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Formed hundreds of millions of years ago, the Karoo of South Africa is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Camdeboo National Park provides the visitor with insights into the unique landscape and ecosystem of the Karoo, not to mention awesome scenic beauty.

A unique feature of the 19 405-hectare park is its location, practically surrounding the town of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape.

The greater portion of the park is situated between 740 and 1480 metres above sea level on the foothills of the Sneeuberg range, while a small section of the low lying-plains is included. The Nqweba Dam lies within the park and covers about 1000 hectares when full. At some places, dolerites form jointed pillars – the best examples of which are found in the Valley of Desolation where erosion of the softer sedimentary beds has left dolerite pillars which rise to heights of 90 – 120 metres.

Visitors to the game viewing area are requested to remain in their vehicles. Visitors are advised to vacate the area in the event of heavy rainfall, in order to avoid the risk of getting stuck or cut off by flash floods.

Five things to see:

  • Valley of Desolation
  • Nqweba Dam
  • Bird hide
  • Cape buffalo
  • Bat-eared fox

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Camdeboo National Park's accommodation is situated on the floodplains of the Nqweba Dam and accessed via the Lakeview Gate on the N9 towards Middleburg. This area is part of the Park's game viewing area which is home to buffalo, antelope such as gemsbok, eland, red hartebeest and springbok, smaller mammals such as black-backed jackal and many bird species.

Lakeview Tented Camp

Lakeview Tents (CTT2):

Four rustic furnished tents provide a relaxed nature experience. Each tent sleeps two people and has a braai unit, fridge, table and two chairs. Bedding and towels are provided. There is a communal kitchen equipped with stove plates, cooking and eating utensils and microwave. Tents are booked as individual units but there is also a communal braai area for group use. Communal showers and toilets are provided.

View availability

Nqweba Campsite

Nqweba Camp Sites (CK6P):

Fifteen caravan or tent sites are situated beneath thorn trees on a gravel substrate. Each site has a braai unit and powerpoint. A communal kitchen provides deep freeze, stove top and microwave facilities while the communal ablutions have showers, toilets and a universally accessible unit.

View availability

Please note:

Accommodation images may differ from the actual units as refurbishment of various accommodation types occur on an on-going basis.

Camdeboo National Park encircles the town of Graaff-Reinet, which has a variety of accommodation options including hotels, guest houses and a caravan park.
Contact the Graaff-Reinet Tourism Office:
Tel: +27 (0) 49 892 4248

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Activities & Facilities


Daily Conservation Fee for 1 November 2015 to 31 October 2016
South African citizens & Residents (with ID) R32 per person, per day
R16 per child per day
SADC Nationals (with passport) R64 per adult, per day
R32 per child per day
Standard Conservation Fee (Foreign Visitors): R84 per adult, per day
R42 per child, per day

Once you have paid entry fees at one point of entry into the park, you will not be charged when visiting other park attractions. Please note that this does not include activities.

Valley of Desolation

With an estimated 100 000 people who visit this site each year, the Valley of Desolation is a premier tourist attraction in the region.

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.

Game Viewing and Birding

Presently, approximately 19km of gravel roadways provide visitors with the opportunity to view the entire range of indigenous species in their preferred habitats. For birding enthusiasts, nearly 250 bird species have been recorded in the Park.

Trails and walks

The Crag Lizard Trail (45 minutes) starts at the Valley 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.

There is no charge for hiking trails in the park, apart from conservation fees.

4x4 Trails

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.


The Nqweba Dam, which covers over 1 000 hectares, provides 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).

***No Conservation Fees will be charged for use of the Education Centre only***


Picnic Areas

Camdeboo National Park has six picnic areas with braai and ablution facilities:

  • Impunzi picnic area in the game viewing Area has four sites.
  • Ribbokberg picnic area on the way to the Valley of Desolation has four sites.
  • Mountain Drive picnic area has seven widely-spaced sites in the Mountain Drive area.
  • Babergat picnic area has two sites adjacent to the Nqweba Dam wall.
  • Piekniekbos picnic area has 12 sites on the western shore of the Nqweba Dam
  • The Boat Club picnic area has four sites (for exclusive use of boat club members).

General Amenities

Facilities such as fuel stations, ATMs, banks, shops and restaurantsare available in the nearby town of Graaff-Reinet. For more information on Graaff-Reinet, contact the Tourism Office on or tel: +27(0)49 892 4248.

