Over the past few months, AfriCamps guest, Chris Corbet stayed at every single AfriCamps Glamping Boutique property as he made his way across our beautiful country. Chris runs Kangela, a lifestyle brand for fellow travelers seeking adventure and discoveries. As with many of his previous adventures, Chris documented his journey on camera (check out his awesome videos on YouTube) and shared his experience at AfriCamps on his blog, Kangela Life, which is filled with exciting stories and stunning photography. Read about Chris’ AfriCamps experience below!
We recently embarked on a glamping road trip across South Africa, traveling from north to south, staying at all 11 AfriCamps properties along the way. Over 5000 kilometres in six weeks, visiting some of the most iconic places in the country. Starting from Hoedspruit, gateway to the Northern Kruger National Park. Hazyview, which offers incredibly close access to the Southern Kruger. Then on to Pongola in KwaZulu-Natal, the green and friendly Midlands Meander, and then down to the Western Cape. From bushveld, the big five, rolling green hills, mountains, and vineyards, this really was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
AfriCamps at Hoedspruit, Greater Kruger
The AfriCamps property at Hoedspruit is located around 20 kilometres outside town, on the road to the Kruger, and is owned and managed by Louwjie and Monika Roux, third-generation owners of the property. A truly special place, with luxury tents, ranged along the banks of a large dam, all fully equipped and fitted. It’s the ideal spot to get the full camping experience close to nature and with easy access to Kruger Park for day visits.
The tents are right on the water, you can literally fish for bass or carp from your deck or while braaing. Not all AfriCamps properties have wood-fired hot tubs yet, but Hoedspruit does. Having experienced it, I can say with hand on heart that there is no better way of spending an evening than sitting in the warm water, watching the stars, which are just so much brighter out here, without urban lights to disturb the darkness.
Monika will gladly provide a braai or breakfast pack, and wood and basic supplies are available from the little shop at reception. There is also a really cool pub, “The Nyala”, which is a good spot to enjoy a cold beer while catching up on your email or Instagram. There was no mobile signal at our tent, but there is signal at the reception, and Wi-Fi as well (not that fast, but totally usable).
AfriCamps at Mackers, Hazyview
Mackers is just outside Hazyview, a mere 30-minute drive from the Phabeni Gate entrance to the Kruger Park, and is owned and managed by Ryan and Michelle McKain (The Mackers). A unique place, with glamping tents, ranged along the banks of the Sabie River, all fully equipped and fitted.
The camp itself is found down a fairly long driveway that winds its way through the incredibly lush green forest to the banks of the river and is a welcome sight after a long day driving or game viewing in the Kruger. Tents are as expected, equipped with everything you might need and are protected from the heat of the Lowveld days by massive old trees. If you are lucky the shy resident otter might even come and say hello.
We went on a hike along the river to a beautiful waterfall, such a pleasure to wander (sometimes it’s a bit of a climb though) through the forest, always accompanied by the sound of the river running over the rocks.
The main attraction in the area is of course the Kruger Park, which is an easy 30-minute drive, but the town of Hazyview also has some interesting restaurants. The property is a very convenient base for exploring the Panorama Route.
AfriCamps at White Elephant Safaris, Pongola
White Elephant Safaris is at Lake Jozini in the Northern KwaZulu-Natal Pongola Reserve, and it’s the most recent addition to AfriCamps. The property is 50 kilometres from the closest town, Pongola, and is built on a low hill overlooking the massive Lake Jozini. It’s the genuine African “bush” experience, with warthog, nyala, and other wildlife grazing right in front of the wooden deck. And, relaxing in the wood-fired hot tub, watching the sun set over the bush is a sight that you have to experience to appreciate.
There are 12 luxury tents, all with magnificent views over the unspoiled bush, towards Jozini and the mountains of Swaziland in the distance, all fully equipped and fitted. It’s the ideal spot to get the full wilderness experience, and a boat-based game viewing trip on the lake gets you in close touch with the creatures who call this lovely place home. If you get tired of braaing or cooking, nearby Nkwazi Lodge is a 10-minute drive from AfriCamps, where you can get an excellent meal, coffee and cake, or a sundowner.
AfriCamps at Gowan Valley, The Midlands
Our stay at AfriCamps at Gowan Valley took place during a very rainy time, which is a pity, but it also gave us the opportunity to experience more “winter-like” glamping. At one time, I had three fires going, one in the wood-burning fire in the tent, one in the braai, and another for the hot tub.
