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Camdeboo National Park and the Valley of Desolation

I’ll be honest – I’d only ever heard of the Valley of Desolation and I really could not have told you where in South Africa it was before visiting the Great Karoo recently.  When Ailsa of Villa Reinet said she felt it to be the number one reason to visit the town, I knew I had to fit in a visit there, even though I only had an hour before closing time.  The R30 per person entrance fee (and no credit card facilities) would have been a problem if the entrance gate wasn’t just 5 minutes from the town centre (I’d just spent my cash on a tasty lunch at Polka, which I recommend for fresh food, a decent drinks menu and a very sunny courtyard presided over by a real live windmill.)

Anyway back to The Valley. Through the gates and a short drive to the parking area, then you follow the signs and walk up steps and along a path and suddenly – WOW.

The words breath-taking and endless are so over used when it comes to describing views, but for once they are completely appropriate. The Plains of Camdeboo – so vast – would be incredible on their own. Now add awe inspiring geological formations, towering rocks that have been referred to as a ‘Cathedral in the mountains’ and you have a view that literally makes you want to stop, sit down and just gaze in silence and awe.

Birds wheel and call far below. A caracal is spotted high on one of the rock formations. Dassies pop their heads out to say hello. Time seems to stand still.

Even if you’re more of an action adventure person than a sit and check out the view kind, don’t miss out on this beautiful, special place. And give yourself enough time to sit and breathe and take it all in. It’s like a mini detox for the soul.

All images: Jolene Bertoldi

Interesting facts

Camdeboo or Xamdeboo is a Khoi-khoi word that is thought to mean green valley.

Karoo is also a Khoi-khoi word meaning great thristland.

The name Valley of Desolation is probably a reference to the vista of endless dry plains from the viewpoint cliffs.

While you're visiting Camdeboo you can also go on 4x4 trails, enjoy picnics at various sites around the park, take in some bird and game viewing, hike, or even enjoy some watersports on the Nqweba Dam.

Where to stay

Just 50 minute away, outside the fascinating village of Nieu Bethesda, Ganora Guest Farm offers accommodation in original farmstead and outbuildings, dating back to the mid 1700's.

The farm also boasts various sites with well-preserved rock paintings and engravings. This is Hester’s area of expertise. Her enthusiasm for the subject is affectionate and visitors can look forward to an entertaining and informative talk on the subject, bringing to life 10 000 years of Bushman folklore. Even the Anglo-Boer War features in Ganoras past 

Enjoy traditional Karroo cooking, good company, much laughter and stories about the day's events. Regular fare on offer includes Karroo lamb, kudu and other game dishes, bobotie with spiced rice, organically grown vegetable dishes, koeksisters and melktert (milk tart).

Info & bookings