Looking for a bush break this winter? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We scoured all of the places we reviewed in Getaway magazine over the last year to bring you the best mix of options for an affordable bush break this winter – whether you prefer camping, tented camps, or lodges. Anywhere we haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments!
Please note: All prices were correct at time of publication, but are subject to change at each establishment’s discretion. Please confirm with them before travelling.
Bush-breaks in KwaZulu-Natal
1. Kamberg Nature Reserve
If nature reserves were neighbours, Kamberg would be the young couple who skipped across the road to welcome you with freshly baked cookies. It’s unbelievably cordial and impossible not to spy on from the bedroom window. Set inside the uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, its chalets look out at striking stone buttresses and rolling hills. Even if you visit during one of the Midlands’ rain spells, the self-catering cottages make staying indoors easy: there’s space to lounge and the kitchenette had everything necessary to cook up a winter warmer. It may not be big game country but there’s great fishing and hiking and an abundance of birdlife.
Cost: R660 for two people in a two-bed chalet. R840 for four people in a six-bed chalet (R105 per extra person).
Contact: Tel 0338451000, kznwildlife.com
2. Shayamoyo, Lake Jozini
This rustic and secluded self-catering bush camp is built around the biggest tamboti tree you’ll ever see, with a sociable braai area, open-plan kitchen and four comfortably furnished two-sleeper dome tents. Everything is gas or solar-powered, the water is hot and the loos flush. A 4×4 isn’t necessary, but you’ll need a high-clearance vehicle. Keep an eye on and an ear out for Nandi, the resident spotted owl, who might stop by your room for a visit.
(They also have a lodge: if you don’t stay in their comfortable wood, wicker and white four-star rooms, at least pop in to sample their five-star food, or have a drink and enjoy an incredible view from the bar and deck.)
Cost: From R300 a person a night (min four people, max eight).
Contact: Tel 0344351110, shayamoya.co.za
3. Inyati Lodge, Lake Jozini
Inyati is an up-market self-catering bush lodge with superb views, a swimming pool and a fully equipped kitchen. Kick back and relax on the private balcony and look for nyala, buffalo and elephant along Pongola below. Arrange a meal or two at the neighbouring Mvubu River Lodge (which has an equally superb view and is only five minutes away) or a beauty treatment at Mvubu Spa. The camp sleeps a maximum of nine people in four wooden cabins.
Cost: From R400 an adult, with a minimum daily rate of R2400.
Contact: Tel 0344351123, inyatilodge.co.za
4. Shongweni Dam campsite
Half-an-hour outside of Durban you’ll find Shongweni, a place so wild it’s hard to believe Durban’s scruffy outskirts are just 38 kilometres away. The safari-style tent at Ugede Camp on the edge of Shongweni Dam is a beautiful spot. Early in the morning, fishermen cast their lines around its shores to an orchestra of birds and frogs. Shongweni also has picnic sites, walking trails and even rock climbing on its dramatic sandstone cliffs. Game drives, guided walks and canoes can be booked at reception.
The drives are surprisingly fruitful and this relatively small, 1700-hectare reserve is split into two, with the latter home to a wide variety of big game, including white rhino, buffalo and giraffe.
Cost: Camping is R100 per person per night (no electricity hookups). There is also safari-style tented accommodation from R450, sleeps two.
Contact: Tel 0317691283, msinsi.co.za
5. Wagendrift Nature Reserve
This is an attractive reserve set in rolling grassveld and backed by Drakensberg ramparts. Wagendrift has a rustic resort with basic facilities. Accommodation is made up of two campsites, which have neat ablution blocks but no extra amenities, and an attractive four-bed cottage set on a slope above the dam. The cottage is well appointed and has an indigenous garden thronging with bird life. The campsite area around the dam has little game but good birding, and the second section – known as Moor Park Reserve – has good numbers of wildebeest, antelope, mountain reedbuck and is great for hiking (no dangerous game).
Cost: R75 per person per night for the campsites; accommodation in the four-sleeper cottage costs R200 per person per night.
Contact: Tel 0338451000, kznwildlife.com
6. Weenen Game Reserve
This lesser-known reserve lies 25 kilometres northeast of Estcourt in undulating thornveld that stretches to the blue-hilled horizon. Much of this 5000-hectare reserve was once badly degraded farmland and considerable rehabilitation by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife has seen erosion halted and vegetation restored to original valley bushveld, characterised by acacia karoo, acacia tortilis and acacia nilotica woodlands and thickets.