Gowan Valley is in the heart of the KZN Midlands Meander route with its rolling green hills and endless views. With only five tents, it’s got a “special” feel about it, in an incredibly beautiful setting surrounded by rolling hills, forests, endless fields, and the swift-flowing Mpofana River. If you are into trout fishing, apparently the river is stocked with some decent fish, sadly I didn’t have my gear, so that will have to be for another visit. There is also an easy(ish) hike through the indigenous forest and along the banks of the river.
Owners Deanne, and Brett Bouwer farm Nguni Cattle and Golden Kiwis on the property, which is overlooked by the five AfriCamps tents. We were welcomed by the friendly and ever so helpful Tarryn, who warmly demonstrated the friendly hospitality for which the Midlands is so well known. Expect the two very friendly farm dogs to join you for a braai, they joined us on both nights we were at the camp, but they are very well behaved and don’t “expect” anything to fall off the table (or not much anyway).
AfriCamps at Ingwe, Plettenberg Bay
Nestled in a hidden valley near The Crags, outside Plettenberg Bay, Ingwe is right up there for a spot as the most beautiful AfriCamps in the country. I honestly didn’t have high expectations for Ingwe, maybe that’s because I’m not a fan of Plettenberg Bay but was blown away by the sheer beauty of the place. The tents, situated high above the indigenous forest-covered valley below, have views to die for, and the red plastic wood-fired hot tub is a bit different to the ones we saw at other camps, it reminded us of a Le Creuset bowl 😉
There is a hiking trail on the farm called the “couch potato”, whoever named it is clearly quite fit because while not THAT hectic, there are a few pretty steep sections. But it’s very shady and takes you through some beautiful parts of the farm. For the more adventurous, try the Robberg Peninsula trail in Plett. We did the shorter, five kilometres route. If time and fitness allow, there is a longer route right to the end of the peninsula which is around 11 kilometres.
Plett has a pretty large selection of restaurants from which to choose if you want to go out for lunch or dinner. We went to Enrico’s, which is right on the beach at Keurbooms Strand and the food is out of this world. It opens for lunch at 12 midday, and by 10 minutes past the hour, it was already full. We were lucky to get a table, but I’d advise booking.
AfriCamps at Oakhurst, Wilderness
After experiencing the glamping lifestyle over the couple of weeks leading up to our stay at Oakhurst, I can say with sincerity that this is my new favourite way to spend a weekend. Oakhurst is a working dairy farm, quite a large one, at 640 hectares. There are a whole bunch of activities on the farm itself, and the surrounding area is well geared for visitors, with loads of ways of getting in touch with nature, and plenty of really good restaurants and pubs within really easy reach.
The farm is run by Jake Crowther and his wife Claire, sixth-generation descendants of the original purchaser, Henry Dumbleton. It’s been in the family for six generations or 180 years.
Apart from walks on the farm itself, and fishing for bass in the large farm dam, there is also a wide choice of forest, beach, and mountain walks in the area. We did a short walk through an indigenous forest to the Big Tree, which is a couple of km from the farm. The Big Tree itself is a massive Outeniqua Yellowwood, estimated to be over 800 years old. That would make the tree already 200 years old when Joan of Arc was giving the English a hard time, 300 years old when Henry VIII was giving his wives a hard time, and 400 years old when Jan Van Riebeeck arrived at the Cape and gave the locals a hard time. For a history buff, it’s a huge privilege to sit under the tree and just imagine the history that has passed by during its lifetime.
AfriCamps Klein Karoo, Oudtshoorn
Oudsthoorn is a town that always revolved around the ostrich industry, but these days it’s just got so much more to offer. From game viewing safaris, where the big five can be spotted, to the world-famous and unique Cango Caves, not to forget really good restaurants and wine estates. And the AfriCamps Klein Karoo property is really well placed to serve as a base for exploring this still relatively undiscovered region.
This was the very first AfriCamps that was launched in 2015, which has been the benchmark for all that’s followed. And I must say, these tents have really stood the test of time, the design hasn’t changed, because they got it so right the first time. And they are clearly robust because the condition of the tents at this camp is excellent. There’s a stunning pool (it was still a bit cold to swim when we stayed), and a kiosk where you can buy basics and a cold beer.
AfriCamps at Pat Busch, Robertson
Just 16 km outside the Route 62 town of Robertson is the lovely Pat Busch Mountain Reserve. It’s a place of unsurpassed natural beauty, hidden away in a breathtakingly beautiful mountain valley. As a place to get away from the daily grind, spend your days hiking the mountain trails, fishing in the dam, or chilling by the pool, it’s all right here. And being only a couple of hours’ drive from Cape Town, it’s an easy weekend getaway in unspoiled nature.
