Camdeboo is nestled in the Cacadu district of South Africa. The gateway to the mystical Karoo, rich in history and natural beauty. Breathtaking plains dotted with mountains that kiss the purple haze of the sky as you look out into the horizon.
There is a calming silence, almost uncomfortable at times if you are accustomed to a noisy city, but once you embrace it, you will never want to let it go. It allows you to reach deep into your own thoughts and it invigorates you.
The night sky is spectacular, dotted with bright stars and where galaxies are visible to the naked eye. There is a constant soft glow, it caresses the dry thirsty earth breaking the loneliness that night-fall brings. The Karoo is made for star gazing, taking you far away from your worldly existence.
We have driven through this spectacular part of our beautiful country on many occasions, never really stopping long enough to fully appreciate what it has to offer.
Including this area in our road trip was one of the most rewarding experiences. We have fallen in love with the Karoo. It’s unbearable heat during the day, its surprisingly cool evenings, its endless skies and its rich history.
Our first stop over was at Graaff-Reinet.
We decided to treat our selves to a little luxury, after traveling 850km, by staying at the historical Drostdy Hotel. There are few words that can describe our incredible experience at this boutique hotel. The rooms are opulent and comfortable, the pool areas bring welcome respite from the sweltering Karoo heat. With an onsite spa and restaurant you will find little reason to venture outside of its beautiful gardens. A definite must visit, even if its just for one night.
After a relaxing afternoon and evening at the Drostdy we decided to take a short trip to a near by town, Nieu-Bethesda. This little town was established over 130 years ago on a farm called Uitkyk. Today, very little has changed. Un-tarred roads, no street lights, a simple way of life. This little town is known for its artists, crafters, bird life and its natural beauty.
Dominating the center of the village is the old Dutch Reformed Church, as old as the town itself. It seats 700 people and still runs one of the oldest air organs in the country. It has the most beautiful stained glass windows that filter the hot Karoo sun. After a delicious breakfast at the Karoo Lamb, they serve breakfast the ENTIRE day, of hot freshly made bread, farm butter and local jams we made our way back to the Drostdy.
Next stop, Camdeboo National Park. Camping here we come! A rather stark difference to the luxury of the Drostdy. This unique 19 405 hectare park surrounds the town of Graaf-Reinett. The Nqweba Dam lies within the park and covers about 1000 hectares, supplying potable water to the surrounding towns. The park has 14 campsites that are nestled into the bush, providing you with privacy as well as immersing you into nature. If camping is not your thing, then opt for the well equipped tented chalets along the edge of the dam.
We used the park as our base camp to spend a little more time exploring Graaf-Reinet and most importantly visiting the Valley of Desolation. If you don’t have much time to spend in the area then this is the one thing that you absolutely must do as it is just a short drive just outside of town. Once you reach the viewing point you will be rewarded with an incredible view of Graaf-Reinet as well as the endless Plains of Camdeboo. The best time to visit is at sunset. Take your camera and some chilled wine, the experience will stay with you forever.
There is nothing much left to say either than, get into your car and visit this unique part of our country.
Here is our list of things to do and see in the area:
- Visit the Valley of Desolation in Camdeboo National Park at sunset
- Enjoy a game drive at Camdeboo National park, even better still camp or stay at one of their tented chalets
- Graaf-Reinet has a rich history, go back in time by visiting one of their many museums. We popped into Reinet House, Old Residency Musem and the Military Muesem which also happens to house a large collection of historical camera equipment!
- Admire the architecture of the Dutch Reformed Church (Groote Kerk)
- A day trip to Nieu-Bethesda, so much to see and do there. Take cash with you, there are no ATMs in the village.
Our short 3 days in the area were not enough to really experience everything that is on offer. Our days were jam packed with adventure and discovery and we know that this is a place we will visit again soon.