Although it’s not in the same league as a Hluhluwe or Mkuze, Weenen provides some of the best game viewing of the smaller KZN parks. The gravel roads inside the park can be a bit rough for sedans, especially after heavy rains (ask at reception about road conditions).
Cost: Camping costs R170 for two people per night without electrical hook-up and R190 for two people per night with hook up. The five-sleeper self-catering cottage “Umkhombe” has its own private waterhole and costs R480 for two people per night, and R240 per adult and R120 per child thereafter.
Contact: Tel 0363547013, 0338451000, kznwildlife.com
7. Mpila Chalets, Hluhluwe-Mfolozi
Atop one of the highest hills inside Hluhluwe-iMfolozi is Mpila Camp. It has 34 self-catering chalets and safari tents. The camp is unfenced, and lions, hyenas and leopards can be seen and heard in camp.
Cost: From R820 per night for a chalet (sleeps two).
Contact: Tel 0338451000, kznwildlife.com
8. Inanda Dam campsite and tented camp
Inanda Dam is famed for its excellent bass fishing. Cradled in the folds of the Valley of a Thousand Hills just beyond Hillcrest, the dam has also become legendary as an overnight stop on the Dusi Canoe Marathon. Activities are mostly of the aquatic variety and include kayaking, water-skiing, power-boating, and there is even a demarcated area for jet-skiing. There is a 2.5-kilometre walking trail in the Mahlabathini Reserve that takes you through forest and grassland where there’s a good chance of spotting duiker and zebra.
Cost: Camping from R110 per person. The four-sleeper safari-style tented camps (with en suite bathrooms and self-catering kitchens) cost from R300 per person. (The unit costs R1200 per night.)
Contact: Tel 0317669946, msinsi.co.za/inanda
Read more: 8 cosy cabins and cottages for winter
Bush breaks in the Eastern Cape
9. Lakeview Tented Camp, Camdeboo National Park
One of South Africa’s smallest national parks, Camdeboo is no wilderness. Instead, historical buildings lie within sight of herds of plains game, harking back to a time when the Karoo’s wild animals would walk through town. They still sometimes do. Camdeboo National Park surrounds Graaf-Reinet, and is home to the gorgeous Valley of Desolation. Lakeview Tented Camp consists of four rustic, furnished tents. Each two-sleeper has a braai unit, fridge, table and chairs; bedding and towels are also provided. There are communal showers and toilets, and a shared kitchen is equipped with stove plates, cooking and eating utensils, and a microwave.
Cost: R570 a night for two people.
Contact: Contact SANParks central reservation on 0124289111 or sanparks.org.za
Bush breaks in the Western Cape
10. Buffalo Valley Bush Lodges, Sedgefield
Buffalo Valley Bush Lodges comprise three self-catering chalets: all three are similar in design, made from pine, and feel light and airy inside despite not being very large. Lots of windows let in the light, and each has a deck overlooking a scenic section of Goukamma Nature Reserve, which has some of the most stunning coastal scenery in the country. There are canoes for rent to explore the tranquil Goukamma River and Groenvlei Lake, and walks along 18 kilometres of untouched beach where dolphin sightings are pretty much guaranteed. On land you may encounter monkeys, honey badgers, buck and bushpigs.
Cost: Self-catering from R975 for a four-sleeper cabin
Contact: Tel 0214830190, capenature.co.za
11. Lemoenfontein Game Lodge, Beaufort West
This converted 19th-century hunting lodge is now a game farm, and dates back to 1850. Built slowly and soundly to the exacting standards and architectural style of the time, the building remains unchanged with characteristic high ceilings, original wooden floors and wide verandahs which offer guests a sweeping panoramic view of the Karoo landscape. The homestead is a haven for the world weary traveller, and for those who want to escape city life and experience the beauty, silence and unassuming simplicity of the vast open spaces.
Cost: R495 a person a night sharing.
Contact: Tel 0234152847, lemoenfontein.co.za
12. Langkloof campsite, Tankwa Karoo National Park
Featured in: 12 remote camps and cottages around South Africa
A roofless ruin of red mud bricks stands in front of a rhythmically squeaking windmill, a tower of water tanks and a newly built concrete kitchen and ablution block. Together, these form a small outpost in the upper regions of the Tankwa Karoo’s Langkloof Valley. The bed of the Rhenoster River, less than 50 metres away from camp, gives life to a belt of lush acacias brimming with the chirps and whines of LBJs.
