Soak up the silence in the Valley of Desolation
Just 10 minutes out of Graaff Reinet is the Camdeboo National Park, and the magnificent views of the Valley of Desolation. This is suitable for a quick drive and short walk, or a whole day, whatever your time allows. There are braai (barbecue) sites, and walks mapped out throughout the park (ranging from 1km to 14km long).
If you drive slowly, there is game to be found and plenty of birds.
Although we did not stay there, tented camps and campsites are available.
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
Explore Graaff-Reinet's Heritage
Graaff-Reinet is a gem of a town situated in the heart of the Karoo.
Graaff-Reinet is a walkable town that has lots to offer guests
Guided town walks can be arranged - contact Chantelle - firstname.lastname@example.org or on +27 (0) 71 670 4747 to book a tour.
Discover a beautifully interwoven tapestry of legends, ancestry, architecture, bloodlines and tradition. Go on a journey through the past with heritage walks, monuments, churches, Karoo architectural explorations and farm histories of our National Heritage Conservation Landscape.
Places worth visiting:
Reinet House Museum
Dutch Reformed Church
Hester Rupert Art Museum
Pierneef Art Museum
& lots more
- Historical Travel
- Family Travel
Museums and historical buildings
Many museums in this town, and many historical buildings, if you like historical stuff you could spend days here..........
This may not be a very big town but its loaded in history and anyone visiting South Africa with this kind of interest should add this to their tour.
- Family Travel
- Road Trip
exploring streets and surroundings
once you are in Graaff Reniet, the 1st thing you can do it to take a walk around the town and explore one of South Africa's oldest town still in the colonial form.. streets are wide and clean and buildings and shops are still in original 18th century form... its one of the sunniest place and it has got the beautiful lake in fact the town is at one of the edge of lake so sun lover can take some sun bath.. an other thing is its two world renown national parks in very easy drive way from here.. the first one is the Valley of Desolation national park, the peak is less than 10 km from city centre, here one can see the most amazing views of Karoo's clear sky, vast semi desert and magical sunset and there is a short hiking trail as well... and also the view of the city of Graaff Reniet very nicely planned white suburbs and the black township are quite visible from the place called Toposcope.. and the other national park is called Mountain Zebra national park where i didnt go :( and another thing to do or place to go is the a small town called Nieu Betesda.. its less than 50 km from here, also one of the popular place on the historical map of south africa.. i would ad a page for it later..
- Historical Travel
- National/State Park
Samara Private game Reserve
This is a large private game reserve, malaria free!Unfortunately the private game parks are very expensive so I have not been here myself, but have heard its good
will include the web site
they also have accommodation.
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
Visit a Karoo farm- Dalham Farm
The farm Dalham is only a few minutes drive out of Graaff-Reinet. Ideally situated as a stopover or to relax for a couple of days for those who enjoy scenery and fresh country air. Farming activities include sheep, angora goats, pigs and cattle.
There are walking trails
10 km north of Graaff-Reinet on N9
They also have self catering accommodation on the farm, not sure of the price
- Family Travel
Crafts- Windmill junction
This is unique place, worth a visit,
Conveniently situated in the middle of Graaff-Reinet, an easy walk to the shops and museums
Wrought iron furniture
Goats' milk cheese from Nieu Bethesda
Local olives and olive oil
- Family Travel
There are lots of places in surrounding area to do bird watching, Graaff-Reinet also has a bird club and am sure they can give bird lovers more info as they have meetings where they go to spots for bird watching.
At the Valley of Desolation and on the road to it, the following Karoo and mountain species were sighted: Black Eagle, Booted Eagle, Palewinged Starling, Layard’s Titbbabbler and others.
To make contact with the club, call Judy Caryer on (049) 891-0353 or Joan Collett on (049) 891-0840. To join a club outing, bring binoculars and a bird book (if available). The club is an independent body, they welcome tourists
- Family Travel
Karoo National Park - Valley of Desolation - III
Perhaps one of the least known aspects of the area is the Stone Age settlements that have been found in the area, esepcially in the south-eastern part of the plains in the reserve. A number of implements have been found and even rock paintings at one small cave site. It si known that in the 1600s the Inqua tribe lived in the area between Aberdeen (75km southwest) to the Agterbruintjieshoogte above Somerset East, and white farmers didn't move in until around 1770.
There are five trails laid out in the park, one at the top of the Valley of Desolation - a 1.5km 45 minute walk along the very summit of the hill, and three in the Eerstefontein area below Spandaukop. An overnight trail is available on the southeastern side of the park.
Karoo National Park - Valley of Desolation - II
It is indicative of the advanced state of management of natural heritage assets in South Africa that as well as the unpoiled nature in the park, the authorities have built leisure facilities on the edges of the Park to cater for the more general needs of the local population. On the west side of Graaff-Reinet on the lowest slopes of Cave Mountain, a recreation zone has been laid out that allows picnics, walking, running and a short drive along the lower slopes. The area is open for dog-walkers, and many of the plants and trees have been labelled for identification; if only other countries were so inclusive when laying out national parks. On Nqweba Dam - the former Van Rynevelds Pass Dam - boating and swimming facilities have been provided, and again braai and picnic facilities make the nature very accessible. The 14,500 hectare National Park is small but it has great variety; it is our great fortune that the South African nature Foundation responded in the late 1970s to a call to preserve the habitats of the Karoo, and in 1979 the area was handed over to the Western Cape provincial authorities. By 2005, some 70,000 visitors were arriving each year to enjoy the park.
