Whether you’re after comfort or luxury, we rounded up our favourite tented camps for all tastes.
In the bush
1. Pafuri River Camp
Pafuri, Limpopo Province
Pafuri is where South Africa meets Mozambique and Zimbabwe in the northernmost part of Kruger National Park. It’s far from the city, has no cellphone reception and Pafuri River Camp uses only gas and solar power, so stargazing is also great. Each unit are equipped with self-catering facilities (store food in solid boxes as bushbabies have worked out how to get into snacks), but dinner and breakfast are available on request.
Cost: From R400 per person sharing
Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga
A small satellite camp overlooking a dry riverbed regularly patrolled by hyena, Tamboti Tented Camp lets you a little closer to nature than the main rest camps. There are communal ablutions and kitchen facilities but you need to bring utensils, plus pots and pans. There’s also a bird hide located within the camp boundary if your view’s lacking. This more rugged side of Kruger also comes with a pair of nocturnal, bin-banging honey badgers that parade the camp.
Cost: From R540 a unit (sleeps two)
3. B’sorah Luxury Tented Camp
Hartbeespoort, North West Province
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 per person.
4. Lindani Tented Camp
Waterberg, Limpopo Province
This budget-friendly tented forest camp is cleverly built between a patch of bushveld forest above grassy plains in a private game reserve just three hours from Joburg. 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).
Cost: From R250 per person a night
5. Village d’Afrique
Modimolle, Limpopo Province
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 R1000 per unit per night
6. Bontle Rest Camp
Marakele National Park, Limpopo
About a kilometre from the main gate the swish new units at Bontle Rest Camp are more chic than any other SANParks establishment I’ve visited, with crisp white linen and great kitchen facilities. The tents are evenly spread apart and surrounded by Waterberg bushveld for privacy. There’s a chance that white rhino will trot past and I woke up to impala chomping fresh shoots in front of the tent.
Cost: From R1100 a unit (sleeps two)
7. Roamers Rest Safari Lodge
Phalaborwa, Limpopo Province
Set in the 40 000-hectare Balule Nature Reserve about 45 kilometres from Phalaborwa, you are able to stay in a bush lodge perched high on a ridge above a waterhole thats regularly visited by elephant and lit up at night so you can spot lion drinking below the lodge deck when night falls. Roamers Rest sleeps a maximum of seven in two luxury-style safari tents, while Ingwe sleeps three and has a beautiful bushveld birding deck. The other is called Nyala and can sleep a family of four with an open-air Jacuzzi on the private deck. The lodge is owner-run by Kyle and Charlotte Preston, who’ll treat you like childhood friends, and are both incredibly knowledgable about the bushveld, complementing the unfenced wilderness stay on the Big Five reserve.
Cost: From R1452 per person sharing DBB, plus a game drive.
8. Ndzhaka and Buffelshoek
Two community-run camps located in the centre and far south of the Manyeleti Reserve respectively. Buffelshoek is fully catered, while Ndzhaka is self-catering, but both are rustic and unfenced, with five two-sleeper safari tents with en-suite ablution facilities and communal kitchen. A resident herd of nyala often browse between the tents at Ndzhaka, which lies hidden in a dense patch of riverine forest on the banks of the N’waswitsontso riverbed. Leopards are also frequently seen in the vicinity. Buffelshoek, which is in a more open area only a stone throw from the Sabi Sands boundary, is often visited by lions.
Cost: Ndzhaka Camp is R680 per person sharing, with guided walks at R340 per person and game drives from R300 per person. Upgraded Buffelshoek Camp is R2280 per person per night including meals and two game drives per day.
Contact: wildlifeupclose.co.za, firstname.lastname@example.org
9. Honey Bee Suite
Gansbaai, Western Cape
Ok, it’s more forest than bush but just two hours from Cape Town you’ll find an eco-friendly, off-the-grid paradise between trees in the indigenous Platbos Forest, where more than 22 000 trees have been planted in the last ten years. You can walk magical forest trails, relax in a hammock and feel freedom like nature intended in the open-air shower.
Cost: From R850 for two
10. Mosetlha Bush Camp
Madikwe, North West Province
Mosetlha is easily the most affordable option for South Africans in Madikwe and provides an authentic bushveld experience being unfenced except for a height-specific elephant wire that prevents them from pulling up trees around the lodge. The camp sleeps up to 20 in stilted log cabins that have canvas blinds, which can be rolled up to sleep with the starry skies. Food is homely matching the camps down-to-earth and unpretentious feel cooked over the fire and on gas.