The camp’s two sites are positioned on either side of the simple amenities building, which contains two basic kitchens with sinks (you’ll need to take all utensils and cooking equipment), two hot showers and two flushing loos. This means campers at the respective sites don’t have to share facilities, but we advise booking out the whole camp; it would be a shame to end up with neighbours after travelling to somewhere so remote.
Cost: Camping from R225 a night for two people (R100 an additional adult and R50 a child, max six). Plus conservation fees of R30 an adult and R15 a child a day (free to Wild Card holders).
Contact: SANParks Central reservations on 0124289111, park office on 0273411927, sanparks.co.za
Bush breaks in Limpopo
13. Village D’Afrique, Modimolle
Experience swanky safari tent living less than two hours from Johannesburg. Based on the 330-hectare Shakila Game Farm, Village d’Afrique is one of several tented camps on the property and sleeps eight in four beautifully appointed tents complete with inside baths, king-size beds and outdoor showers. Rhodesian teak decks connect the tents to the main area: an open-plan kitchen, lounge and dining area overlooking a rim- flow pool and fire pit. It’s suitable for sedans (4x4s are preferable), groceries are available in nearby Modimolle, and it’s ideal for families (each unit has a sleeper couch for kids). Spot kudu, blue wildebeest and zebra on game drives or swim in the Nyl River.
Cost: From R1125 per tent (sleeps two), minimum of three tents need to be booked. Pensioner’s discount of 15 percent.
Contact: Tel 0836535158, villagedafrique.co.za
14. Hamasha Bushcamp, Soutpansberg
Melanie van Zyl’s grandparents were among the first visitors to Leshiba Wilderness and their stories of mountain biking past rhino, bonding with friends over the braai and birding up in the clouds on the 2600-hectare reserve have tickled her travel taste buds for years. Her own visit to off-the-grid Hamasha Bushcamp did not disappoint and the owners still remember her granny and grandpa. The self-catering eight-sleeper camp is perched on the edge of the world in an amphitheatre of cliffs and mountains with breathtaking views of the Hamasha Gorge. The camp consists of two cottages sleeping four each, a central kitchen and lounge area with a fireplace. There’s no cell reception or electricity and the camp runs on gas, just like it did 20 years ago.
Cost: From R375 per person when booked for eight.
Contact: Tel 0114831841, leshiba.co.za
15. Blouberg Camp, Limpopo
Huge boulders surround this tranquil rock pool, a couple of kilometres by foot from Blouberg Camp. The accommodation options include five thatched, self-catering chalets, each of which sleeps two people on comfortable beds. Ablutions are en suite, and feature easy-to-use bucket showers. Getting to Blouberg Camp necessitates getting off the beaten track and a 4×4 ‒ or at the very least a high-clearance vehicle ‒ is advisable. Nothing is catered at the camp itself, so pack all provisions (Indermark has a good shop). The water is fine to drink, but you may find the taste off-putting. Remember to pack sleeping bags and towels. The hiking routes are unmarked, but camp staff will take you on short walks free of charge.
Being located in proper Limpopo bushveld, you should expect the summers to be cooking, with thunderstorms on a near-daily basis. Visiting during autumn, spring and winter should ensure clear skies and cooler days. Winter nights are cold, so make sure to pack some warm clothing.
Cost: Self-catering costs R195 per person a night sharing, and R100 per child under 12.
16. Lindani, Waterberg
An effortless 275-kilometre drive north from Johannesburg, after turning right at the only four-way stop in Vaalwater, you’ll arrive at Lindani. There you’ll find eight serene, carefully thought out private cottage collections each with their own piece of bushveld back garden, self-catering kitchen, a gorgeous rockery pool and an almost guaranteed squadron of warthog mowing the lawn.
Ranging in size from a four-bed bush camp, to an eight-bed, budget-friendly tented forest camp, to the enormous 18-sleeper, four-house Motseng lodge complex, there’s a perfect solution to any family gathering. Spend time on the easy Green Flag hiking trails, or hire a bicycle and cycle past wildebeest, zebra, eland and giraffe with the kids. Pack a picnic for lunch and stop at any of the five riverside picnic sites and have a splash to cool down (one spot even has tubes for a lazier soak).
