Winter is almost upon us and with it an opportunity to spend weekends away around a roaring fire with OBS and a thick blanket. Here’s my roundup of South Africa’s top bush campsites to get you out of the house and into the cold.
Tsendze Rustic Camp Site in Limpopo
Tsendze Rustic Camp Site
Amidst the Kruger National Park’s more comfortable bungalows and tented camps, Tsendze is its rustic black sheep. There’s no electricity, shop, restaurant or reception desk (check in at Mopani) and yet this humble campsite is one of Kruger’s most popular. The campsites are cut into the natural bush, creating a sense of authenticity and privacy. Keen birders can enjoy woodland kingfisher, white-faced owls and crested barbet from the comfort of their camp. Beyond the camp’s border there is a 1000-strong buffalo herd that tends towards the three-river confluence just south of Tsendze. The confluence is also a popular spot for leopards. Two-sleeper campsites from R190 a night. Tel 012-428-9111, email email@example.com, www.sanparks.org.
Marakele National Park
Marakele National Park may not be the best place for spotting wildlife but it more than makes up for it with breathtaking mountain scenery and spacious grassy campsites. Bontle Camping Site is unfenced giving visitors a real sense of wilderness even if wildlife sightings are few and far between. Its just three-and-a-half hours from Johannesbug and Pretoria making it the ideal weekend escape. Two-sleeper campsite from R170 a night. Tel 012-428-9111, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.sanparks.org.
Cape Vidal in KwaZulu-Natal
One of the most memorable camping experiences in South Africa, Cape Vidal combines beach and bush indulging visitors with the best of both worlds. It falls within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, which Nelson Mandela once referred to as “the only place on the globe where the world’s oldest land mammal (the rhinoceros) and the world’s biggest terrestrial animal (the elephant) share an ecosystem with the world’s oldest fish (the coelacanth) and the world’s biggest marine mammal (the whale)”. No more needs to be said. Camping from R100 a person a night. Tel 033-845-1003, email email@example.com, www.kznwildlife.com.
Tembe Elephant Park
Close to the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Tembe Elephant Park is a great place to escape the winter chill. You’re likely to see most, if not all of the Big Five as well as over 340 bird species and suni, one of the world’s smallest antelope. It’s not a cheap camping experience but for those of us who prefer “glamping” it’s ideal. Luxury safari tent, meals and game drives from R795 a person a night. Tel 031-267-0144, email firstname.lastname@example.org, www.tembe.co.za.
Dwesa Nature Reserve
Dwsa Nature Reserve is quiet and uncrowded with a pristine, warm-water beach that is often deserted. Go on boat rides on the Mbashe River, guided walks and 4×4 trips, keeping an eye out for red hartebeest, buffalo, eland, warthog and crocodile. Birdlife includes rare species such as the Narina Trogan and Mangrove Kingfisher. This isn’t the campsite for raw bush lovers, but for those who want to escape the crowds, this enticing mix of grassland, coastal forest and unspoiled shoreline is a winner. Six-sleeper campsite from R200 a night. Tel 043-701-9600, www.ecparks.co.za.
Glen Reenen Rest Camp in the Free State
Glen Reenen Rest Camp
One could argue that Golden Gate Highlands Park is not typical bush. There are no mopane trees or Big Five and chances are you won’t see anything getting munched. Nevertheless it is one the country’s more beautiful parks and if you appreciate birdlife and plains game, there is much to be enjoyed. Glen Reenen Rest Camp showcases the rare bearded vulture and bald ibis and across the park’s flatlands there are zebra, wildebeest, eland and oribi. The ancient Maloti Mountains are an impressive backdrop, showing off rich gold and ochre colouring. Two-sleeper campsite from R155 a night. Tel 012-428-9111, email email@example.com, www.sanparks.org.