There are great campsites and then there are awesome campsites. My top ten suit my needs as an overlander. Sometimes I look for large, well maintained stands – hiking, swimming, peace and quiet and decent ablutions don’t hurt either. Most of all I look for camps which have a bit of character even if they do not tick all the boxes.
The following lists do not include bush camps which are mostly simply sublime. I have rated these camps by the great experiences we have had there and it’s by no means a “one size fits all” review.
10. Meserani Snake Park
Arusha – Tanzania – www.meseranisnakepark.com
The camp at Meserani is basic and free! Perhaps, because it is free they don’t spend too much time worrying about cleaning the ablutions or cutting the grass which is actually fine by me. You see – Meserani is run by Ma and BJ a couple of South Africans who left SA in the early 90’s. BJ is the local Land Rover expert and he has a large and well equipped workshop which Overland trucks use for running repairs. Ma runs the camp and is sweet and salty. The Snake Park Bar is amazing and has a dried crocodile hanging from the ceiling and memorabilia covering every inch except the floors. If the Rugby is on in the morning Ma will turn on the TV, open the pub just for you and ask you to please remember how many beers you take out the fridge. A great launching pad for the Serengeti / Ngorogoro. R10 burgers and breakfasts are not gourmet but they hit the spot.
9. Barra Municipal Lodge
Barra – Tofo – Mozambique.
It was “peak” season in July and we had the entire camp to ourselves. Yes the camp is a bit run down and there is no sea view but there are palm trees and a pool and as we were the only guests we had three locals attending to our Laurentina beer, firewood, prawn and any other camp needs. Dirt cheap, safe, quiet and the ablutions are charming with very good hot water showers.
8.Arch Rock Plettenberg Bay
South Africa. www.archrock.co.za
When we were still tooling around in a Series three Landy we used to head up to Arch Rock from Cape Town for a bit of R&R. Again don’t expect manicured lawns and soap dispensers but you will probably meet some interesting people like Mr. Rose who we met in 2010 on our way up the coast. Mr Rose speaks in school masters English, wears a hanky on his head, PT shorts and little else. He drives a beautiful old series two and loves long philosophical chats around the ablutions. On the beach there is a hollowed out rock which is perfect for a fire, sundowners and star gazing. The beach is also great to explore and Enricos restaurant serves awesome pizzas and will sell you ice!
This going to be a long list…
7. Kisolonza camp
Mafinga – Tanzania – www.kisolanza.com
Kisolonza is run by an English couple who settled in Tanzania quite a few years back. It is the perfect midway stop between the Malawian border and Dar Es Salaam. The campsites are great and the ablutions are a work of art. The restaurant is a thatch built over the ruins of a local house and the food is home cooked and excellent. Breakfast is also a treat.
6. Komdomo camp
Baviaanskloof – South Africa
This camp is the perfect start or end to the Baviaanskloof. It is relaxing and well maintained. There are Eagles and other wildlife doing their thing in the cliffs opposite the camp and once you have camped at Komdomo you don’t have to pay gate fees to enter the Baviaanskloof. On the Uniondale side of the Baviaanskloof there is camping at Elandspoort Game Farm. www.elandspoort.co.za. There is a farm pool to cool off in, perfect level lawn for camping and awesome star gazing at night.
5. Mikadi Beach
Dar Es Salaam- Tanzania http://www.mikadibeach.com/
Run by Chilean Lucho and his lovely, Zimbabwean wife Jo, Mikadi is the perfect place to chill in Dar. We loved lounging around in the pub listening to Lucho’s amazing music selection and sipping on a Kili while the kids scoured the beach for shells. Security is provided by the awesome, camper friendly Masai who put the fear of God into the locals. I popped out of the tent one night for a breath of fresh air and after a while felt a presence. It was one of the Masai guards sitting motionless a few metres away. He stayed that way for 20 minutes without moving a toe and yes, he was wide awake! If you are heading off to Zanzibar on the ferry, Lucho will let you park your vehicle in the camp for the entire period at no cost, if he likes you.
