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If you’ve never stayed at Tsendze Rustic Campsite in the Kruger National Park (read why Kruger is the centre of Africa’s soul), you’ve never experienced how great camping can be. Last year I raved about this camp (about 7km from Mopani) and I’m raving about it again this year. Here’s why.

 

12 things I love about Tsendze Rustic Campsite

1. Hate getting into a tug-of-war to secure a site at the increasingly busy Kruger campsites? I do. That’s why the camping-only Tsendze is bliss. There are just 34 sites and before you arrive you can request the specific site you want by phoning Mopani reception. (See camp layout here.) Tsendze’s following is such that people book their special favourite up to a year ahead.

2. Each site is carved out of the natural bush. This gives you some privacy and a sense of being in ‘the wild’ even though there’s a perimeter fence for security. Many sites are along the fence, so you don’t miss out on passing animals. But unlike at other camps that also have perimeter sites, you don’t have to sacrifice your personal space to enjoy front-row seats.

3. The campsites are generously sized and come with everything a camper could want – bin, room to spread out, braai, water tap nearby, and shade for at least part of the day (our favourite site has an appleleaf tree).

Kruger National Park

4. The rustic nature of the camp means there are no power points at the sites, but you still have solar/gas power for the ablutions and kitchen. (Don’t fret, there are communal gas freezers for those who don’t come equipped with their own battery-powered fridges.)

5. Some people like all the bells and whistles of electricity, shops, restaurants and fuel stations, but I prefer the peace that comes from their absence at Tsendze.

6. Three cheers for Rodgers Hobyane and Elina Mona, who look after the camp. They’re high up on the list of reasons to love the place, friendly and helpful in a way that’s won them many hospitality awards. They come around in the evening to check everything is okay, or perhaps to share the secret hiding place of an owl. They’ll go out of their way to help you – even at their own expense, as when Rodgers offered the use of his own newly-acquired car so visitors could get the part they needed from Phalaborwa.

Tsendze camp, kruger national park

7. Nowhere in Kruger – or possibly in South Africa – will you find such a clean braai. Most places think sweeping out the dead ash constitutes cleaning a braai; not Rodgers and Elina. They have magic system of cleaning that leaves it as good as new day after day. We usually put our own folding braai grid on top of a braai so our meat doesn’t have to touch the age-old grease and ash left behind by previous fires, but at Tsendze we slap the meat directly onto the spotless braai, no question.

8. The same care and cleanliness can be found in the thatched ablutions and kitchens.

Tsendze camp, kruger national park kruger national park

9. A nice touch is outdoor showers for a spot of star-gazing while you wash away the heat of the day. For traditionalists or cold-snap visitors, there are standard indoor versions too.

10. Tsendze (as a sign announces near the gate) is a low noise impact facility, so it generally tends to draw people who enjoy nature and are more interested in listening to the sounds of the bush than making a noise themselves. No generators are allowed.

Tsendze camp, kruger national park

11. You won’t be plagued at your campsite by thieving vervet monkeys or baboons because there are none here. You may, however, have some excitement when an elephant decides to try to push down the fence!

12. There are some fab game viewing points in the area, like  the Nashawu waterholes and Tihongonyeni on the Capricorn Loop.

 

Bonus point

You can still go on an early morning bushwalk or sunset drive from Tsendze; a guide from Mopani will pick you up from the entrance gate to Tsendze and drop you off again.

 

Check out more of the best bush campsites in South Africa

 

Two things I dislike about Tsendze Rustic Campsite

1. On one of the nights we were there, our nearest neighbours were a couple with a small toddler and a baby. The toddler was into screaming, the baby into crying. Don’t shoot me, but I think children under 10 or 12 shouldn’t be allowed at Tsendze, so as to maintain the special atmosphere of peace in what SANParks itself calls a ‘low noise impact’ camp. Duty managers are aware of any disturbances but they’re not always easy to resolve tactfully and peaceably. Let me know in the comments below whether you agree or disagree.

2. But the thing I hate most is having to leave Tsendze behind until our next Kruger trip.

 

Tsendze Rustic Campsite, Kruger National Park

Book Tsendze Rustic Camp Site through SANParks.

Tel 012-428-9111 or reservations@sanparks.org.

Once you have the booking you can phone Mopani reception, tel 013-735-6535/6, to request a specific site.

