The Valley of Desolation

A guest post by Estie for Notes from Africa

During the winter holidays, I was lucky enough to go to Graaff-Reinet, a historic town in the Eastern Cape. During my research before the trip, I heard about the Valley of Desolation. Surrounding the town is the Camdeboo National Park and you have to go into the park to see the valley. But in winter the sun sets early and you have to leave the park at 18:00.

These photographs were taken in the late afternoon and early evening.

At the dolerite columns of the Valley of Desolation, looking down over the plains of Camdeboo ©2011 Estie

The Valley of Desolation is one of Graaff-Reinet’s trade-mark attractions and truly a geological phenomenon. Though called a Valley it is actually a cliff face with dolerite columns that go up about 120 meters from the valley below.

The Valley of Desolation is situated 14km North-West of Graaff-Reinet in the Camdeboo Nature Reserve. One drives up a steep, narrow road into the mountains surrounding Graaf-Reinet. There are view points and picnic areas on the way to the top. The first view point over-looks Graaff-Reinet and the Karoo expanse towards Pearston.

The next view point is at the columns itself. The walk from the parking area to the columns is worth it. Overlooking the plains of the Camdeboo is a sight to be remembered.

From: Karoo Rus site: Valley of Desolation

Looking down at the plains below the dolerite columns ©2011 Estie

I had no idea what to expect, but I dressed warmly for my trip into the park and up the mountain. Graaff- Reinet is a cold place in winter and temperatures of  zero degrees Celsius (and below) are quite common at night. At the first viewpoint you start to see the valley, and at the second one you could see it even better. They are the plains of the Camdeboo and the faraway koppies. It was truly spectacular. As the sun goes down the landscape changes colour and becomes even more magnificent.

Darkness falling over the Karoo ©2011 Estie

It is a humbling experience. Seeing something as big as this makes one feel very small. This is really an experience to remember. I tried to capture it as the colours changed but although the photos are beautiful, they are still not even close to the real thing. It is really one of the best experiences I have ever had. Put this on your bucket list!

“You can fall in love at first sight with a place as with a person” ~ Alec Waugh

Beautiful pink and violet tones as the sun sets ©2011 Estie

A daytime shot of the Valley of Desolation - CLICK TO ENLARGE (Image source:


Text and photographs (unless otherwise stated) are ©2011 Estie/


Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Guest Bloggers, Lifestyle/Travel, Nature/Environment


I am a Life Science teacher (another scientist trying to write), living near Cape Town, with a passion for nature, reading and crafts.


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20 Comments on “The Valley of Desolation”

  1. July 25, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    Hi Estie! This looks and sounds like a stunning place to visit. I always thought the Camdeboo plains were the actual Valley of Desolation. Looks pretty desolate there to me. Great photos!

    • July 25, 2011 at 3:13 pm #

      Thank you. It is rather special and not so far from you!

  2. July 25, 2011 at 10:49 am #

    Love the photos, Estie!

    This is probably a strange question with it being winter at the moment, but did you notice any bird-life while you were there?

    • July 25, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

      Thank you. We saw lots of birds in the Karoo but I did not look around me when I took the photos. If you go up earlier in the day it would give you enough time to do both. Next time.

  3. July 25, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

    Such beauty! I wonder…perhaps the plains are to the Valley of Desolation, what the Painted Desert is to the Grand Canyon?

    • July 25, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

      I will have to find out more but I think you are right. I did not know about the Painted desert, thanks for telling me, it is really great.

  4. July 25, 2011 at 2:02 pm #

    I know the feeling, every time I go to the Andes I feel that small … nature is so powerful!

    • July 25, 2011 at 3:20 pm #

      You made me think of what a read on the Sanbi website today :”Man’s heart away from nature becomes hard”.

  5. July 25, 2011 at 3:41 pm #

    Beautiful place. I know what it feels like to fall in love with a place at first sight.

    • July 27, 2011 at 7:57 am #

      Great to share a feeling. Thanks for your comment.

  6. July 25, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

    These photos are absolutely stunning, Estie! And if you can fall in love with a place just from the photos, I am, indeed, smitten!
    Thanks so much for sharing these. How breath-takingly beautiful!

    • July 27, 2011 at 8:00 am #

      It is easy to take pictures of such a beautiful place. I took a lot of pictures and Lisa picked those she liked best. Thanks for your comment.

  7. July 25, 2011 at 7:50 pm #

    Stunning. (Redundant but true.)

    • July 27, 2011 at 8:03 am #

      It is so great to share it with you. Thanks for your comment.

  8. jacquelincangro
    July 25, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    Your description of the Valley of Desolation reminds me of the way I felt standing on the rim of the Grand Canyon. It’s empowering but humbling at the same time.
    My photos just don’t do it justice, and I guess you feel the same way about your photos, even though they look beautiful to me.

    • July 27, 2011 at 8:04 am #

      Great description of the feeling! Thanks for sharing.

  9. July 27, 2011 at 1:16 am #

    I think everyone else has covered it, but yes, this looks like such an amazing place. To be there for the transition from day to night must have been humbling. Keep going out, experiencing these things, and inspiring us to do the same!

    • July 27, 2011 at 8:09 am #

      Thank you. I looked at your blog and it does not look if you need any inspiration. It seems to me you are not living with the brakes on.

  10. August 6, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    I went there with my Ex-husband about 10 years ago. It is a stunning and wonderful place. I have a passion for Southern Africa – and by that I include Namibia and Botswana.

    Thank you for the reminder of this lovely place

    • August 8, 2011 at 6:29 am #

      Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a message, Caroline! Glad to hear that you enjoyed this post and that it brought back good memories.

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