12 glorious tented camps across South Africa

Posted on 30 April 2018

Whether you’re looking for a romantic break or an affordable getaway, these 12 tented camps are just what you need for an ultimate, no-fuss nature escape.

1.Summerfields Rose Retreat

Hazyview

Summerfields Rose Retreat, Hazyview. Image: Melanie van Zyl

This family-owned tented lodge really lives up to its name. A sanctuary on the banks of the Sabie River, I struggled to leave this gorgeous 100-hectare macadamia farm dotted with litchi trees and granadilla vines.

The tents are mostly geared for romance where you can choose a kingsize bed unit on the gurgling river or a quieter forest option that’s perfect for birding. There are two restaurants on site, using only the vegetables grown on the property, a communal lounge and pool area and roses absolutely everywhere – sprinkled on the walkways, in heart shapes on the deck and colourful bunches in all corners.

Expect luxury details such as Charlotte Rhys toiletries, snacky treats (macadamia nuts and homemade shortbread), filter coffee, plush downy duvets and indigenous forest surroundings.

The Spa consists of private Balinese-style wooden rooms overlooking the Sabie River – I had the Summer Rose Quartz treatment using hot and cold stones to massage the muscles, which melted my soul, followed by sedate reading while I sipped a cup of pear and cinnamon tea on the river deck. Highly recommended bliss. – Melanie van Zyl

Do it From R3295 per person B&B. summerfields.co.za

 

2. Mpila Tented Safari Camp

HluhluweL-Imfolozi Park

Tamboti Tented Camp, Kruger National Park. Image: Richard McKibbin

Nestled on King Shaka’s ancient hunting grounds, Mpila is the perfect base to experience KZN’s majestic wildlife. The tents are spotless, the beds are comfortable, there’s a fridge (a generator provides electricity from 6am to 10pm and water is heated by gas), a fully equipped kitchen and braai area.

An elephant wire is all that separates the camp from the wilderness, so small game moves freely between the tents. Nightly visitors include hyena and bushpig (tents have raised decks for safe viewing) and if you’re lucky, like we were, you may hear the earth-shaking roar of one of iMfolozi’s big male lions. – Richard McKibben
Do it From R1400 for a two-person tent and R2800 for a four-person tent. kznwildlife.com

 

3.Tlopi Tented Camp

Marakele National Park

Tlopi Tented Camp, Marakele. Image: Melanie van Zyl

Even though there are relatively new, rather modern tented camps in Marakele National Park (think crisp white linen, great kitchen facilities and evenly spread apart surrounded by Waterberg bushveld for privacy), I will still choose to stay at Tlopi Tented Camp. It’s an hour away from the main gate set around a dam with majestic mountain views.

The camp is unfenced and each tent is set on a deck overlooking the water with a braai (bring your own wood or charcoal as it’s not available inside the park) and kitchen area. It’s in the Big Five section of the park (the park is separated into two areas, the newer Bontle Tented Camp is home to rhino and the Tlopi section has lion, cheetah and ellies).

The 70 000-hectare park also offers more regular sightings of cheetah (especially in winter when the bush thins out a bit) and is considered to be the home of the largest colony of endangered Cape Vultures in the world – around 800 breeding pairs. – Melanie van Zyl

Do it From R1550 per unit (sleeps two), plus a daily conservation fee of R48 per person. sanparks.org

 

4. Bundox Safari Lodge

Hoedspruit

Bundox Safari Lodge, Hoedspruit. Image: Teagan Cunniffe

Bundox has close access to the Kruger National Park (Orpen Gate is 25 minutes away), the Panorama Route and Hoedspruit’s Eastgate Airport (30 minutes away). It’s also surrounded by exclusive game reserves such as Timbavati and Kapama. Location aside, it offers stylish luxury tents (Waterbuck and Nyala) as well as three safari tents.

The luxury tents have a private boma, outdoor bath and shower, wooden floors and a covered veranda out front with a small kitchenette while the safari tents are a paired-down version of this, without the kitchenette.

I loved the privacy and short walks through the bush to get to each camp, and the forest resonating with bird song in the early mornings. This, combined with the great location and facilities, make for a simple and relaxing stay. – Teagan Cunniffe

Do it: From R680 per person sharing. bundox.co.za

 

5. Tamboti Tented Camp

Kruger National Park

Tamboti Tented Camp, Kruger National Park. Image: Melanie van Zyl

A small satellite camp overlooking a dry riverbed regularly patrolled by hyena and other game, Tamboti Tented Camp gets you a little closer to nature than many of the main rest camps.

