This stunningly beautiful reserve falls within the Karoo and is home to rare plants and wildlife. It almost completely surrounds the town of Graaff-Reinet, the oldest town in the Eastern Cape. Its most famous attraction, however, is the Valley of Desolation, made up of spectacular dolerite pillars. Prehistoric fossils have been discovered on the floor of the valley. There are plenty of animals to be found, including the bat-eared fox, meerkat, vervet monkeys and Cape mountain zebra.
Game Viewing and Birds
Presently, approximately 19km of gravel roadways provide visitors with the opportunity to view the entire range of indigenous species in their preferred habitats. For birding enthusiasts, nearly 250 bird species have been recorded in the Park.
Trails and Walks
The Crag Lizard Trail (45 minutes) starts at the Valley parking area and extends for about 1.5km via the Valley viewpoints. It is marked with the Crag Lizard logo.
The Eerstefontein Day Walk starts and ends at the Spandaukop gate. There are three route options of 5km, 11km and 14km with good rest spots at Eerstefontein and Agtersfontein.
The Gideon Scheepers Trail is an hour long walk, starting at the Gideon Scheepers Monument, which commemorates a historic figure, and ending at Barbergat on the R63 to Murraysburg.
There is no charge for hiking trails in the park, apart from conservation fees.
Koedoeskloof 4×4 trail (grade 3 to 4)
This trail provides a drive to the top of the mountain, providing unique and spectacular views of the landscape. The trail can be completed with a return journey following the same track in about three hours but the Karoo tranquility and scenic vistas beg for a full day outing. The turning point of the trail, which lies on top of the mountain in the Winterhoek area of the Park, is the perfect place for a picnic lunch or tea break, with a picnic table provided here. The Koedoeskloof 4×4 trail is accessed via the Valley of Desolation gate, with the turn off to the trail well signposted about three kilometres after entering the park. No booking is necessary for those who wish to complete the trail and no fee is payable, apart from the Park conservation fee. Visitors can only attempt the trail in a 4×4 vehicle (no 2×4’s with diff lock).
Driekoppe 4×4 Trail
This is a scenic grade 2 trail. Wildlife that may be seen in this section of the park includes Cape mountain zebra, kudu, mountain reedbuck,klipspringer and baboons. The flatter bottom-lands support populations of springbok, black wildebeest and ostrich. Duiker and steenbok are also common. You can follow the track past the water supply pump, to the top of Hanglip with its panoramic view of the Camdeboo plains or follow the stream bed down Wolfkloof to the waterfall. You can also walk a circular route by following the left hand turn off. Both 2×4’s and 4×4’s can make use of the trail.
The Nqweba Dam, which covers over 1 000 hectares, provides cool relief during hot summer days and a base for a variety of water activities. Boating, canoeing, fishing and windsurfing are allowed on the dam (permit fees apply).
The Nqweba Dam attracts a wide variety of birds as well as wildlife such as buffalo, gemsbok, springbok and black wildebeest which come to drink from the waters. Fish species which occur in the dam include moggel (Labeo umbratus), common carp (Cyprinus carpio), African catfish (Clarias gariepinus), mullet (Mugil cephalus), round herring (Gilchristella aestuaria), mosquitofish (Gambusia affinus) and river goby (Glossogobius callidus).