The Beaufort series rocks of sandstone, siltstone and mudstone are certainly not unique in this part of South Africa, but the volcanic dolerite intrusions have created a unique landscape in the Valley of Desolation where the huge pillars rise up above the surrounding hillslopes. On the lowest slopes, the vegetation is Dwarf Shrublands, although heavily degraded in the main - from overgrazing in the past - with sub-tropical Succulent Thicket and Shrublands on the upper slopes. Some 336 plant species have been discovered in the park, with 71 flowering plants. Up on the highest, rocky slopes klipspringer are present, but rarely seen, and a total of 225 bird species have been recorded although we saw - over two days - surprisingly few bird species...less than 50.
Karoo National Park - Valley of Desolation - I
High up above Graaff-Reinet lies the Valley of Desolation, one of the prime attractions of the area. The dolerite crags of the Spandaukop, the Agtersfotein and the Eerstefontein rise up dramatically from the Camdeboo Plains and the Great Karoo beyond. Even more impressive than the view itself is the rapid change in the vegetation from the dusty shrubs of the plains to the more lush, thicker plants of the uplands up here on the higher slopes.
The road winds up from the entrance gate on the R63 Murraysburg road, arriving at a small car-park by the toposcope. Below, the town of Graaf-Reinet lies so close to the mountain slope that the town is like a map laid out on the ground. Several black eagles drift around on the thermals, ignoring the spectators below, intent on spotting a rock dassie among the rocks on the slopes. On the far slopes beyond the town lies yet more of the Karoo National Park, as the park almost completely surrounds it, leaving only a small zone to the south of the town outside the park boundaries.
Karoo National Park - Game Viewing Area - Part III
Roads wind their way around the park, including a big loop into the northern grasslands. We parked up for over an hour and weren't passed by a single other vehicle in that time, having the herds to ourselves. The birdlife wasn't as rich as we expected and was less varied than the slopes of nearby mountains, and this surprised us. The park brochure lists 52 species, including the secretarybird and the black-shouldered kite. Maybe it was just a particularly hot day and we were there in the heat of the day.
There are other parts of the Karoo National Park easily accessible to visitors, including the Valley of Desolation to the southwest (see separate review) and the Driekoppe/Hanglip mountains to the southeast.
All parts are open, free of charge, from sunrise to sunset.
Karoo National Park - Game Viewing Area - Part II
The bigger residents include Cape Buffalo (which we didn't see here), steenbok, springbok (all over the place), blesbok and black wildebeest all on the open plains in the northern part of the park. In the thickly forested thickets between the plains and the entrance gate are herds of kudu, many of which can be seen close up. We saw red hartebeest and gemsbok at close range, also in the acacia thickets, although they usually live out in the more open stretches near the waters of the dam. Cape mountain zebra are present but are rarely seen down here, preferring the higher slopes of the mountains to the east. The reserve brochure suggests also that nyala, red lechwe and fallow deer encroach from outside the Park, but we didn't see any of them.
There are three ecosystems in the Park, all of which are easily recognisable. The first is the Dwarf Shrublands which exists in two forms, natural and degraded. The latter is on the area heavily grazed in the past, and can be seen in the stretch between the entrance and the acacia thickets. It includes the saltbush (atriplex lindleyi) and tumbleweed (salsola kali) with acacia karoo trees - sweet thorn - also obvious. The natural Dwarf Shrublands are more extensive, fortunately, and can be seen across the northern part of the Park, characterised by similar vegetation including the pentzia incana, rosinea humilus and eberlanzia spinosa. The acacia thickets, in a large band to the north-west of the lake is mainly acacia karoo with atriplex spp and various grasses and shrubs below the trees. The newer wetland community exists in the area occasionally flooded by dam waters and includes longer grasses as well as tamarix usneoides.
Karoo National Park - Game Viewing Area - Part I
In January 2006, the Karoo nature Reserve became a National Park, but even before that, it was a rather special place, little visited and home to a wide variety of birds and wildlife. Although most of the animals in this Park are not dangerous, the preence of extremely unpredictable Cape Buffalo mean that it is dangerous to leave your vehicle, although there is a picnic area where braai equipment allow a bit of free time out of the vehicle. The small size of this park precludes the reintroduction of major predators so the park needs to cull animals to maintain sustainable populations.
The Karoo National Park lies just to the north of the Nqweba Dam, itself to the north of the town of Graaff-Reinet, the reserve area was originally common land until the Nature Reserve was created in 1976. It was not before time, as overgrazing had seriously degraded the vegetation, a situation that remains today. The situation is further exacerbated by the poor soil structure and the resultant desiccation. However, the waters of the Nqweba Dam, which ebb and flow according to its storage capacity has altered the plains, creating a new area of lusher grass close to the waters edge. Unusually for a nature reserve, no set carrying capacity has been set for the Karoo National Park as this depends over a very short preiod of time on rainfall and the water level in the Nqweba Dam. Currently there are 43 mammal species in the Park, of which thirteen are carnivores. One of the most popular residents is the meerkat but other particularly active animals include the vervet monkey, which can also be seen in the surrounding countryside and even on the approach road to the Park.
The World's Largest Grapevine
The 'Black Acorn' grape vine was planted in 1870 in the garden of the Reinet House (then just the parsonage) by Charles Murray, son of Andrew Murray, and also the minister of the NGK Church. By 1983, the root stem of the vine had reached a circumference of 3.10 metres, but it has subsequently had to be cut back because of vine rot. It is expected to make a full recovery and will regain its former size. It has borne fruit every single year.