Cost: From R1795 per person sharing for all meals and two game drives
Close to water
10. Nata Lodge
Nata Lodge is near the broad and wide Makgadikgadi salt pans and never disappoints. The service and food is consistently above board and their accommodation is good value for money with an option for every budget. I love their safari tents, which have a great outdoor shower, are spacious and well-appointed with big, soft beds. Check with reception if there’s water on the pans and book a drive to see the flamingoes at the nearby Nata Bird Sanctuary.
Cost: A twin-bed Luxury Safari Tent costs about R1100 per night (sleeps two) and a three-hour drive to the
pans costs about R290 per person including one drink.
11. Shayamoya Bush Camp
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 R320 a person a night (minimum four people, maximum eight).
12. Guma Lagoon Camp
If tiger fishing is on your bucket list, this is the place to do it. Close to Seronga in Botswana, Guma Lagoon Camp has 12 canvas chalets and seven campsites. Each chalet has a private view of the lagoon and arranged in a network around lush lawns. You can self-cater in the communal kitchen or eat from the set menu at the restaurant (dinner is from roughly R170 per person). Guma can only be accessed in a 4×4. The camp is about 10 kilometres from the closest village for good reason – the floodplains – but its prime position is unique and one of the few set on a lagoon in this gorgeous heritage site.
Cost: From R1400 per tented unit.
13. Baviaanskloof Tented Camp
Baviaanskloof, Eastern Cape
Operational between 15 December 2016 and 15 January 2017 this camp is on the banks of the Baviaanskloof River and is a great place to chill or hike and look for rhino in the Mage-Reserve. The site accommodates 20 guests in 10 tents and all meals are included. Book out the whole thing!
Cost: From R1 450 per person
Also read: In photos: Baviaanskloof’s Leopard Trail
14. 7 Passes Tented Camp
Wilderness, Western Cape
Time stands still here. Six lakeside luxury tents for families, doubles and singles, hug the shoreline ‒ I spent time sitting on the deck of mine watching the water through the trees, shards of the Outeniqua Mountains peeking through, while listening to frogs, their sound broken occasionally by a long- distance moo of cattle on neighbouring farms. This is a rural haven for anyone wanting respite from the drudge of city rigour. There are rods for black bass fishing, or take a picnic and row across the lake to the bird hide. Look out for the breeding fish eagles, and if you find crab scales and fish bones on the deck of your tent, it means the giant kingfishers have been hunting. There’s so much to do in the area, such as cycling and mountain biking, canoeing and kloofing. Breakfast and dinner are served in the boma.
Cost:From R1290 a tent (sleeps two)
15. Tlopi Tented Camp
Marakele National Park, Limpopo Province
Tlopi Tented Camp is an hour from the main gate and set around a dam with mountain views. An elephant was sucking away at the water when I drove in. The camp is unfenced and each tent is set on a deck overlooking the water, with a braai and spacious kitchen area. It’s in the Big Five section of the park (which is separated into two areas; Bontle is home to rhino and the Tlopi side has lion, cheetah and ellies). You can drive up to Lenong View Point for crazy views and there’s a chance of seeing the endangered Cape vultures.
Cost: From R1275 a unit (sleeps two).
16. Wolfkop Luxury Camping Villages
Citrusdal, Western Cape
The N7 shoots up the West Coast, determined and fearless. It sprints north towards Namibia and when presented with mountains, simply snakes up the ascending Piekenierskloof Pass leaving the Swartland in smoke. At the bottom of the fertile Olifants River Valley you can glamp on the banks of the crystal clear water at the Wolfkop Luxury Camping Village where the tents are already pitched. Percale linen, a cooler box and electric lighting are included – just bring clothes and food. Citrusdal is roughly two hours from Cape Town.
Cost: From R225 per person.
