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Established in 1786, this town was named after the Governor of that time – ‘van der Graaf’ and his wife -‘Reinet’. It was only the fourth district in the Cape to receive a seat of local government or a ‘Drostdy’. Known to be a barren and untamed area, it became the outpost of white civilization for trading by the middle of the last century. The picturesque Sneeuberg Mountain Range keep watch over this typical 19th century rural town.
The town lies in the horse-shoe bend of the Sundays River and boasts more proclaimed national monuments than any other South African town. It lies in the middle of the Karoo National Reserve (15 000 ha) where another wonder of nature, Valley of Desolation, keep silent memories of times gone by.
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Graaff Reinet is the oldest town in the eastern cape with a huge number of restored historical buildings. The Gem of the Karoo, Graaff-Reinet is lying in a bend of the Sundays river and in the shadow of the rocky Sneeuberg. This mountain part off the 14 500 hectare big Karoo nature reserve with her valley of desolation. The reserve is connecting with a 1000 hectare dam. Close to Graaff-Reinet, in the shadow of the towering mountains lies Green Valley belongs trough the Camdeboo Conservancy national reserve, with a lot of creeks and a beautiful forest of trees and uncountable smaller plants.
The first inhabitants of this area gave it the name Camdeboo, meaning ‘green valley’. Although in the heart of the Karoo, there are mountains towering over you and you hear the sound of water flowing everywhere.
The secluded valley is blessed with forests and a great variety of plants. Amongst the abundant bird life iyou will find the rare black eagle which is preserved along with Cape Buffallo, the skittish duiker and klipspringer and many more plains animals. There are 26 operatring farms within the greater Camdeboo National Park, some of which offer cheap family holiday accommodation.
More than 200 buildings in Graaff-Reinet are National Monuments. A horse and carriage ride offers a introduction to the well maintained Cape-Dutch architecture of this historic place. It is also recommended to visit the Reinet House in Murray Street, the Old Residency in Parsonage Street, the Old Library and the Drostdy in Church Street.
It is also worthwhile to take a drive to the spectacular Valley of Desolation and to the Karoo Nature Reserve a few minutes northwest of the town. The 14.000 hectare reserve is well stocked with game. Particularly mountain zebra, wildebeest, springbok and gemsbok are numerous, but also many other mammal and bird species.
Whilst on your cheap family holiday in Graaff Reinet you are able to participate in numerous adventure activities such as from paragliding from the majestic mountain ranges surround the town to chartered microlight flying trips. The towns vast trout fishing in the Sundays River and golf accommodation which also include horse riding trails can also be found in the area. There are numerous budget accommodation establishments and self catering facilities in Graaff-Reinet as well as a beautiful camping facilities directly at the Sunday River.
The little Karoo hamlet of Nieu Bethesda is worth a detour. Time seems to stand still here. The access road turns off the N9 (direction Middelburg) and leads on a gravel road through the picturesque Compass mountains (2502 m).
Streets in the village are also un-tarred. There are two shops, one coffee shop and, nowadays, a couple of little accommodation venues. Many artists have settled in budget holiday town of Nieu Bethesda.
You can also enjoy a game of golf at our beautiful golf course, do wind surfing from the mountain, go on numerous hiking trails, enjoy quad bike rides, go mountain biking, participate in a large number of sporting activities and much, much more.
Graaff-Reinet lies well within the great geological system known as the Karoo Supergroup. Rocks of the Karoo Supergroup were formed from mud, sand and clay washed by rivers into the low-lying marshy Karoo Basin that existed around 200 million years ago. Examination of the hills and koppies around Graaff-Reinet soon reveals the layered nature of the rock formations, reflecting their origin as banks of sand or clay laid down by stream action.
What may normally appear to be a desolate and barren Karoo landscape to the casual observer, is a treasure chest of information to the paleontologists, as this area is in fact one of the world’s largest natural graveyards. Exposed along the slopes of the Karoo koppies and in the sides of river channels are fossilized bones from the Age of Reptiles.
These animals lived in the prehistoric Karoo marshlands and in many cases their bones and skeletons settled into the mud and sand. Their skeletons were petrified as the layers of sediment gradually hardened into stone. They provide a unique insight into the animal life of the world long before the advent of birds, mammals and man.
Sharing knowledge of an area steeped in culture, history and ecology – offering specialised tours such as:
- Boer War and Local History Tours
- Game Viewing Safaris in and Around the Klien Karoo
- Khoisan Rock Art and other Indigenous Tours
- Fossil Excursions in the Valley of Desolation
- Local Ethnic Township Walkabouts
- Guided Tours to Working Karoo Farms and Game Farms