All tents line the river and have a small deck beside the boundary fence and a braai area with great views. Otherwise, there’s a bird hide located within the camp boundary if your view is lacking. This rustic camp is also known for its resident honey badger that rattles the bin lids at night (during my visit it got away with a tasty morsel of boerie off the table too).

The Orpen area is well known for big game sightings and a better chance of spotting rarer species such as cheetah and wild dog. Orpen Rest Camp is close by to stock up on supplies such as firewood and ice. – Melanie van Zyl

Do it: There are 30 budget tents (15 are two-bed and the other 15 sleep four), which have communal ablutions and kitchen facilities, but you need to bring utensils, plus pots and pans. Then there are 10 semi-luxury options that have their own private bathrooms and everything you need for self-catering. From R646 for two in the budget tents and R1475 in the luxury ones. The daily conservation fee is R82 per person. sanparks.org

 

6. Stanford Hills

Africamps, Stanford

Stanford Hills Africamps, Stanford. Image: Matthew Sterne

With commanding views of Stanford’s untouched countryside, Stanford Hills Africamps sits serenely between vineyards and a protea plantation high up on the Klein River mountains.

Five elevated tents overlook a nearby dam, each with their own deck, braai place and lounging chairs from which to enjoy the dramatic sunsets. The dam in front of the tents is for swimming and there’s another one below it for bass fishing. The kitchen is well equipped, and there’s a kind of charming simplicity here that encourages reading, delicious meals and long conversations. Sleeping five adults, the tents each have two double beds, one of which has a bunk above it.

The tea-coloured water in the taps runs straight off the mountain and is as clean as it gets (even if it doesn’t look like it). A nice feature that really makes the experience special is the breakfast basket that’s delivered to your door in the morning. It comes with a wide choice of morning treats such as yoghurt, muesli, fruit, bacon, sausage, eggs, milk and juice. Braai packs are also provided – both need to be ordered separately. – Matthew Sterne

Do it: From R495 per person sharing. africamps.com

 

7. Sweet Thorn Eco Lodge

Gamkaberg Nature Reserve


Sweet Thorn Eco Lodge, Gamkaberg Nature Reserve. Image: Gareth Van Nelson

Tucked somewhere in the Klein Karoo mountains is the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve. Initially established to conserve a small population of Cape mountain zebras, it is now a World Heritage Site.

Inside the reserve is Sweet thorn Eco Lodge, a collection of three well-maintained tented camps that offer guests a unique escape. For twitchers, it’s pure bliss: the reserve is home to a wide variety of special birds. We heard numerous calls in the Karoo stillness and even found a swallow’s nest on the porch of one of the tents.

The tents are eco-friendly and have dry-flush toilets and solar- and gas-powered utilities. There’s also a well-equipped kitchen, fridge, braai area and two outside hammocks that are perfect for relaxing in.

The cherry on top is the beds – they are absolutely blissful to sink into at the end of a day of exploring. The tents sleep two people each but it’s best to book all three as a group (the lodge sleeps six in total) so you get the entire place – plus plunge pool – to yourself. – Welcome Lishivha

Do it: From R650 for two people and R325 per additional person. capenature.co.za

 

8. Kalahari Tented Camp

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

Kgalagadi Tented Camp, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Image: Jacques Marais

A winding sand road timelining through an arid Kgalagadi dunescape will eventually get you to this exclusive tented camp, set well off the beaten tourist track and right within the savannah heart of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

The well-appointed tents are raised to overlook a park waterhole, and have been designed to make you feel absolutely at one with this ancient sweltering desert. Pop an ice-cold beer as you chill on the safe wooden deck near a small swimming pool – with proper Northern Cape red meat sizzling on the braai fire – while barking geckos salute the setting sun in the nearby dunes.

