Travelling between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth on the ‘Garden Route’, we decided to break up the journey by spending the night in Oudtshoorn. I was responsible for accommodation bookings on this trip, so did a bit of research and came across something a bit different. Africamps – luxury tented accommodation, often referred to as ‘Glamping’. We were travelling with my wife’s family (nine of us in total) so I booked 2 of the tents (each can accommodate up to 5 people). Knowing what my wife’s reaction would have been if I had told her we were spending the night in a tent, I decided to keep this little surprise to myself. I just told the group that we had accommodation sorted for the night, so let’s get going.
I had prebooked the ‘Braai pack’ (braai is what the South Africans call a BBQ) and breakfast for the following morning. Knowing we would still need some drinks, we stopped in the town of Oudtshoorn for some drinks prior to checking in. My wife is quite fond of a South African cider called ‘Savanna’ and picked up some for the evening. Savanna is often drunk with a wedge of lemon, much like some Mexican beers, and in-between picking up the drinks and arriving at Africamps she realised she had not bought any lemons. “Oh nevermind”, she said “I’ll just ring down to room service and have them send some up”. I kept quiet.
Arriving at the security gate, I tapped in the code sent to me earlier that day and we drove along an unmade road for about 1km. Just then the tents came into view, and there was a mixture of moans, groans, and cheers (mainly from the kids). Any misgivings quickly dissipated as we entered the two tents designated for us. They are really hotel rooms inside a tent covering, everything we needed was there, double beds, hot showers, full kitchen, tables, and the previously ordered food all set out. After deciding on the sleeping configurations, we unloaded the cars and settled in. It was starting to get dark by the time we got the braai going (luckily we had an expert in the art of braai with us).
Vision Impaired Traveller?
Africamps provide adequate lighting inside the tents and a light outside on the small seating deck. You are of course in the middle of nature, and apart from the light of the fire (if you are using it) you are surrounded by darkness. If, like me, you cannot see in dark areas, be sure to bring a small torch to light your path if you need to go between tents in the evening. On the plus side, you are away from any crowds, just you, your group, a few others and mother nature. Be sure to watch your footing if you decide to explore the site, there are pathways from the parking area to the tents, but other than that the terrain is pretty rugged.
As the sun started to set, the smell of bbq meat filled the air (including ostrich meat as Oudtshoorn is famous for its ostrich farms). There was heaps of food, far too much for us in fact, and we ended up taking a lot of the meat packs back to Port Elizabeth the next day. It was a wonderful experience, far better than any hotel or bed and breakfast could have given us. Even the most ‘delicate’ amongst us were won over by the atmosphere of sitting around an open fire, chatting, eating and having a drink (even without lemon).
Our host, Esti-Mari, popped over to welcome us and make sure we were ok with everything. She was very friendly and explained everything we needed to know.
The big draw for Africamps is the many (safe) animals which surround the camp. I noticed different species of antelope and buffalo amongst others. Directly in front of the tents there is a dam which you may be lucky enough to see the animals taking a drink. To emphasise the fact that these animals posed us no danger, they were described as ‘walking biltong’ to someone in our group who was nervous about sleeping so close to them. Biltong is a South African dried meat similar to beef jerky.
After an equally large breakfast, we packed our belongings and headed for Port Elizabeth. I was very happy with my choice of accommodation, and thankfully it seemed everyone else was too. I just need to remember lemons for our next visit.