In the mountains
17. Little Wing teepee camp
An unusual tented camp this self-catering teepee homestead is best booked as a group. Four tents each sleep two comfortably (squeeze kids in on single mattresses) and face a central firepit-cum-braai area beside a trout-filled dam. You can walk along the river below the property, hike in nearby Cobham Nature Reserve (R40 pp and kids R20), or tackle Sani Pass ‒ both are roughly 20 kilometres away. The area is great for mountain biking, or hop on a horse for R150 each (kids get pony rides for free). Tents are spacious and have bohemian touches such as dream catchers. There’s electricity, gas heaters, extra blankets and a fully kitted communal open-air kitchen, but bring towels. The camp is close to a main dirt road, but it exudes a secluded feel.
Cost: From R900 a tent (sleeps two)
18. Lakeview Tented Camp, Camdeboo National Park
Graaf Reinet, Eastern Cape
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: From R650 a tent (sleeps two)
Near the sea
19. Bhanga Nek Tent Camp
Kosi Bay, KwaZulu-Natal
Surrounded by lush trees and shrubs, this camp is tucked away in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and just 30 metres away from a gorgeous long sandy beach. It’s very rustic: canvas tents on wooden platforms with a few showers and flushing toilets surrounded by reeds on a concrete floor, but that just adds to its charm. A 4×4 is required and the only amenities is a donkey boiler.
Cost: R420 per person sharing, camping R160 per person.
Contact: Tel 0828573363, email@example.com
20. West Coast Luxury Tents
Elands Bay, Western Cape
Tucked in sandveld behind dunes, a few hundred metres from an unspoilt beach, this tented camp ‒ comprising three double-sleepers and one group enclave ‒ demands nothing but relaxation. There’s not much to ‘do’ here ‒ no game, no spa, no boma and no fancy restaurant ‒ and because of that, one is forced to submit to extreme chilling: afternoon snoozing; walking along the beach (40 kilometres of it) accompanied by scurrying oystercatchers; clambering to the top of the dunes to watch sunsets; sitting around the star-lit braai. The en-suite tents are comfortable and spacious, each with a fully equipped kitchen and a shaded area at the back. Amiable owner Reinhard Uebel will go out of his way to ensure you’re happy ‒ and will even welcome your pooches.
Cost: From R850 a tent
21. Tartaruga Maritima Tented Camp
Ponta Malongane, Mozambique
Tartaruga Maritima tented camp is well priced, placed as number one on TripAdvisor and exceptionally tranquil, surrounded by coastal forest.Tartaruga means turtle in Portuguese. If you visit between November and February, you may be lucky enough to spot these ancient reptiles laying eggs on the beach, or even see the hatchlings. Camp supervisor Moses Tembe has a wealth of knowledge on the best things to do and eat in the area and he’s an incredible host – nothing is too much trouble. The amenities are faultless, service is excellent and the beach absolutely gorgeous. The central self-catering area has private fridge space and killer views over the open ocean, and each evening your table can be set if you plan to dine here.
Cost: From R495 per person sharing
Also read: The complete guide to Ponta Malongane
22. Namaqua Flower Camps
Namaqua National Park, Northern Cape
Namaqua Flower Camps in collaboration with SANParks is only open once a year for a limited time. Mobile camps are set up near the bloom-viewing hots spots. Skilpad Flower Camp is open from 11 August to 10 September 2017 and the rate includes coffee, rusks, breakfast and dinner (lunch is an optional extra).
Cost: From R2475 per person sharing
23. Pitch it anywhere
This new outdoor experience means the only thing you might need on your next camping checklist is a boarding pass
Purists may scoff at the idea of having someone set up your tent for you and then strike it when you’re done. But what if the campsite you want to visit is at the other end of the country? We sent a tester to the Tankwa Karoo to find out if there was a way that you could still camp in comfort after a flight from, say, Joburg. Good news: you can … as long as it’s in the Western Cape. Keen campers can now rent stylish gear from Hey Pioneer, who supply old-school-style cotton tents (the rad kind your gramps used), mattresses, linen, a table and chairs, solar lanterns and a camp kitchen kit that you can either pick up, have delivered to a campsite of your choice or, for a sweet glamping weekend with friends, have set up for you, ready to roll.
Cost: Rates for self-set-up are from R350 per night in a Range Tent (sleeps two), while the glamping option in a large Bell Tent is from R500 per night for the first two people and R100 per extra person (sleeps four). Both options exclude delivery and set-up fees. (Prices are on request and are based on location.) Extras such as braai gear, cooking utensils, cooler boxes and additional tables and chairs are charged for separately.