Camdeboo Environmental Education Centre

The centre and staff offer programmes to any formal group to promote awareness of and sensitivity towards the natural environment. Courses are tailored to meet visitors' needs. A maximum of 40 people can be accommodated and visits may range from one to four days. This centre may also be booked for team building or conference purposes. However, educational groups get first option over private use.

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How to get there


Camdeboo National Park surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape.

To Reception, Nqweba Campsite and Lakeview Tented Camp:
The gate is four kilometres out of Graaff-Reinet off the N9 to Middleburg.

To the Valley Of Desolation and Game Viewing Area:
The gate is reached 5km out of Graaff-Reinet on the R63 to Murraysburg.

The nearest international airport is in Cape Town and the nearest domestic airport in Port Elizabeth.

From Cape Town, take the N1 highway towards Beaufort West. Pass through the town of Beaufort West and then turn right onto the R61 to Aberdeen. At Aberdeen, take the N9, left towards Graaff-Reinet.

  • Beaufort West to Graaff-Reinet = 209 km.
  • Cape Town to Graaff-Reinet = approx. 600 km.

From Port Elizabeth, take the R75 to Jansenville and Graaff-Reinet.

  • Port Elizabeth to Graaff-Reinet = 251 km.

Gate Entrance Times

Valley of Desolation Gates

Jan - Feb Mar Apr May June July-Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec

Game Viewing Area & Lakeview Gates

  Jan - Feb Mar Apr May June July-Aug Sept Oct Nov Dec


GPS Coordinates





View Point

Valley of Desolation

S 32° 15' 59 "

E 24° 29' 41 "



S 32° 13' 13 "

E 24° 32' 25 "

Car Park

Valley of Desolation

S 32° 15 '52"

E 24° 29' 36 "

Game Viewing Gate Area


S 32° 13' 12 "

E 24° 32' 26 "

Controlled Acces

Lakeview Park Entrance

S 32° 13' 13 "

E 24° 32' 29"

Gate Registration & Indemnity Form

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Natural and Cultural History

Camdeboo National Park was proclaimed as a National Park under the management of South African National Parks on 30 October 2005.

Following an extensive process of negotiation and discussion between government, conservation groups, and concerned stakeholders, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, announced the intention to proclaim the park in the area surrounding Graaff-Reinet. This was made possible by the World Widelife Fund in South Africa (WWF-SA), which donated the 14500 hectare Karoo Nature Reserve to be the centrepiece of the project.

A public consultation process was followed to decide on the new name for the park, culminating in the choice of Camdeboo National Park.

The Karoo Nature Reserve was established in 1979 when the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the World Wildlife Fund recognised the urgency for conservation measures in the Karoo biome and listed this action as a world conservation priority.

The vision for the future is ultimately to link Camdeboo National Park with Mountain Zebra National Park, protecting a huge diversity of plant and animal species. This will assist in the conservation of the endangered Cape mountain zebra. The idea is to create a single mega-conservation area over 120km in length and including up to 520 000 hectares of land under conservation, to be accomplished in the main by public/private partnerships.

Early history of the park includes use of the area by early, middle and later stone age people. Evidence of occupation by these people can be found in the form of stone age industry sites on the south eastern plains of the park. Artefacts found in these sites include bored stones, percussion-made hand axes, scrapers, blades and grinding stones.

Khoisan hunters and herders left evidence of their occupation during the late stone age in the form of rock paintings in the eastern section of the park.

The Inqua tribe occupied the park area during the mid 1600's, grazing their vast herds of cattle and fat-tailed sheep on the apron veld from the Camdeboo River near Aberdeen, across the Sundays River to Agter-Bruintjieshoogte near Somerset East.

White farmers settled on the Camdeboo Plains and Sneeuberg in 1770, introducing merino sheep and angora goats, as well as exotic plants. Over the years overgrazing and the effects of exotic plants have resulted in soil erosion and an increase in woody species or unpalatable plants.

Until the park was first proclaimed as a reserve in 1979, it was used as a town commonage with tenants grazing their livestock and contributing to overgrazing and erosion of some areas.

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Park Map

Click on the map to view enlarged






Camp Layout

Click on the map to view enlarged

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Once you have paid entry fees at one point of entry into the park, you will not be charged when visiting other park attractions. Please note, this does not include activities.

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Vital Information


Camdeboo National Park is located in a summer rainfall, semi-desert area.

Summers are very hot and winters can be very cold. During the summer months, visitors are advised to confine their activities to early mornings and late afternoons. Most of the average rainfall of 336mm per annum occurs in summer and autumn, with a peak in March. Thunderstorms and high temperatures are common during the summer months while snowfalls can occur in the high-lying areas in winter.

