 10. Granaat Society – also called “Friends of the Park” supports numerous development projects in the park & donated plaques / identifiers of plant species that were erected along the Crag Lizard Trail leading to the viewpoints at the Valley of Desolation. All the above & daily visitors to the Valley of Desolation in Camdeboo National Park, lead to the park achieving a 16% increase in income directly attributed to tourism. There was also an 9% increase in occupation in the accommodation in the park. Planned events for the rest of 2017 & 2018 1. Locations are being scouted throughout the park, to plan & map the trail run through the Valley of Desolation 2. Sponsorships are needed to make a triathlon in the Camdeboo National Park a reality. Tourists have numerous options when visiting the Valley of Desolation – Since their day ticket also covers the following • Braai facilities en-route to the Valley of Desolation • Picnic areas with amazing viewpoints • Bird Hide & watering holes • Hiking along designated routes – clearly marked on the visitors map • 4x4 routes – clearly indicated on visitors map • Birding & Game Viewing throughout the Camdeboo National Park • Detailed visitor information & informative map of the area available from Sanpark office within the park. Day visitors to the Valley of Desolation have a fun-filled day ahead of them. Be prepared to be amazed by the stunning views of dolerite columns, the endless space (on a clear day, one can see 180km) & the beautiful Karoo vegetation & antelope of the area. Hiking one of the numerous routes, try a 4x4 route, take your family mountain biking in the park, go for a picnic, relax & watch the sunset. Enjoy nature! It’s Bliss! Pure bliss. Tourists have numerous options when visiting the Valley of Desolation – Since their day ticket also covers the following • Braai facilities en-route to the Valley of Desolation • Picnic areas with amazing viewpoints • Bird Hide & watering holes • Hiking along designated routes – clearly marked on the visitors map • 4x4 routes – clearly indicated on visitors map • Birding & Game Viewing throughout the Camdeboo National Park • Detailed visitor information & informative map of the area available from Sanpark office within the park. Not often in one’s life can you see 180km - on a clear day the Cockscomb Mountain near Addo Elephant Park is clearly visible from the Valley of Desolation. Whilst at the Valley be on the lookout for the resident Verreaux eagles, troop of baboons & various lizards. Your day ticket allows you to have breakfast at the viewing deck, over-looking the plains of the Camdeboo, later on travelling down the mountain & exploring the numerous 4x4 routes before stopping for a braai (at a designated picnic area). Late afternoon enjoy game viewing & ensure you're back at the Valley of Desolation for sunset, when the setting sun saturates the oxidized rock pillars in beautiful red hues. A must see! It is a fun filled day for all at the Valley of Desolation. The day fee for visiting the Valley of Desolation is R35 for South Africans with a valid ID document. Overseas visitors are charged R100. If you have a wildcard, a visit to the Valley of Desolation is for free. The affordable entrance fee ensures people from all walks of life can visit the scenic spot. The viewing deck at the parking area of the Valley of Desolation, ensures people with disability can enjoy the scenic views over-looking the Sneeuberg Mountains. Planned emprovements to the route to the Valley of Desolation will commence soon, with handrails on the steepest part of the walking trail being added. South African visitors get to explore the Valley of Desolation & enjoy all the additional highlights of the park for R35 a day. Wildcard members enter for free. Sanparks offer a free week annually for South Africans to visit the park for free. During this period most guests houses aim to bring their staff to the Valley of Desolation, in order for them to discuss this beautiful scenic spots with visitors to the area. One is far more likely to promote an attraction that one has experience oneself. The Valley of Desolation is truly a memorable experience. Enjoy true natural beauty – the 120m high rock pillars are a geographical phenomenon. It’s amazing to stare at the beautiful Karoo expanse that stretches to the horizon & being mesmerised by the various pillars, fondly referred to as the Valley of Desolation. The area is protected by the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) hence very little development has occurred in the area, other than the necessary ablution facilities & designated parking areas / braai areas & picnic spots. The Valley of Desolation experience aims to be an all-inclusive family experience. Upon stopping at the gate, the map given of the park, offer parents a game viewing game with their children. Each animal in the park, has 4 blocks allocated & hence the family member who spots it first, gets the points associated with that animal. Children love this game. Be sure to add in an ice-cream for the winner, and children are glued to the windown, wanting to spot animals en-route up the mountain to the Valley of Desolation. The walking route is short enough to make it accessible to all school going children. Bird viewing & game viewing the parents can introduce their children too. 4x4 routes are always fun for entire families, as well as picnicking in the veld. Children always enjoy the outdoors. The Valley of Desolation Tour is included in numerous overseas itineraries, hence local inbound tour operators sell the Valley of Desolation to visitors already before they leave their hometown. Overseas visitors the Valley of Desolation marvel at the endless expanse, the amazing sunset & the sheer beauty of the Karoo. We living in South Africa forget the uniqueness of our country & the beauty of the Karoo veld. We should treasure the Karoo. Please vote for the Valley of Desolation as one of the most scenic spots in the Eastern Cape, South Africa.