Camdeboo National Park covers an area of 194 sq km and almost completely surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet. There are plenty of animals including springboks, buffaloes, Cape mountain zebras and kudus, plus over 220 bird species, but the real draws are the spectacular geological formations and great views overlooking Graaff-Reinet and the plains.
The park is subdivided into three main sections: the wildlife-viewing area to the north of the Nqweba dam, the western section with the Valley of Desolation and the eastern section with various hiking trails.
In the wildlife-viewing area there are buffaloes, elands, kudus, hartebeests, wildebeests, springboks, rare Cape mountain zebras and a host of smaller mammals. Bird species include black eagles, blue cranes and kori bustards. Visitors must stay in their vehicles.
The Valley of Desolation is the park’s most popular sight. It’s a hauntingly beautiful valley with an outstanding view – the rugged, piled dolerite columns here are set against the backdrop of the endless Karoo plains. From the nearby Toposcope viewpoint, Graaff-Reinet is also visible, nestled in a bend of the Sundays River. The valley viewpoint can be reached by car on a steep but sealed road. The Crag Lizard Trail, a 1.5km circuit walk along the cliff, starts from the parking area near the viewpoint. The best times to come are at sunrise or sunset.
The Eerstefontein Day Trail is also in the western section and has three trail options: 5km, 11km and 14km long. The park office has a map.
You’ll need your own vehicle to get around the reserve; otherwise contact Karoo Connections for a tour. Accommodation is in pre-erected two-person safari tents or you can bring your own tent and camp near Nqweba Dam.