Tourism Day Visitors

Day visitors are welcome and can make use of various attractions such as the Valley of Desolation, Game Viewing Area and a number of picnic sites.

Handy Hints:

  • As outdoor lighting in the camps is limited, a torch/headlamp is required when walking outside at night.

Contact Information

For enquiries email Camdeboo National Park or:

  • Tel: (049) 892 3453
  • Fax: (049) 892 3456
  • Camdeboo National Park
    P. O. Box 349

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Regional Newsletters: Park-thusiasts


  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • 2015



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    The Karoo of South Africa is one of the great natural wonders of the world, formed hundreds of millions of years ago. Millions of years ago, southern Africa was emerging from the grip of a great Ice Age. Thick sheets of ice, which had for thousands of years covered the surface of the subcontinent, were retreating around a newly exposed landscape. The central portion of South Africa was revealed as a low-lying basin surrounded by uplands and mountains, which for 50 million years supported plant and animal life of particular interest today. The fossilized remains of these extinct organisms reveal a saga of success and failures, and the emergence and decline of many varied forms of life.

    The uniqueness of the Karoo Basin, as it is known to geologists, lies partly in the fact that its 50-million-year fossil record, covering a period from 240 to 190 million years ago, is largely unbroken, so that the intricate evolutionary pathways followed by different animal groups through time can be more closely traced than in other fossil-bearing systems of rock strata. In the true paleontological sense, therefore, the 'Karoo' is more than just a geographical area: the element of time is inextricably woven into the meaning of the word.

    Exposed along the slopes of the karoo koppies and in the sides of river channels, are the fossilized bones of reptiles. These animals lived in the prehistoric Karoo marshlands and in many cases their bones or skeleton were washed into lakes or pools and rapidly covered in mud. The hardened mud has become the Karoo shale of today. These rocks are rich in the fossils of the two main groups of early Karoo reptiles. The Pareiasauria were large bulky herbivores of primitive descent, while most of the fossils in the Graaff-Reinet area are of mammal-like reptiles (Therapsids) that date back to the Upper Permian and Lower Triassic periods from 240 to 190 million years ago.

    One very successful branch of the Therapsid family are well represented by Dicnodontia, a distinctive group of mammal-like reptiles with firmly knitted skulls and well differentiated teeth including canines, post canines and molars. This group did not survive the pressure of a changing environment and became extinct. Another group of Therapsids, the carnivorous Gorgonopsia, co-existed with the herbivorous Dicnodontia. These animals had clearly defined canines and temporal openings in the side of the skull to accommodate the large muscles of the jaw. Gorgonopsia did not survive the end of the Permian period. Within the Therapsid family, the progressive Therocephalia did however survive and became the group through which the line to true animals ran.

    The Karoo fossil reptiles are of international importance and are studied by scientists from all over the world. They provide a unique insight into the animal life of the Karoo long before the advent of birds, mammals and man. The fossils on discover play in the Reinet Museum in Graaff-Reinet are from an extensive collection made over an 18-year period from localities in the Graaff-Reinet district by Mr. Alex T Bremmer.


    Camdeboo National Park is characterized by sedimentary rocks of the Beaufort series and lies well within the great geological system known as the Karoo Supergroup. Examination of the hills and koppies around Graaff-Reinet soon reveals the layered nature of the rock formations reflecting their origin as banks of sand or clay laid down by stream action. Rocks of the Karoo Supergroup were formed from mud, sand and clay washed by slow meandering rivers into the low –lying marshy Karoo Basin which existed around 200 million years ago. At this time Southern Africa was a vast flat land at the heart of the super-continent Gondwanaland, where lush vegetation supported a large and varied animal population: dinosaurs and the early ancestors of the warm-blooded mammals were abundant. Sand and mud slowly accumulated on the plain and eventually deposits reached great thickness. Time and pressure converted the sediment to hard rock, forming the sandstones and shales, which today is a feature of the Karoo landscape.