The lodges feature quality finishings like gas stoves and braai, dishwashers, good name brand electronics (Samsung microwaves and De Longhi toasters), plus thoughtful details like 50kgs of firewood, a potjie pot, mammal, bird and reptile guides as well as a variety of games for rainy days. The farm kitchen has a variety of freshly prepared meals to order and heat up, such as stews and quiches, or if you’d rather braai, order the milk tart for pudding and fresh farm bread for morning toast. Just trust us.
Also on offer is an after-meal washing up service from R30 and high chairs and cots are available too. This is a wonderful value-for-money stay and the owners Sam and Peggy van Coller have ensured mom and dad can take it easy while the kids make some memories.
Cost: Self-catering R265 a person a night in the tented camp and from R425 a person a night in other lodges (kids aged 4 to 12 half price).
Contact: Tel 0836315579, lindani.co.za
17. Kingfisher Lodge, Waterberg
Fall asleep to the trickle of the Palala River at Kingfisher Lodge – a spacious bushveld home in the Waterberg just three hour’s drive from Joburg. One of three accommodation units in the Palala River Lodges collection, Kingfisher Lodge consists of a three-bedroom farmhouse with a cosy fireplace and two en-suit rondavels nearby. It’s capable of catering to a total of 10 guests and there’s a swimming pool onsite and a small bird hide hidden in the bush a short walk from the lodge.
Pack a picnic and go for a drive to find the perfect picnic spot in the 3000-hectare reserve. There are many gorgeous lookout points, 4×4 routes over craggy rock surfaces, waterbuck, giraffe and warthog to spot, or you can just unwind on the lodge porch with an endless view of the Waterberg hills and harrumphing hippo for company.
Cost: From R260 a person a night.
Contact: Tel 0825708474, www.jembisa.com
Bush breaks in the North West Province
18. Mamagalie Mountain Lodge, Mooinooi
Roughly 100 kilometres from Joburg the landscape transforms from highveld to bushveld near Buffelspoort Dam. Here, five lodges, cleverly nestled in a secluded valley, make up the Mamagalie self-catering collection. Two are designed for couples – River Lodge and Tranquility Lodge (the latter is the most romantic with a private deck and outdoor shower overlooking a stream) – while Bush and Forest lodges both sleep four (I loved the tented three-storey Bush Lodge on stilts, which commands great Buffelspoort Valley views). Mountain Lodge is the biggest, sleeping 12, and is perfect for kids to explore the active farm, which has an avocado and lemon orchard, pecan nut and newly planted fig trees and raspberry bushes. Expect to find hornbills floating from the trees and hartebeest, wildebeest, zebra and gemsbok roaming the slopes. Walk in the bush and explore the rock pools in the protected Magaliesberg green belt.
Cost: From R325 per person sharing.
Contact: Tel 0845139480, mamagalie.co.za
19. B’Sorah luxury tented camp
B’sorah is a family-owned 1600-hectare farm, criss-crossed by hiking and biking trails, romping warthogs and families of cows. The four luxury tents offer all the pros of camping with few of the cons. Tents are spacious and have running water, a large and comfy bed and a full outdoor kitchen. Best of all, the tents are already pitched and guests needn’t bring anything but food to eat and the clothes on their backs. The Swempie Honeymoon Tent, only R30 per person more than the standard tents, offers a sweeping view over the bushveld with luxurious furnishings and an oversized shower and bathtub. Book early as the Swempie tent is often reserved for weeks in advance.
Time moves slowly at B’sorah, and one of the most gratifying things to do is light a fire, sit on the deck and sip a beer while listening to frogs sing in the trickling stream. More ambitious visitors might go for a bike ride or hike, perhaps climb the small hill near the tents and watch the sun go down.
Cost: R490 a person.
Contact: Tel 0785143208, bsorah.com
20. Mountain Sanctuary Park, Rustenburg
Mountain Sanctuary Park is perched in the mountainous Magaliesberg area, with views of surrounding farmland and the nearby Buffelspoort Dam. The 1000-hectare property is renowned for its hiking trails and is a popular day-visit destination for nature-hungry Gautengers needing fresh air.
The recently opened Cosy Huts are a substitute for camping. The name ‘cosy’ is accurate (if a little euphemistic) as the wooden huts are small, with a set of bunk beds on one end, a kitchen area with basic utensils and a bar fridge next to it, and two single beds on the other end. Own bedding must be brought (they do offer linen at an extra charge). Ask for a hut that faces the bush rather than one that faces the campsite – number one has the best views.