Price: R190 a night.



48 Responses to “12 reasons why Kruger Park’s Tsendze camp is tops”

  1. Lynda Besaans

    I fully agree about the kids under 10 not being permitted at the low noise camps.

    Reply
  2. Elmarie Malan

    Agree on no children under 10 please! Thank you very much for a great article about a wonderful campsite!

    Reply
  3. Roxanne

    Thanks for your votes, Elmarie and Kit. If enough of you express your opinions (for or against), we can take the issue to management for consideration.

    Reply
  4. Louis Scheepers

    Dear Roxanne.
    Regarding your comment about the children under 10 or 12. As always the problem is not the exuberance and exitement of any child but the lack off guidence by the parents. We have the same problem in Sirheni occasionaly. The problem being that parents don’t teach there children how to conduct themselves in the bush camps and the more rustic camps. We have managed to teach our son how to respect nature and the fellow nature lovers who have come to enjoy it also. It’s not that hard and we will do it again with our second son off six month’s. You are welcome as a neighbour in Sirheni or any other camp any time.

    Best wishes.

    Regards

    Louis Scheepers

    Reply
    • Roxanne

      You make a good point, Louis, that it’s not the children but the parents to blame. I wish that all parents were such sensitive nature park neighbours and good role models for their young ones as you obviously are.

      Reply
  5. mario fazekas

    We are with you Roxanne on noise levels and agree wih Louis as to the primary cause. In most cases it is the uncaring, selfish parents. We were staying at Shimuwini (for peace and quiet!) and 2 families about 4 cottages away had given their 4 kids spotlights so they were running around the camp sceaming, shouting and shining the lights everywhere (repeatedly in our and our neighbour’s eyes) from about 20h00 until 22h00, while the parents had their ‘peaceful’ braai.

    In some cases we have been sitting in a hide and adults come in talking loud and kids that have been sitting quietly next to us have to ask them to please keep quiet! In other cases it has been drunk adults that party all night and cause the noise. We don’t have children but are making the point that some people, regardless of age, get it (that the parks are for enjoying wildlife and that means being quiet) while others don’t get it or couldn’t care. (We often wonder why some people go to the parks!?)

    Reply
    • Roxanne

      You make some good points, Mario. Of course, when it’s kids disturbing the peace it’s still the parents’ fault for not educating them better, or reacting to put a stop to inconsiderate behaviour. But we have to acknowledge that, even with the best will in the world, it’s sometimes difficult for parents to control babies and very small toddlers. In a camp like Letaba, for instance, you can take your baby for a pram ride away from other campers or chalets, to calm him/her down; that option isn’t available at Tsendze in any case. Take small kids out of the equation in a low-noise facility and you solve the problem.

      In cases where drunken adults are noisy, I usually find that a word in the ear of the Duty Manager can get things back on track. Of course I feel sorry for managers who have to endure bad attitude from visitors, but isn’t it part of their job to make sure visitors abide by the rules of considerate behaviour?

      Reply
    • Louis Scheepers

      Two years ago we were at Mopani in one of their units with a view (# 43) , wonderfull unit I must say. We had the joy of staying next to a group of pesioners who were all from somewhere in Limpopo , I think. What a racket. It’s not the children only my friends. Lot’s of champagne breakfasts.

      Reply
  6. Beryl Venter

    We were camping at Tsendze from 13 – 15 August and what a feast to be in the bush!! We will for sure go back there. It is the cleanest and friendliest camp in Kruger (actually the ONLY clean camp site). Rodger and Elina came around every evening to chat with us.

    I fully agree with no children under 12. I love children but because of parents not controlling their children, they annoy other campers. We had a family with three todlers and they wery very noisy. Shower time was the worst. I’m sure the people at Mopanie could hear the children screaming.

    Reply
    • Roxanne

      I’m so conflicted about telling people how fabulously clean and friendly Tsendze is, Beryl. I worry that next time we want to go there, it will be booked up! I haven’t stayed at Maroela near Orpen, but I believe that’s also really nice.

      Reply
  7. MIKE COTTON

    RESPECT YOUR NEIGHBOUR SHOULD APPLY THROUGHOUT THE KNP AND PARTICULARLY AT A LOW NOISE IMPACT FACILITY. wOULDN’T IT BE NICE IF THE MUSIC FREAKS AND THE LOUD MOUTHS AVOIDED KRUGER ENTIRELY?.