Pat Busch is very much about solitude and reconnecting with nature, which is all around, and in abundance. But having said that, there is a decent Wi-Fi connection in most of the tents, for those who absolutely HAVE to stay connected. We were in #10, which is right at the end, so the connection wasn’t great, but that wasn’t an issue for us, when we had to connect, we took a walk down to the pool where there’s a strong signal.
Robertson has some great restaurants, we had an awesome lunch at Bourbon Street, a great vibe, excellent food and it was packed, so they must be doing something right. The area is home to some excellent wines as well, we just chilled and enjoyed the peace of the reserve, but wine lovers won’t be left wanting.
AfriCamps at Doolhof, Wellington
Doolhof Wine Estate is a short distance from the Cape Winelands town of Wellington, making it the closest AfriCamps property to Cape Town. There are six tents surrounded by beautiful vineyards, mountains, and clear mountain streams. The tents are somewhat closer together than the other camps, but even so, there is no sense of a lack of privacy. We stayed during the week, so there was only one other tent occupied, so it was like we had the place to ourselves anyway.
It’s home to some really excellent wines, grown and produced on the estate. An afternoon of wine tasting and food pairing is time well spent for wine lovers. I can say from first-hand experience, parking off in the hot tub on a warm summer evening, with a chilled glass of Doolhof Rosé (yes, I enjoy a Rosé), is hard to beat.
The stream that runs through the estate is well known with trout anglers for its wild brown trout, sadly I didn’t have my fly-fishing gear. Some really nice and easy walks along the river and through the vineyards are an excellent way of walking or exploring, and a visit to the labyrinth is worthwhile. In fact, the name of the estate comes from the fact that the original owners of the farm thought that the deep and hidden valleys seemed like a labyrinth, which is translated into Afrikaans as Doolhof.
AfriCamps at Stanford Hills, Stanford
The penultimate property on our long road trip from north to south was at Stanford Hills, on a boutique wine estate near the Southern Cape village of Stanford. It’s located roughly halfway between Hermanus and Gansbaai (most famous for its white shark diving). The farm is spread across the lower slopes of the Klein River mountain range, about two hours from Cape Town. Tents all overlook the farm dam, and while this camp didn’t have hot tubs when we visited, new tents were being erected which will be (or are by the time you read this) equipped with wood-fired hot tubs.
While there aren’t that many restaurants in the village of Stanford, you won’t go wrong at the Tasting Room restaurant on the farm, where you can enjoy amazing food, using all local ingredients, and enjoy wine grown and made on the farm. It’s child and dog friendly, a real family affair.
There’s lots to do in the area, fishing in the farm dam, hiking through the vineyards or mountains, shark or whale watching at Gansbaai, or the bustle of Hermanus. It’s no wonder that it’s a favourite with Capetonians for a weekend getaway.
AfriCamps at Kam’Bati, Swellendam
Kam’Bati is on the banks of the Breede River, a few kilometres from Swellendam in the Western Cape. It was the last of 11 AfriCamps properties that we visited, and definitely one of our top three.
The weather wasn’t great, more like winter than early summer, but the surroundings and quality of the accommodation and facilities were outstanding. The property is very much geared for families, and also for traditional campers and those who prefer four solid walls, with the on-site chalets.
I can really recommend it, and it’s close (around two hours’ drive) to Cape Town too. The staff was so friendly and helpful, we found that in general, the Western Cape management, unlike further north, have a more hands-off approach, so it was refreshing to actually meet and interact with the guys and girls looking after the guests. This is a purely personal preference, I’m sure that many folks prefer to keep a distance in these times.
It’s got a bit more of a holiday “resort” kind of feel to it, with putt put (mini-golf), water slides for the kids, a very cool lounge and entertainment area, and a well-stocked shop. The AfriCamps tents are set aside from the family area, so privacy and peace, and quiet are no problem at all if that’s what you are looking for. I can well imagine that there could be quite a party vibe in less troubled times and over holidays.
Let’s face it, camping is one of those things that people either love or hate, there is very little middle ground. Glamping may be the answer. You can leave all your gear at home and still get the full camping experience. The smell of the canvas, the sound of the wind flapping the tent, the outdoor aspect but without the downsides of camping, like pitching a tent, trekking your dishes to the ablution block to wash up, sharing showers and communal cooking facilities, or sheltering from the rain in a tent or caravan.
Booking a tent is very easy through the AfriCamps website, with real-time availability and online payment with instant confirmation. And, checking in is also easy and contact-free, so if social distancing in style is what you are after, this will definitely work for you.
We traveled as guests of AfriCamps, who graciously offered our accommodation, with no strings attached. Other travel costs, food, drink, and excursions were at our own expense.
Follow Chris on his next adventure!