Camdeboo National Park celebrating ten years as a national park

OCTOBER 30, 2015

Camdeboo National Park, bordering the town of Graaff-Reinet in the Eastern Cape on Friday celebrated ten years under the management of South African National Parks (SANParks).

Park staff gathered at its lapa this afternoon to celebrate the momentous occasion with local stakeholders from the municipality, business, members from the tourism industry and other partners.  Balloons, birthday cake, a good old South African potjiekos lunch and a short stroll down memory lane of the park’s history and what led up to its proclamation were the order of the day.

The 19 405ha Park is best known for being home of the world-renowned Valley of Desolation.  Proclaimed a scenic national monument in 1939, the Valley is a popular drawcard for hikers, photographers and nature lovers alike.  The original road leading up to the valley was constructed by labourers using picks, shovels and barrows. 

It was tarred in 1978, offering visitors easier access to a number of spectacular viewpoints along the way, culminating in a short walk to the Valley itself.  Here, visitors can enjoy what is also known as the Cathedral of Mountains – piled dolerite columns set against the backdrop of the plains of the Great Karoo.  The landscape is said to be the product of erosive and volcanic forces of nature over a period of more than 100 million years.

It is also along the valley road from where one can enjoy unique views of the historic town of Graaff-Reinet, set like a jewel within a horseshoe bend of the Sundays River.  Black eagles are known to frequent the area, from where nature lovers have a chance of viewing them at close range.

Prior to its proclamation as a national park on 30 October 2005, the area was known as the Karoo Nature Reserve, which was established in 1979.  Following an extensive process of negotiation and discussion between government, conservation groups, and concerned stakeholders, Marthinus van Schalkwyk, former 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 Wildlife Fund in South Africa (WWF-SA), which donated the 14 00 hectare Karoo Nature Reserve to be the centrepiece of the project.

Over the past decade, Camdeboo has evolved significantly.  A number of activities are on offer in the Park – self-drive game viewing, 4x4 trails, a number of walking trails which allows one to explore the Park on foot, picnic sites, bird viewing from the Khwalimanzi Hide as well as a selection of water sport activities on the Nqweba Dam.

As recently as April 2012, Camdeboo welcomed its first ever overnight guests to the Lakeview Tented Camp and Nqweba Campsite, situated on the floodplains of the Nqweba Dam.  Since then the rest camp, small as it may be in comparison to most others in SANParks, has received exceptionally positive feedback from overnight guests.  Perhaps it is the quaintness that makes it so special.

Caption:  Camdeboo Municipal Manager, Rev Noel Pieterson, Acting Park Manager Anban Padayachee, Camdeboo Municipality Mayor, Hannah Makoba and SA National Parks Regional General Manager, Dries Engelbrecht celebrate the Park’s 10th anniversary under SANParks.