    Reply
  8. Lindsay bethlehem

    absolutely agree no kids – had the exact same experience. the parents were just as noisy. have complained to SANparks – they say they cant put an age restiction as it is a national park,. thants nonsense. there is an age restriction on bushwalks? no alcohol allowed. etc. so they can make rules. they just wont.

    Reply
    • Terry van Zyl

      I fully agree with age restrictions on bush walks. I’ve been on walks where it can be seriously dangerous to young AND old, therefore the min/max age allowed. In the Kruger we’ve walked to 20 meters from a pride of lions, close to elephants and rhinos, one women almost stepped on a puff adder which the rangers did not even see, many kilometers away from a vehicle or camp and with not even radio contact. This is a different danger than sitting behind a fence. No kids, please.

      Our kids are used to the bush, without fences or doors. Several times a year we visit a private game farm on the Olfantsriver near Hoedspruit and during the year we visit other farms in Limpopo and the Northern Province where they can cycle or walk with us (if the big-5 is not there). Since the age of 5 they were introduced to open vehicle game drives where they can get to almost touching distance from ellies, a few meters away from lions, rhino, leopard, etc. They learned from that age to keep quiet, does not matter what, in respect for the wonderful animals, the experience and not to frighten an animal close by. On the farm we can go when we want, where we want, day or night. No restrictions except for sensible safety rules. The Kruger has fences, closed cars, etc. , something they also understand as rules to protect the normal public with much less knowledge about the veld and dangerous animals, but they still like it and know how to behave.

      We are keen wildlife photographers and will sit for long periods at waterholes and they will stay quiet, look around to see if they can spot something we didn’t or just enjoy what they see. They will not open a packet of crisps or a sweet as they know the sound is disturbing to the animals and others. They will check their beds every night for snakes and scorpions and can identify most snakes, a Parabuthus scorpion and even the gender of most animals.

      Torture? No, they will be in the bush all day long if they can and count the days to the next outing.

      I can’t see why they and other similar kids must be restricted from visiting Tsendze or Balule. Rather restrict parents who can’t teach their kids how to behave in nature and to respect other people at the same time

      Reply
      • Roxanne

        Your children are doubly blessed, Terry. Parents to teach them and a love of the bush. Perfect. We need more families like yours. Learning that respect for nature early is so important for future conservation.

        Reply
  9. Kim Smith

    Had our first stay at Tsendze last December. Unfortunately our campsite had NO shade, the Mopani worms were out in full force, chomping away at what should/could have been our shade and it was as hot as hades!! Apart from the temperature discomfort (mid summer, so we didn’t expect anything less), and also now knowing that we can pre-book a shady site, we certainly will go back. Rodgers and Elina are awesome, the camp facilities are clean and well maintained and we had fantastic elephant sitings. We are planning to start taking our grandson of 4 years old with us on weekend trips and will certainly teach him the correct way to behave in the bush and at camp.

    Reply
    • Roxanne

      Well Rodgers and Elina can’t change the December heat, can they?! I’m sure you’ll enjoy your return trip, Kim.

      Reply
  10. Andri McKenzie

    This is such a tough one. We stay in Mpumalanga and therefore travel to Kruger regularly. We enjoy camping as well as staying in chalets. My husband and I travelled Kruger for 8 years, before our daughter was born. We find that since then, we try so hard to consider all the people around us, that we don’t enjoy the experience as much. Our daughter is really very good (now aged 31 months), and understands that she is not allowed to disturb others. We have completely stopped camping and now only stay in units whenever we go to Kruger, in order to make sure we can close the door if our daughter is noisy. But we so miss the camping experience, and specifically Tsendze, as this was one of our favourite campsites. I get both sides of the argument. In the end it boils down to inconsiderate people spoiling the experience for everyone.

    Reply
    • Laura

      Good for you Andri, your consideration is appreciated, thank you! We also stayed in Chalets when our children were small. The time does pass and I can assure you you will all enjoy camping again sooner than you think!

      Reply
  11. Brian

    Hi there
    I cannot fault Louis, however, i do believe that this is rather extreme exception than norm.
    I cannot agree more that the reason one goes to rustic camps is an ‘escape’.
    This actually causes more internal aggression because you are so trapped.
    A response like ‘They also have a right top be here’ in threatening tone is also uncalled for and firm, set standards and norms is the only rule

    Reply
  12. Stu E Dee

    Stunning campsite with stunning management – they could teach most camps I’ve been to a thing or two! And no kids under 30 would suit me!

