Camdeboo National Park
The Valley of Desolation, limitless space, rock formations up to 120 m tall, deep breaths of fresh Karoo air… Hang on, we’re getting ahead of ourselves! This is how you’ll end your perfect day in the Camdeboo National Park. To start your day, get to the main gate off the N9 when it opens at 6.30am.The park curls around Graaff-Reinet and has several entrances. At reception at the main gate, get a key for the Kroonvale gate in the eastern part of the park. Then drive the Driekoppe 4×4 Trail. You can do the trail in a 2×4, but during the rainy season you’ll need a vehicle with a high ground clearance.
Keep your eyes peeled for Cape mountain zebra, mountain reedbuck and klipspringer on your way to the Waaihoek picnic site, which has a great view of the Camdeboo plains. Settle down around a picnic table and unpack your coffee flask and sandwiches. From here, drive down a gorge called Diepkloof and exit the park at the Lootsfontein gate. There’s no restaurant in the park for lunch, but there are plenty in Graaff-Reinet – and you have to drive through town anyway. Our pick is Polka Cafe for lamb cutlets with potato chips and vegetables.
Now go back into the park at the main gate and remember to drop off your key. Drive past the statue of Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius and explore the network of game-viewing roads (about 20 km in total). Look for flamingos and secretary birds east of Nqweba Dam. There aren’t any predators in the park, but you’ll be able to take photos of buffalo, gemsbok, eland, springbok and red hartebeest.
Around 4 pm, it’s time to head to the Valley of Desolation. This gate is about 5 km from town next to the R63 towards Murraysburg. Follow the winding road for 9 km to the parking area and walk the easy Crag Lizard Trail (1,5 km) to the viewpoints, overlooking the famous dolerite pillars, estimated to have been formed about 100 million years ago. Sit on a rock at sunset and let the silence of the Camdeboo whisper to you.
How to get there? The park is just outside Graaff-Reinet, about 250 km north of Port Elizabeth.
Gate times: 6.30 am to 7 pm.