Eastern Cape’s Camdeboo National Park, is a short and hassle-free drive from Mountain Zebra National Park, so it is easy to combine these two areas, over a few days. The Karoo landscape is stunning, and while you won’t see much game in Camdeboo, I would definitely recommend spending a couple of days exploring and relaxing. Unusually, the park horse shoes around a town, Graaf-Reinet, so it is easy to pop in and out, and the main park gate does not close until 10pm to allow for this. Do ensure that you are back by 10pm though, otherwise you’ll be looking at finding a room in a guesthouse in Graaf-Reinet (there are a number of pleasant looking B&Bs should you need to test this!).
There is only one campsite in the park, but it is probably right up there as one of my favourite SANParks campsites that I have stayed in. Each pitch is private and spaced a nice distance away from fellow campers (I hate overlooking someone else’s tent). There are braai’s and power if needed. The ablutions are very well kept and the showers are great.
One of the real highlights is the large viewing deck. Go up there with a sundowner in the evening or watch sun rise with a hot coffee in hand and you wont be disappointed. Its looks out over the Nqweba dam and when we were there, we spotted eland grazing and pelican on the water. Keep an eye out for the scrub hare, who have managed to sneak under the electric fence!
The park also offers a tented camp, cottage and a lodge for those not keen on camping.
The Valley of Desolation
Camdeboo’s main geographic attraction and I can see why. Massive, jagged dolerite columns surrounded by rocky karoo hills. There is a short walk – 1.5km – that offers some stunning views and good photo opportunities. The drive up to the site is steep, but the road is tarred. There is a nice picnic spot en-route with benches and shade.
A pleasant town just five minutes drive from the national park. Apparently home to more national monuments than any other town in South Africa, you’ll spot lovely colourful examples of Karoo architecture, the Reiner House Museum and the large Dutch Reformed Church. You can find all the usual grocery shops, banks, health care services and restaurants. It is also a good place to be if you need any work done on your car. There is a glass fitters, auto-electrical specialists, mechanics and a Toyota garage (I visited all four…!) I’d also recommend a wonderful little café called ‘Our Yard’ on Somerset Street, it has a lovely shady courtyard and the iced coffee is great. Plus you can get a jar of sticky, tasty koeksisters for R20 and there is good free wifi.