    Reply
  13. Rika

    It is one of our favourite spots for the same reasons. And do not forget the occasional elephant visit into the camp :-). Unfortunately agree with the kids under 12 issue; we are normally lucky but on the last visit have had quite a rowdy crowd and babies crying – fortunately we were on the opposite side of the camp – felt sorry for the campers close; not something one wants in a rustic camp.

    Reply
  14. Laura

    I would like to say that a tragedy is not too far…unfortunately! (I do not want to refer to what happened at Lower Sabie in January as I do not know the full circumstances) but have witnessed absolute negligence on behalf of parents at most camps in Kruger. We also love Tsendze and fortunately have had no disturbing behavior there, but, at Letaba and Mopani I have seen little ones running up to the fence whilst elephants are grazing next to it. Some have even picked up sand and thrown it at the animals, to the extent where the elephant has shown annoyance and even trumpeted…who is going to be held accountable when the ‘beast’ retaliates??? It would not take much for a tusk to gore a child through the fence! Children need to learn to appreciate the wild but this cannot be done without parental supervision! Young children cry…it’s a fact (we have 4…now adults), they should not be allowed into the rustic camps and ALL children should be supervised at ALL times at ANY camp. P.S. No bicycles should be allowed either ;)

    Reply
    • Roxanne

      You raise an important issue. Unfortunately, if something goes wrong, it’s the animals that will get blamed. As humans we need to learn that we’re the ones out of place in places like Kruger!

      Reply
  15. Heinz

    I agree fully with your comments about Tsendze!
    We’ve been cmping there three years on the trot. My brother and his family more than 5 years now.
    Just want tongive my opinion about children. If you take away one of the few opportunities for kids to camp in the “bush” like at Tsendze i think it is selfish. Both my brother’s and my kids have been camping there from the age of 6 months. They are coached and taught about bush “manners” from an early age. Yes there has been a cade where our baby was unhappy for a night when she had flu last year, but nothing that annoyed the neighbours.
    I strongly feel that we should offer our kids the opportunity from a young age to learn about and appreciate the bush. Otherwise how will they learn? Not on their ipads!
    But thats just me.

    Reply
  16. David Coetzer

    Roxanne which sites have the best shade and do you prefer close to the fence? Kids should be controled by the big kids (adults)

    Reply
    • Roxanne

      Rodgers Hobyane, the oracle on all things Tsendze, says the best site for shade is 21, but a drawback is that it’s not along the fence. The other is site 15, says Rodgers. From my own experience, many of the sites have shade for at least part of the day – you just have to deicde when shade is more important to you, and then place your tent/trailer/van appropriately. After all, the sites are big enough to give you some choice in the matter. Hope that helps.

      Reply
  17. Dena

    I have no children and have never been to Tzende however I read these comments with interest. I agree that often childrens behaviour and noise levels are more about parent behaviour – however children are children and will have their moments! I cannot see that restricting children will help in ensuring responsible park loving adults are encouraged for years to come. So important for the furture of our beautiful KNP as we know it! Any restrictions like this could make the park seem less family / children friendly – sending families to other areas – leaving the park with less and less young adults visiting.

    Reply
  18. Sybil Regan

    Although I am a grandmother of 5 (fortunately all brought up to consider the comfort of others) I must agree that little ones do not have a place in low noise camps. I think a limit of 12 years is a little harsh, as children over five year old should be controlled by their parents. No matter how hard the parents try, a toddler who is unhappy will raise his or her voice, and thus will be a problem. I suggest an age limit of 5 or so, and then the parents MUST be held accountable. I realise this puts an enormous burden on the manager of the camp, but unfortunately, that is one of his / her duties.
    I am looking forward so much to my first visit to Tsendze. Thank you for a great article.

    Reply
    • David Coetzer

      Sybil I agree with you about the age limit at 5 as all the younger kids are in danger of contracting malaria as they cannot take medicine against it

      Reply
    • Roxanne

      Thanks for the compliment. And yes, I could live with your 5-year-old restriction. That’s the age when little ones find it hard to understand reason and logic, so the whole ‘we’re in the bush so we need to be quiet’ stuff probably doesn’t have much appeal yet!

