Cradled in a crook of the Sundays River and surrounded by the Camdeboo National Park lies GRAAFF-REINET with its unique old-world character – the town known as the ‘GEM OF THE KAROO’.
Graaff-Reinet is named after Cornelis Jacob van de Graaf and his wife Cornelia Reynet and is the fourth oldest settlement in South Africa (after Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Swellendam). The town was established in 1786 and thus experienced four changes of supreme government – including the proclamation of the so-called ‘Republic of Graaff-Reinet’. The fascinating HISTORY are well-depicted and told in the following MUSEUMS:
Reinet House: Once the home of Rev Andrew Murray and Charles Murray for over 80 years, it was completed in 1812 and fully restored in 1947, it opened up as a cultural history museum in 1956. In the garden of the estate is what is perhaps the largest Black Acorn vine in the world, still producing grapes to this day. The vine was planted in 1870.
Military History Museum: The museum provides an overview of the military history of Graaff-Reinet dated 1800’s until 30 June 2007. The museum also exhibits Anglo Boer War and the Graaff-Reinet Commando (First World War).
Old Library Museum: The Old Library exhibits Karoo Fossils, Slavery, the Long Road to Restitution, Mangaliso Robert Sobukwe as well as Stone-Age Artefacts and Rock Art exhibitions.
Old Residency: The museum exhibits Jan Felix Lategan historical firearms collection, fine collection of musical instruments and houses the history of Nqweba Dam – previously known as the Van Rhyneveld Pass Dam.
National Monuments: The War Memorial (‘Victory Peace Angel’), The Huguenot Monument, The Union Monument, Gideon Scheepers Memorial, Krugersdorp Monument, Anglo-Boer War Memorial, Monument to the Independent Colony of Graaff-Reinet, Andries Pretorius Monument and The Monument to Jewish Pedlars.
Graaff-Reinet has long been renowned for its attractive and well-preserved HISTORICAL HOMES AND BUILDINGS with its Cape Dutch architecture. The Cape Dutch Architecture can be seen throughout the town, especially in Parsonage Street, Cradock Street and Stretch’s Court.
Designed to resemble the neo-Gothic lines of England’s Salisbury Cathedral, the NG Groot Kerk is considered to be the finest church of its kind in the country.
The CAMDEBOO NATIONAL PARK, nestled in the horseshoe bend of the Sundays River and protected by the Sneeuberg mountains, is 19457 ha and virtually encloses Graaff-Reinet. The park includes the Valley of Desolation and the Nqweba Dam.
– Game regularly sighted by visitors are steenbok, springbok, blesbok, black wildebeest, cape buffalo, kudu, grey duiker, red hartebeest, gemsbok, cape mountain zebra and the klipspringer. The herpetofauna has been well-documented and includes 5 frog, 5 tortoise, 19 lizard and 10 snake species. Four fish species are found within the park; as well as forty-three mammal species of which 11 are rodents are 13 carnivores. The bat-eared fox is often seen hunting and vervet monkeys in groups are often sighted.
– BIRD WATCHERS have 225 bird species to observe and photograph.
– The National Park also offer HIKING TRAILS for the energetic hikers.
The VALLEY OF DESOLATION with its sheer cliffs and precariously balanced columns of dolerite which rise 120 metres from the valley floor, against the timeless backdrop of the vast plains of the Camdeboo is a magnificent and unforgettable site to see. The cliffs and columns are the products of volcanic and erosive forces of nature over 100 million years.
– The Valley is also the home of BLACK EAGLES and their fledglings who are documented by bird watchers.
– STAR GAZING is also a favourite passtime in Graaff-Reinet since the clear night skies are studded with countless stars and huge bright planets – even other glalaxies are visible with the naked eye – offering some of the best star gazing in the world.
David Mc Naughton from Karoo Connections Tours and Safari’s offers guided tours to the Camdeboo National Park, The Valley of Desolation, Historical Museums and Sites as well as Township Tours.
Graaff-Reinet boasts two ART MUSEUMS, namely the Hester Rupert Art Museum and the Jan Rupert Centre. The town also hosts the KAROO-LUS FESTIVAL every year – a cultural and musical festival not to be missed.
OBESA CACTI AND SUCCULENT GARDENS:
The largest variety of cacti and succulents in Africa and gardens that regularly receive exposure in international plant and travel magazines.
NIEU-BETHESDA – distance 52 km from Graaff-Reinet
THE OWL HOUSE: The late Helen Martins (born December 1897) dedicated the latter part of her life to transforming her ordinary Karoo home into a fanfare of colour and light. The result is The Owl House – often cited as South Africa’s finest example of outsider art.
KITCHING FOSSIL EXPLORATION CENTRE: The centre tells the story of life in South Africa 253 million years ago and exhibits fossils dated to a time 50 million years ago.
GANORA EXCURSIONS: At Ganora farm visitors can visit Bushman paintings and engravings and Anglo Boer War engravings.
Nieu-Bethesda hosts the well-known FUGARD FESTIVAL every year – usually during September of each year.
For further information visit www.graaffreinet.co.za