    A general upliftment of southern Africa many millions of years after the Karoo Period came to an end, caused erosion by fast seaward flowing rivers and streams to carve into the Karoo sandstones and shales. A mass of material eroded from the Karoo Basin was dumped into the sea, where it now constitutes the continental shelf. Today geologists can see much of the history of the Karoo Supergroup by studying sections cut through the rocks by natural weathering. A particularly thick sill of dolerite may be seen in the hillsides surrounding the Valley of Desolation. The Valley itself was formed by erosion along a narrow steep sided cleft on the side of the mountain, probably caused from stresses in the earth's crust a few million years after the dolerite was emplaced. The prominent rock pinnacles were formed by erosion along vertical cracks in the dolerite – cracks that developed as the magma solidified and contracted while cooling

    180 – 160 million years ago, volcanic eruptions laid waste to much of Africa. Not all of the molten rock (called Magma by geologists), which was generated deep in the earth's crust was able to find its way to the surface. Enormous quantities were forced into cracks and fissures in the sandstones and shales, while more found its way into the spaces between the layered sediments. On solidification the magma formed the rock known as dolerite, which forms horizontal layers and vertical sheets (sills and dykes) that are characteristic features of Karoo scenery today.

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    Camdeboo National Park supports a diverse spectrum of wildlife (see also information on birds).

    Many of the animals show a variety of adaptations to survive in the arid and unstable environment of the Karoo. The springbok is remarkably well-adapted, deriving its water requirements as a by-product of metabolism and seldom, if ever, needs to drink.

    The herpetofauna has been well-documented and includes five frog, five tortoise, 19 lizard and 10 snake species.

    Four fish species are found within the park.

    Outbreaks of the brown locust and cyclical eruptions of the harvester termite and karoo caterpillar and their influence on the vegetation, are characteristic features of this unstable but resilient ecosystem.

    Forty-three mammal species are found within the park of which 11 are rodents and 13 carnivores.

    The crepuscular bat-eared fox is often seen hunting by the use of its large ears to locate insects while the communal behaviour of the suricate (meerkat) can be fascinating to watch.

    Vervet monkeys, seen often with tails shortened to varying degree by aggressive interaction within the troop, inhabit the Acacia forests and adjacent plant communities. These primates should never be fed, since this practice subverts their natural behaviour and creates problem animals, which may later have to be destroyed.

    Game animals regularly sighted by visitors include steenbok, springbok, blesbok and black wildebeest in open areas. Thicket inhabitants include the kudu and grey duiker which are common as well as the less often seen Cape buffalo. Red hartebeest and gemsbok are frequently observed in the transitional vegetation types. Cape Mountain Zebra may be seen from time to time but prefer the more mountainous areas of the reserve. The klipspringer is well-adapted to the rocky habitats of the park with hooves adapted to enhance their grip on the rocks due to pneumatic spaces in the tips of the hooves.

    Have a look at our species list.

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    The Karoo is arid, semi-desert country. The plant composition is unstable and influenced by the variation in rainfall, with autumn and spring rains favouring the growth of karroid plants (karoo bushes), while mid to late summer rains favour grass, taller shrubs and trees.

    The system is highly resilient, able to recover rapidly after droughts, insect outbreaks and overgrazing. However, areas of the park are still in a transitional state due to the effects of previous veld mismanagement. Unpalatable species, dwarf shrubs and poor ground cover have replaced palatable grasses and karoo bushes in areas that were overgrazed in the past.

    The diverse landscape of the park in relation to altitude, aspect and soil type has led to the development of three distinct physiognomic classes of vegetation: shrubland, succulent thicket and dwarf shrubland.

    Shrubland is located on sandstone dominated uplands above 1300 metre elevation. This vegetation displays a gradient from a moist condition, in which shrubs are separated by grasslands, to a dry condition in which inter-clump cover is dominated by dwarf shrubs.

    Succulent thicket is dominated by shrubs and succulents of sub-tropical affinity.

    Dwarf shrubland is restricted to the bottomlands where alkaline alluvial soils are encountered. It may be grassy, succulent or degraded, depending on the nature of the near-surface substrate, the frequency of precipitation and recent land-use history.

    To date 336 plant species have been collected, among which 71 families of flowering plants are represented. The most important of these are daisies (55 species), grasses (36 species), lilies (25 species) and succulent Crassula's (16 species).

    A wetland plant community occurs primarily within the water fluctuation area of the dam. The dynamic nature of this short grassland includes patches of either 'fluitjiesriet', Phragmitis communis, tamarisk, Tamarix usneoides or cosmopolitan weeds. The most common grasses in this vegetation unit include the creeping perennials Cynodon dactylon and C. incompletes.

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    People with disabilities

    No special provision is made for disabled people at this time, however, a new accessible pathway to the Valley of Desolation will be considered in the near future.

    View the accessibility features overview for Camdeboo National Park, as featured in the Rolling Inspiration magazine.

    (Please see additional information on Wheelchair Accessibility)

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