      Reply
  19. Raihaan

    Thank you for writing this articl on Tsendze. A very beautiful rustic campsite.My favourite. I visit the park about
    4 times a year and try my best to camp at least one night at Tsendze.I’ve camped at Balule and recently at Maroela as well and havent found a better camping area than Tsendze.Its one of the most,if not the most secluded camping area in the park.Its close to Mooiplaas picnic area,one of my favourite picnic spots as well as being close to the birdviewing hide.Its not far from the tropic of capricorn loop which has a dam with alot of animal activity,I’ve seen roane,tsesebe,goshawks,koribusturds,jackals,steenbok,as well as eland on that loop.Its not far from Stapelkop Dam as well so you have a variety of places to choose for your drive.Rodger and Elina are very lovely and helpful people.They know the campsite like the back of their hand.They will tell you which campsite tends to get muddy when it rains,which one has more shade etc.Its a must for those who love a quiet,rustic camp.If you dont visit Tsendze you havent visited the Kruger.

    Reply
  20. Terry van Zyl

    Roxanne, thank you for the fantastic review about Tsendze. It’s the type of camp we like as well.

    Earlier this year we stayed at Balule after the floods. We were there during the first week after the camping site was completed and alone in the camp, no other visitors as most of them cancelled. They started the new freezers that morning, the varnish on the bathroom doors was still sticky. The fence was totally new, so were the taps and the only untouched part of the lapa was the roof. The couple who look after the camp were also friendly but kept to their own. They showed us where the water level was and it scary to think what it must have looked like. They had to evacuate in the middle of the night. During the day the workers were busy finishing the bungalows to reopen them in time for the upcoming holiday. Even they worked without making a noise. This is the beauty of these no frills bush camps where the noisy average Mr & Mrs Public don’t come to visit. It spoils the true nature lover. Full marks to KNP for restoring Balule to it’s former self.

    Reply
    • Roxanne

      You’re right, Terry, these rustic camps are fabulous and they spoil us rotten – specially when you have it to yourself, you lucky people! When we were at Kruger in July, the causeway across the river at Balule was still closed (affecting your game drive direction from the camp), but apparently it’s due to reopen in mid-November 2012 so no doubt Balule will be jiving over the holidays.

      Reply
  21. Natalie

    Hi there. We have booked to go to Tsendze for the first time in December – it’s going to be hot and busy. Can you recommend campsites that are shaded and quiet (as far away from other people as possible – just cannot do noise in the bush at all!). Many thanks

    Reply
  22. Cobus

    It sounded great until I read the comments – you guys make it sound like a concentration camp. Will rather go somewhere else.

    Reply
  23. Pierre du Toit

    Which campsite would you recommend at Tsendze during winter times?
    How long before you arrive can you specify the campsite number?

    Reply
  24. Marinda Drake

    I always say to my husband that no kids under 12 should be allowed in Kruger. We never had a problem at Tsendze, which is my favourite camp. Lots of screaming children at the other camps, I don’t even want to camp in another “regular” camp. Just read all the comments. I thought it was just me who don’t want to hear children when I am in the bush.

    Reply
  25. abe

    Interesting comments about kids. I don’t have any kids myself, so I guess I should be in the no-kids camp, but my first instinct is definitely in the opposite direction.

    For one thing, I believe KNP is a great family destination. Kids learn a lot there and most importantly learn to respect and love nature. This I know is true from my personal experience and I know that many of my friends and family have the same background and fond childhood memories. We need kids in KNP to create a next generation of conservationists.

    I would also like to think that the bush is there primarily for the wildlife and that it belongs to them. In KNP we humans get a special glimpse into that world that is quite magical and which I believe we should regard as a great privilege and not a right.

    My point is, none of us really belong there. The animals do. So if you want to throw out kids, you might as well throw out all humans. The noise, smell, fires, rubbish, etc. that we all create every time we are there (even if we think we’re well-behaved conscientious campers) is not part of the wildlife and is a disruption to that wildlife.

    Having said all that, looking at the opinions above, a case could be made to say that some no-kids camps may be an attractive commercial proposition, which in turn might help support the conservation effort. That could be a very good thing. I would be quite curious to find out how many folks supporting the no-kids rule would be willing to pay extra for this luxury.

    Reply

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