5 reasons why Splashy Fen is unlike any other festival

Posted on 16 April 2013

What happens when a Capetonian festival-enthusiast joins the pilgrimage to KwaZulu-Natal’s biggest outdoor music festival? A bad case of ombrophobia (the fear of rain or of being rained upon) and the development of a strange foot fetish. Here are five reasons why Splashy Fen is unlike any festival I’ve been to before … and another two reasons why KwaZulu-Natal’s Underberg will be seeing me again next year.


1. When it rains, it pours

‘Expect at least a day of rain,’ I was told by the regular Splashy Fen-goers. As we arrived clouds loomed over Mount Splashy. ‘Rain is coming’ people whispered nervously. I didn’t quite understand their fear of being rained on until the heavens opened up and poured down on us, as we watched from under the main stage marquee.

My first Splashy turned out to be the wettest Splashy in years. It rained on Friday and Saturday. The floor turned to mud slush and one of the music tents had to be closed. A couple of people packed up and left. Others just conquered the rain and partied themselves warm. It made the party well-deserved.

Conquering the mud slush

Conquering the mud slush

2. Wo/man’s best friends

The best advice anyone could give you before visiting Splashy Fen? Don’t forget your gumboots. When the floor turns to mud slush and puddles come up to your ankles, have no fear: in gumboots you can take on the world. Splashing through the mud may have been frustrating at first, but with my gummies on, the floor became my own personal obstacle course, and arriving at my destination – be it Dance Valley or the food court – the reward at the end of the slushy stepping stones.

Campfires allowed

3. Let there be light

I couldn’t believe it when I heard it, but at Splashy you ARE allow to make fires. Thus officially making the first and only festival I’ve attended where campfires, and campfire culture, is not only allowed but encouraged.

And thank heavens for it. After a good dance in the rain, or being trapped in a tent while the ground flooded beneath you, drying out around the fire with friends (and some strangers seeking warmth) is one the most satisfying things since the creation of adult onesies (well, almost). Be sure not to forget the marshmallows.

Splashy Fenners of all ages

4. Happy campers of all shapes and sizes

Maybe it’s the campfires. Maybe it’s the open space between your tent and your neighbours. At Splashy Fen the emphasis is not only on the music and the party, it’s also on the actual camping experience and outdoor activity. For me, this made it feel far more like a weekend getaway than just a place to get drunk and dance.

This could also be another reason why Splashy attracts people of all ages from all over the country (in fact, research conducted by Tourism KwaZulu-Natal in 2010 found 34% of attendees to be over 30 years old). There was everything from the ouma and oupa  Splashys to toddler Splashy in kid’s size-six gum boots. From Splashy veterans to Splashy virgins; you’ll find them all. And you can be sure they’ll welcome you into the Splashy family.

Stop and stare

5. Location, location, Location

Although you shouldn’t need an excuse, Splashy Fen offers you a chance to see and experience an area of the country you may not have seen before. The Underberg is an absolutely beauty, and staring up at Mount Splashy (as the frequenters call it) has become a highlight in many a yearly calendar.

Plus, it’s held on Easter Weekend every year which makes it the prefect opportunity to take some time off work, grab your friends or family and plan your route to the Drakensberg. I’d say you should do it at least once, but chances are, you’ll do it again.

If I haven’t yet convinced you, here are two more reasons you should join me at Splashy Fen next year:

Shmaak Durban

1. It’s the journey AND the destination

Journeying from Cape Town meant I had to fly to Durban and then road trip the rest of the way. It may sound like a bit of mission for a music festival, but if you treat the whole trip as an adventure it becomes well justified. The kilometers between are not only beautiful but can also be eventful if you know where to look, so make a trip out of it. Get out the map, plot a route, and see some things you haven’t seen before.

Distance from Durban: 209km

Drive time: +/- 3 hours *

Distance from Johannesburg: 584km

Drive time: +/- 7 hours *

* not including traffic and adventure detours and stops.

Alternatively, why not stay in the area longer and tick off Splashy’s 34 things to do while staying in the Underberg. From horseriding and tubing, to cheese and trout. The Underberg area has it all.

The Hairy Legged Lentil Eaters

2. The legend that is Splashy Fen

Splashy Fen was established in 1990, making it South Africa’s longest running music festival. What started off as a couple of musicians and music-lovers gathered around a fire has since become one of the country’s biggest festivals, claiming to see close on 10 000 people pass through their gates every year.

Splashy Fen has also seen many South African music legends grace their stages, most of whom were relatively unknown at the time. And while these acoustic acts remain the foundation of the event, a wider range of new music genres have been introduced in order to provide a platform for all sorts of artists and appeal to all sorts of musical tastes.

If you’re not a fan of camping, check out these accommodation options in KwaZulu-Natal’s Underberg and book your spot for next year’s festival.

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