Karoo Nature Reserve, Graaff-Reinet
The town is surrounded by the Karoo Nature Reserve (area 16,000ha/40,000ac), established in 1975, which takes in Spandau Kop, Van Ryneveld Dam (formed by the damming of the Sundays River) and the Valley of Desolation.The semi-desert landscape of the Great Karoo has steadily expanded over the last hundred years and now occupies a third of the area of South Africa. The main factor in this expansion has been overgrazing by sheep. Beasts of prey have been eliminated and the variety of vegetation reduced. The establishment of the Karoo Nature Reserve was designed to put a stop to this development, at least within a restricted area. Various species have been reintroduced, including mountain zebras, black wildebeests and springboks. Since an encounter with some of the larger mammals may be dangerous, visitors are not allowed to leave their cars in the Game Viewing Area. Walking is permitted in certain parts of the reserve subject to previous notification.
Valley of Desolation
The most striking natural feature round Graaff-Reinet is the deep, narrow gorge known as the Valley of Desolation, to the west of the town (reached from Murraysburg road; entrance signposted; always open). The steep access road, climbing to 1,500m/4,920ft, ends at a parking area from which there are footpaths to various viewpoints. To the south can be seen the Great Karoo, to the east Graaff-Reinet, to the north the Sneeuberg Mountains.
Nieu Bethesda, South Africa
50km/31mi north of Graaff-Reinet (31km/19mi on R 57, then side road running northwest) is the little town of Nieu Bethesda, famed for the Owl House, with a collection of work by the eccentric sculptor Helen Martins, who lived a solitary life here.
Nqweba Dam (formerly Van Ryneveld Dam) Game Viewing Area
The area round Nqweba Dam, to the north of Graaff-Reinet, is a bird sanctuary. The Dam itself has an area of 1,000ha/2,500ac.To the north of the Dam is the Game Viewing Area, which among other species contains Cape buffaloes, elands, kudus and springboks.
Karoo Nature Reserve Pictures
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