The sturdy canvas tents are all cooled by ceiling fans, and boast en-suite bathrooms as well as a kitchen fully equipped with crockery, cutlery and a fridge. There are eight tents with two single beds each, and a couple of these are designed to allow easy wheelchair access. A further four tents offer a bunk bed in addition to the two singles, and a luxury honeymoon tent has a double. – Jacques Marais

Do it: From R1600 per unit. The daily conservation fee is R82 per person. sanparks.org

 

9.Spekbook Tented Camp

Addo Elephant National Park

Spekboom Tented Camp, Addo Elephant National Park. Image; Melanie van Zyl

Easily accessible from Port Elizabeth, this intimate camp in Addo Elephant National Park is off-the-grid, but should be high on your to-do list. About 40 minutes drive from the main gate and Addo Rest Camp in Kirkwood (if you see nothing), unpack while it’s still light and head back to Hapoor Dam for golden hour.

Most life is found around the waterholes in this section of Addo because there’s no natural running water in the park – it has to be pumped up by boreholes, and elephants are just one of the species dependent on this life source. See them splashing around at sunset and drive the 10-minute stretch back to camp. Around the fire, you can also expect to hear black-backed jackal and fiery-necked nightjars cry into the evening as Spekboom is the only SANParks camp in the middle of Addo’s game area (other rest camps are all at the entrance gates of the park). – Melanie van Zyl

Do it: From R1010 for two. The daily conservation fee is R68 pp. sanparks.org

 

10. Maerua Luxury Safari Tents

Marloth Park

Maerua Luxury Safari Tents, Marloth Park. Image: Mia van der Merwe

As you turn off to Marloth Park, about 90 kilometres east of Nelspruit, the heavy traffic of the N4 transforms into a highway of wildlife. Within the first hour of our arrival, we were welcomed by kudu, zebra, warthog, duiker, impala and a family of francolins passing through Maerua camp. As you stroll from tent to tent, along stone paths and beneath thatched roofs, the first thing that comes to mind is ‘group getaway’.

Maerua has three luxury safari tents, with a fully equipped kitchen, dining room, a lapa with a bar, a stone boma and plunge pool to share – there is more than enough space and amenities for a big family. Thonningii and Mopane tents both have comfortable queen-size beds and a view of the bush and watering holes. Acacia looks onto the big boma and has one queen and two single beds. Each tent has aircon, a private bathroom, bar fridge, coffee station and lockable door – just in case the baboons visit. – Mia van der Merwe

Do it: The camp is not equipped to take two different groups at the same time. So, even if two people book one or two tents, the entire camp is yours. From R900 for two people sharing one tent, R150 per additional guest older than three years (the camp accommodates eight adults and two extra kids on stretchers). maerua.co.za

 

11.Inkwenkwezi Bush Camp

Cintsa

Inkwenkwezi Bush Camp, Cintsa. Image: supplied

Nestled in the bushveld of the wondrous Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve along the Wild Coast is Inkwenkwezi Bush Camp. Unfenced, it comprises six en-suite safari tents that each have two single beds and an en-suite bathroom with shower facilities designed to resemble a cave.

If you’re lucky, you can see the wildlife grazing on the open savannah and as far as the Indian Ocean from the wooden observation deck. Each room has electricity, a bar fridge, bedside table and a chest of drawers as well as tea- and coffee making facilities, plus an internal telephone – you feel as if you’re in the comfort of your own home. Luxurious and intimate, this tented camp is an ideal spot for you and your significant other. – Ondela Mlandu

Do it: From R1550 per person, including meals and activities.
eastlondon-info.co.za

 

12. Skilpad Camp

Namaqua National Park

Skilpad Camp, Namaqua National Park. Image: Tyson-Jopson

Once a year, right on the coastline of the Namaqua National Park, a luxury tented camp sprouts up just in time to join the region’s wildflowers as they come out of hiding to absorb the spring sea breeze.

From 23 August to 23 September, 12 fully serviced, spacious dome tents with their own private hot showers and ultra-comfortable beds are set up inside the national park. Mornings start with tea, coffee and rusks served to your tent before you can choose to spend the day hiking among the gorgeous blooms (highly recommended for photographers), mountain biking, or picnicking (baskets are available for R245).

You won’t get closer to the spring flowers anywhere else in the country and waking up to the smell of the sea air drifting between the sweet colourful fynbos is something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. – Tyson Jopson

Do it: From R2250 per person sharing, breakfast, high tea and three-course dinner included. The daily conservation fee is R40 per person. flowercamps.co.za

 

This selection of tented camps first appeared in the February issue of Getaway magazine.

Get this issue →

Our February issue features 12 of the best tented-camps around the country, fun-filled water adventures in Northern KZN, Madagascar by motorbike plus a guide to finding everyday magic in underrated Lisbon.

 






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