4. Okahandja Lodge
Okahandja – Namibia – http://www.okahandjahotel.com/
It is not well advertised but is well worth a visit. Each site has its own perfect rectangle of green lawn, a boma, water and power supply. The ablutions are beautiful but it is obvious that the area receives precious little rain as the loos do not have a ceiling- star gazing from a totally different perspective. If you run out of wood you can always borrow some from the ‘donkey’ supply. The butchery and shops are just a few km’s away and the Biltong is superb as is the Lodge Pub which serves ice cold Windhoek. We simply loved this camp as it is the perfect Overlander overnighter.
3. Jamaka Organic Farm
Outside Clanwilliam – South Africa. http://nieuwoudt-farm.com/
Most campers heading to this area will stay at the Algeria campsite. We prefer Jamaka for its solitude, crystal clear river, hiking trails and natural pools. Heading in from the N7 you will pass over the Niewoudt pass which was built by Jannie Niewoudt’s forefathers in the 1800’s. Jannie runs the Organic Farm and the campsite and is a tall KTM riding, Afrikaans version of Art Garfunkle. The best time to go to Jamaka is spring as the mountains are green and the heat is bearable.
2. Goody Villas
Inhassoro – Mozambique – www.goodyvillas.co.za
The last time we were in that neck of the woods in 2010 we stayed in Vilanculos. I fell ill and lost 15 kg’s in two weeks, the aftermarket shocks broke off the back of the Land Rover and we ended up spending thousands at a lodge while we waited for my health to improve and for the local Nigerian spares dealer to source some Land Rover suitable shocks. I smell a rat! Thus we decided in 2011 to drive past Vilanculos and give Inhassoro a try. It was a bloody good idea! The town is quiet and safe with a fantastic little bakery on the main road next to the cooldrink whole seller. Goody Villas is at the end of a dirt road which runs parallel to the beach. We set up camp next to the beach and swimming pool, braaied and watched the sun set. The next morning we watched some local children drop and pull in their drag nets. With a light breeze coming off the sea we enjoyed the evenings, mozzie free, and went to sleep to the sound of small waves 20 metres from our camp.
Cape Maclear – Malawi
Warning – Fat Monkeys is to an Overlander like me what the Bermuda Triangle is to seafarers! You might become well and truly stuck. We pre-book our campsite and park the Land Rover meters from the Lake. The pub is laid back and built into the sand on the beach and the restaurant serves awesome fish and chips, burgers and salads. The kids have an absolute riot swimming and playing. Fanta is the security guard/fixer and he will bring you fish, duck, fruit, bread, eggs, airtime- basically whatever you need and he will become a good friend as well. Fanta is the kind of guy you respect for his quiet intelligence and envy for his laid back lifestyle.
The pub is my weakness. Cold Carlsberg and a good book during the day, sitting mesmerized by the view and sunset, then hanging out with Norwegian students and various Overlanders in the evening. The music can get a bit loud in the evenings but if you ask nicely they will turn it up. We recently spent ten days there and the accommodation, bar and food bill and laundry, internet and boat trips bill was a mere R6500.00. That’s R650 per day for a family of four.
And now for my least favourite campsites.
4. Any campsite on the Kwa-Zulu Natal South Coast.
3. Storms River National Park – Garden Route.
It is mind numbingly beautiful, but the camp sites just leave me cold.
2. Pine Lodge – Port Elizabeth.
Port Elizabeth has, in my experience, a serious lack of good campsites. Pine Lodge has a lovely pool, nice ablutions, a playground for the kids, a games room and a restaurant. It is also a magnet for idiots. If you camp there on a Monday or Tuesday you should be fine but any other day is risky. Locals will book three campsites then invite 30 friends and will pump the doef doef until two in the morning. The security guards are hermaphrodites and are poep scared of being shot. It is a pity. They should be shot.
1.Any AKTV. Especially Hartenbos. Maybe it’s because I am a Soutie in a Land Rover. Nope, it’s definitely because I am a Soutie in a Land Rover.