I’m in the Kruger National Park on assignment for Getaway visiting all the campsites, lodges and accommodation options in the park. It’s a big job, but by the end of it I’ll have a list of all them (see them all here: Kruger accommodation reviews) and, more importantly, an idea of what you can expect to find there in terms of accommodation, food, amenities, animals, mobile reception and highlights. My fifth stop is Orpen Rest Camp and its satellite camps of Tamboti and Maroela
Orpen Rest Camp, Tamboti and Maroela
A small gate camp split in three parts, Orpen, Tamboti and Maroela offer much more then just a point of entry into the park. This is the gateway to the Kruger’s central region, where the bush starts giving way to flatter grasslands. These open plains go hand-in-hand with effortless sightings of large herds of game. All three camps are very small, bringing you closer to the bush while leaving the surrounding roads undisturbed by heavy traffic.
The accommodation at Orpen, Tamboti and Maroela
Orpen serves as the headquarters for the three. Here you’ll find the reception area, swimming pool, shop and petrol station as well as 15 self-catering units, some accommodating two people and others accommodating four. Unlike the typical round Kruger bungalows, these units are much more modern, with large, square, sheltered patios where you’ll find the kitchenettes. The units all line a grassy lawn that leads to the swimming pool.
At the satellite camp of Tamboti, 3km from Orpen, you’ll find 30 safari tents on sturdy wooden platforms, tucked away in the bush and scattered along the fence overlooking the river. Although the three-sleeper tents have their own kitchens and bathrooms, the two- and four-sleeper tents share kitchens and ablutions. You do, however, have your own fridge and braai area.
Maroela is a small campsite, two kilometres from Orpen, and has a close-knit community feel. Out of the 24 campsites, 20 have electric points and you’ll find communal kitchens, freezers and bathrooms to use. Most of the spots have a tree or two supplying shade and the ground cover is mostly sand.
The best spots
At Orpen, all the chalets face the lawns, but number one and two are the closest to the swimming pool. Tamboti’s safari tents all line the river, so you’ll always have a great spot. At Maroela, you can pick your camping spot, so find one against the fence as it’s more shady here and the views are beautiful.
Even though there aren’t many roads to explore in the area, it doesn’t mean that you won’t enjoy some great sightings. The main tarred road, H7, that connects Orpen to Satara is home to at least two packs of wild dog and also holds the promise for some great lion sightings. You’ll see large herds of buffalo, zebra, wildebeest and giraffe on the open plains while many elephants can by found along the Timbavati River. Driving a little south towards Talamati, you might get the chance to spot the rare sable antelope.
There is no restaurant at Orpen, only a coffee bar and a shop with some sandwiches and pies. Use your braai or the self-catering facilities to cook. For a morning activity, take the H7 to Satara Rest Camp (50km) and enjoy a meal at the restaurant.
At the intersection of H7 and the road leading to the satellite camps, you’ll find one of the largest open grass plains. Get up early and stop here for morning coffee and wildlife watching from the car.
Driving along the H7, you’ll find two viewpoints (at 12km and at 22km from Orpen) where you can get out of your car and look out over Bobbenjaankrans. Sit on the benches and enjoy the spectacular view.
For a beautiful river drive, follow the H7 for 34km and follow the Timbavati Loop along the river with the same name. Pack your bacon and stop at Timbavati Picnic Spot for a morning fry-up.
After entering the park at Orpen Gate, it’s another 7km until you reach the main camp. If you’re booked at one of the satellite camps, you need to check in at Orpen before making your way down the gravel road to Tamboti and Maroela. If you’re coming from the south of the park, you have a long drive of at least 100km ahead of you so start early.
Credit card facilities: Yes
Mobile reception: Good at all the camps