The huts are designed to bridge the gap between camping and the pricier lodging options, so there’s little luxury (they don’t have their own en-suite bathrooms or wash-up area), but there’s electricity and they are comfortable enough. At the end of the day, this spot is geared for spending time outdoors and you couldn’t ask for a more beautiful setting. The closest set of natural pools is just a 20 minute walk and the waters flow generously after summer rains. There’s also a well-kept pool and grassy picnic area with a viewing deck.
Cost: Self-catering in the Cosy Huts R275 per adult sharing, and children under 12 are R100 per night (minimum two-night stay over weekends). Plus a one-off R20 entrance levy per vehicle. Pitching a tent costs from R80 per adult per night, while a chalet costs from R350 per adult per night and a log cabin from R400 per adult per night.
Contact: Tel 0145340114, mountain-sanctuary.co.za
Slightly pricier, slightly nicier
Coming in at over R500 per person per night, these South African spots aren’t exactly affordable. However, they’re too awesome not to mention, and if you’ve got some budget to spare you won’t regret a visit.
1. Isibindi Zulu Lodge, KZN
There are a handful of lodges in the vicinity of Rorke’s Drift, but Zulu Lodge in Isibindi Eco Reserve has a twist. Rooms are inspired by Zulu architecture in the traditional beehive shape, with high, domed, thatched roofs. Don’t come expecting opulence – the rooms are simple – but sleep with the doors open and you’ll wake up to the sound of nyala nibbling the bushes around your room. Drink tea on the porch that overlooks the river valley below – and Rorke’s Drift hills in the distance. Book room four for the best views.
Cost: R1495 a person per night, including meals and activities.
Contact: Tel 0354741473, isibindi.co.za
2. Kameeldorn Tree House, Mokala National Park, Northern Cape
Featured in: 8 cosy cabins and cottages for winter
The only treehouse in all of South Africa’s national parks, this small wooden cabin is isolated from the other camps in Mokala. It has a double bed and a small bathroom, and sits half way up a copse of camelthorn trees. Sit on the wooden deck and watch the game swarm toward the waterhole in front of the tree house. At night, enjoy the stars and the flicker of flames, and listen to the sounds of the nocturnal animals.
Cost: R550 a night per person sharing, self-catering.
Contact: Tel 0532040158, sanparks.org
3. Jamila Lodge, Limpopo
Experience luxury without the fuss. You will be greeted by warm smiles, a mandatory refresher towel and Amarula welcome drinks, The attentive service is unique – mention that you have a particular sweet tooth for jam tarts and they will suddenly appear the next afternoon for high tea. Five chalets are tucked into thickets of syringa trees, each with a private viewing deck and outdoor Jacuzzi overlooking the Waterberg mountains. The Big Five provide inspiration for each room’s decor, including hand-painted framed artworks and intricately carved brass lamps on the bedside tables.
Cost: R1995 a person a night sharing, including two game drives daily and full board.
Contact: Tel 0123429130, jamilalodge.co.za
4. Thaba Lodge, Pilanesberg
Thaba Lodge is one of several secluded stands in the Black Rhino Reserve and home to regular sightings of elephant, both rhino species and leopard. Thaba Lodge is timeshare-owned, but it’s open to the public when there’s availability. The huge thatched lodge comfortably accommodates 10 people and is a great getaway for family or close friends. The central living and entertainment area consists of an open-plan kitchen and dining room, with a library, lounge and fireplace located in one wing and a television lounge and bar (with an ice machine) in the other. There is a choice of dining spaces – the deck, the fire-pit boma or the kitchen – no need to tuck in elbows when wielding your knife and fork as there’s more than enough space for everyone. Cleaners come in every morning to do the washing – a great luxury – and there’s a dishwasher.
There are five separate air-conditioned high-ceilinged bedroom suites, each with an outdoor shower, deep bath, more cupboard space than most have at home, a sunny patio and loungers. To top it all off, there’s an on-site ranger and game drive vehicle at guests’ disposal to go Big Five spotting.
Cost: R7500 a night for 10 people (thus R750 per person).
5. Buffalo Thorn Lodge, Pilanesberg
Located in Black Rhino Game Reserve (a private reserve attached to the northwestern corner of the Pilansberg), this luxury self-catering lodge consists of five grand roomy units dotted around a central lounge and dining room, boma, plunge pool and Jacuzzi. Plan to stay at least three nights so that you can spend one day taking a game drive along the beautifully lush road through the wilderness area and into the Pilansberg proper.
Cost: R8150 a night for 10 people including gate fees and game drives.