Camdeboo National Park, South Africa

Camdeboo National Park previously known as the Karoo Nature Reserve in one of South Africa’s newest National Park previously gazetted in 2005. Huge rock columns with Spandou kop (hill) in the background in the valley of desolation basically form this botanical garden park.

Although small, the Camdeboo National Park with its unique Karoo landscape and ecosystem offers an exciting variety of nature, wildlife and culture experiences besides the dramatic landscape. From the lookout point on Cave Mountain one looks down on the historical town of Graaff-Reinette. One can clearly see that the town is almost encircled by a loop of the Sundays river and the Park itself, as the river forms the boundary between the Park and the town. On the far slopes beyond the town lies still more of the Camdeboo National Park.

Facts

The Karoo Nature Reserve was established in 1979, when the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the World Wildlife Fund recognized the emergency for conservation measures within the Karoo biome and listed this course of action like a world conservation priority.

Re-named the Camdeboo National Park, it had been announced as South Africa’s 22nd National Park underneath the control and management of South African National Parks in October 2005

The greater portion of the Park is situated between 740 and 1480 metres above sea level on the foothills of the Sneeuberg mountain range. In addition a small section of the low lying-plains is included. The Park offers walking trails that range from an hour to overnight hikes, as well as picnic sites for those who simply want to gawp at the majestic rock formations.

Vegetation

The diverse landscape of the Park in relation to altitude, aspect and soil type has led to the development of three distinct classes of vegetation, shrubland, succulent thicket and dwarf shrubland. To date 336 plant species have been identified, among which 71 families of flowering plants. The most important of these are 50 species of daisies, lilies, succulent Crassula and more than 30 species of grasses.

Due to the extreme weather conditions, poor soils and increased human activity (animal grazing) in the park, most of the park’s beautiful vegetation is under danger of extinction.

Sights in the Park

The historical 19th century town of Graaff-Reinet is a prime attraction for the park. Established in 1786, the town was named after the Governor of the Cape Dutch governor Cornelis Jacob “van der Graaf” and his wife “Reinet”. Graaff-Reinet boasts many tourist attractions and adventures such as paragliding, micro-light flying, trout fishing, fossils search, golf and horse riding, mountain biking and guided township walks, to name but a few.

Gannalapa is an outdoor recreation facility development for use by the local community as well as tour groups who wish to hold a social function around picnic or ‘braai’ activities. It includes a bar, kitchen, toilets  and picnic tables.

The Nqweba Dam is a major sight in the park after the Graff Reinet town. Covering close to 1000 hactres, the dam is predominant source of water in the park.

Wildlife

There are 43 mammal species to be found within the Camdeboo National Park including 11 species of rodents and 13 carnivores. Wild animals regularly sighted by visitors include Steenbok, Springbok, Blesbok and Black Wildebeest in the more open areas. From the dense thickets are sights of Kudu and Grey Duiker, Cape buffalo, Red Hartebeest and Gemsbok. Cape Mountain Zebra may be seen from time to time, but they prefer the more mountainous areas of the reserve

At least 225 bird species have been recorded in the Park with many being endemic of the Great Karoo of South Africa. The Ostrich is perhaps the most well-known example of a bird adapted to life on the plains of the Karoo, a beautiful sight in this park.

Other birds in the park include Speckled Mousebird, Cardinal Woodpecker, Pale Chanting Goshawk, Titbabbler Longbilled Crombec, Namaqua Dove, Brownhooded Kingfisher, Diederik Cuckoo, Levaillant’s Cisticola, Lesser Honeyguide, Neddicky and Rock Kestrel among others

When to visit

Summer season are extremely hot with temperature lows of 31°C with peaks as much as 40°C. The summer adventure activities are normally done in the early morning before the break of the scorching sun. You can as well expect heavy rains and thunderstorms in the summer months especially around March. Winters can be very cold with temps calculating around 6.1°C, frequently shedding below zero at night.

Getting there

There are South Africa flights to Cape Town and for international visitors or alternatively pick charter flights with Flysaa from Port Elizabeth airport. From Cape Town travel is by gravel road to Graaff-Reinet town which is approximately 600km. Take the highway towards Beaufort West. Pass through the town of Beaufort West and then proceed 290km to Graff Reinet.

Coming from Port Elizabeth, Cambedoo National park is 251km to Graaff Reinet using the Kleminpoort- Wolwefontein highway. Take the right before reaching Wolwefontein and continue to Jansenville and Graaff-Reinet.

Hotels and Accommodation

Accommodation facilities run through the park are restricted to just one hut utilized on the trails and also the Camdeboo Environment Education Center for school groups which could accommodate as much as 40 people.

Graaff Reinet is basically the place where you’ll find overnight accommodation with a number of standard South Africa hotels and guesthouses such as The Drostdy hotel. It is the ideal base from which to enjoy worlds; the Park and the town itself with the dam and its surroundings.

The people of Graaff-Reinet are renowned for their hospitality, warmth and friendliness. Whether you decide to remain in the historic town or on the farm nearby, you’ll be bowled over by great accommodations, a warm welcome and luxury you are able to truly relax in

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