Surrounded by natural splendour and rich in history, Graaff-Reinet features a wealth of fascinating and awe-inspiring attractions. The town is almost entirely surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park, which beckons guests to explore the wild. There is striking beauty and serenity in the land’s vastness, and one of the most incredible vantage points from which to take this in is at the top of the
Valley of Desolation, within the national park. This is a wondrous spot where sunsets over the plains of Camdeboo can be soaked in.
The region generously caters to those with adventurous spirits as mountain trails provide the opportunity for guided 4×4 trips, mountain biking and hiking. In addition, Graaff-Reneit provides ample opportunity for those with a love for history and culture to feel contented. Amid the vast number of heritage sites within the town, there are a handful of museums that house memorabilia and photographs that depict the town’s interesting history. Artworks created by famous South African artists can be appreciated at the Hester Rupert Art Museum, and films and live shows can be enjoyed at the John Rupert Theatre.
Slightly further afield, in Nieu Bethesda, the Helen Martin’s Owl House Museum can be visited.
Other memorable experiences await at Graaff-Reinet’s Xhosa township, where various amenities can be visited and local cuisine can be enjoyed, at Obesa Nursery, where the largest cacti collection in the world can be viewed, or quite simply within the town itself, taking in the marvellous architecture that defines Graaff-Reinet.
Mountain Zebra National Park Tour
Take a drive over the Sneeuberg to this 28 000 ha park. From the extensive grassland plateau one is afforded panoramic mountain vistas where large numbers of Zebra, Blesbok, Black Wildebeest, Springbok, Eland and Red Hartebeest abound. The reintroduction of Cape Buffalo, Black Rhino, Cheetah and Lion make this park well worth a visit. Optional picnic or main camp lunch. All tours above can be booked through Mount Camdeboo Reservations and are offered by Karoo Connections.
Nieu Bethesda & Owl House Tour
Half or full day with Rock Art tour
Take a scenic drive to this picturesque & secluded village in the Sneeuberg little changed by time. Visit the Owl House; the eccentric Helen Martins’ fantasy world of glass & concrete and take a walk through the quaint dusty streets. Relax at a craft brewery or a coffee shop, take in an art gallery or two and see the talents of emerging township artists at the Bethesda Arts Centre. Optional lunch at local restaurant.
The Paardefontein Battle Site Tour
Half or full day
Visit the hidden valley where the Boer Cmdt Lotter laagered up with 130 men on the wet, cold night of 4 September 1901. Lt-Col Scobell’s column consisting of the 9th Lancers, the Cape Mounted Rifles & the Imperial Yeomanry; hunting Loiter with untiring energy, finally tracked him down to his hide-out and made a surprise dawn raid capturing virtually the entire commando. Relive the story of this Commando’s fateful last hours and visit the graves of those who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Optional picnic brunch/lunch.
Camdeboo National Park Driekoppe 4×4 Trail
Half or full day
An adventure into the remote and rugged mountains of the little visited 11 000 ha eastern sector of the Park. Explore a world f rocky ravines with breathtaking views over the plains of Camdeboo. Track down the rare Cape Mountain Zebra and experience a true Karoo mountain wilderness. Other wildlife often seen includes Chacma Baboon, Kudu and Klipspringer. Optional hiking trail in Fonteinkloof. Optional picnic lunch.
Camdeboo National Park Game Drive
± 2.5 hours
Experience incredible open landscapes in this 19 000 ha park. Game to be seen includes Kudu, Black Wildebeest, Oryx, Red Hartebeest, Cape Mountain Zebra, Cape Buffalo, Springbok, Eland, Vervet Monkeys and Meerkats. Birdlife abounds and Blue Crane and Denham’s Bustard can often be seen.
Camdeboo National Park Night Drive
± 2.5 hours
Depart after sunset, once it is dark enough for the powerful spotlights to become effective. An exciting opportunity to see the more elusive nocturnal creatures such as Aardwolf, Genet, Bat-eared Fox, Caracal, Aardvark and Cape Eagle Owl, as well as some of the larger mammals like Buffalo. Experience the sights and sounds of the Karoo at night with the southern stars above you.
Camdeboo National Park Nature Walk
± 2.5 hours
Take a walk on the wild side on old antelope trails through the ancient Karoo landscape. Learn about medicinal plants, unique flora and ancient geology. See the spoor of Cape Mountain Zebra, Kudu and other antelope. Touch, taste & experience the Karoo like never before.
Umasizakhe Township Tour
± 2.5 hours
Experience this vibrant and friendly community and learn about Ubuntu and the Xhosa language & culture. Take a guided walk through the township streets, visit a local project and/or a school and see the historical Royal Block. On a Sunday, one can attend a church service and hear a traditional or gospel choir.
Historical Graaff-Reinet Tour
± 2.5 hours
Take a guided walk through the architectural Gem of the Karoo. Visit landmarks & monuments including Reinet House, the Drostdy, the Dutch Reformed Church & the Graaff-Reinet Club where bullet holes in the bar-counter reveal a fascinating past.
The Graaff-Reinet Anglo-Boer War Tour
± 2.5 hours
Relive the experience of the town under martial law and visit the monuments and museums including the Military History Museum, the Anglo Boer War Memorial, the historical Graaff-Reinet Jail, a historical fire-arms collection and the Graaff-Reinet Club which has a close association with the Coldstream Guards.
One of the best ways to explore South Africa’s fourth oldest town, the daily guided walking tour allows visitors to explore the most fascinating highlights of Graaff-Reinet, including a number of national monuments, in an hour and a half. The tour commences at the Graaff-Reinet Tourism Office, situated in the Old Library Museum, on the corner of Church Street and Somerset Street. It offers excellent photo opportunities and the chance to gain insight from a knowledgeable guide.
Valley of Desolation
The Valley of Desolation, 14 kilometres from Graaff-Reinet, is an exquisite geological phenomenon which is characterised by sheer cliffs and columns of dolerite that rise up to 120 metres from the valley floor. This is the result of many years of volcanic and erosive forces. This breathtaking attraction can be absorbed by car, during hikes along marked trails or at picnic sites.
Camdeboo National Park
The Camdeboo National Park almost completely surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet, stretching from the south of the Sneeuberg mountain range to Pearston and Murraysburg. The word “Camdeboo” is derived from the Khoi language and means “green pool”. Appropriately, the reserve lives up to its name with its wonderful scenic beauty. It is home to a broad spectrum of wildlife and birdlife, including 43 mammal species and 250 bird species. Animals that are regularly sighted include the steenbok, springbok, blesbok and black wildebeest, among others.
Interestingly, a number of fossils have been discovered in the area. The reserve is also well-known for its night skies which offer some of the best stargazing in the world.