It’s summer and what better way to be one with nature than to find a beautiful spot where you can pitch your tent, sit back with pleasant company and watch the sun go down while your meat is sizzling on the coals. While South Africa has an abundance of caravan and camping parks, there are of course many other sites and spots where one can also camp, such as on a mountain hike or paddling down a river.
We have selected eight superb such wilderness camping spots as well some caravan/camping parks you may want to try out. This is by no means the definitive list, as there are many, many more such places, but it does provide a taste of what one can choose from. Be sure, however, to first establish whether camping is allowed before pitching your tent anywhere.
The West Coast
The entire length of the West Coast between Cape Town and the Namibian border is outdoor country, and therefore abounds with excellent sites to camp. Some of our favourite spots are Ou Skip Caravan Park at Melkbosstrand, just outside Cape Town; Langebaan on the lagoon; Ganzekraal; Yzerfontein; Elandsbaai; two camp sites at Velddrif; Dwarskersbos; and Strandfontein. But be warned, a number of these camp sites don’t have grass – only sand, and when the Southeaster blows in summer, it can be a bit of a challenge. But the beautful coastline, the friendly people and the choice of things to do and see will more than make up.
West Coast Tourism Tel +27 (0)22 433 8505 or email email@example.com.
Mossel Bay Area
Those lucky people who have enjoyed a camping holiday in Mossel Bay or surrounds, will go back year after year after year. There’s nothing to beat it. From the camping sites at The Point, Santos and De Bakke in Mossel Bay, to Voorbaai, Hartenbos, Glentana, Little Brak River and Great Brak River and quite a few places more, the sites are all superbly maintained, excellently located along the sea or rivers, with squeaky clean ablution facilities and plenty of fun and friendly campers to get to know. And the region lends itself to lazy days on excellent sandy beaches, hiking along sea cliffs or in the mountains, shore and deep sea fishing, diving, swimming, surfing, eating out, shopping, golf and other sports, a local wine farm or two, and even gambling in the local casino, among plenty more.
Orange River & Richtersveld
For the more adventurous the Orange River is just the thing. Pack a kayak and paddle as many kilometres as you like from east to west across almost the entire South Africa until you get to the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay. All along the route you will find special camping sites or larger caravan parks for kayakers, hikers and road trippers. There are also organised kayaking tours with commercial companies and guides who have their own camping sites en route along the river. A special lure of the Orange River is the Richtersveld National Park though which you can cross in a 4X4 in a group until you reach the banks of the river where you can forget there is another world out there.
Victoria Bay, Wilderness & surrounds
Bordered by forests, mountains, lakes and the ocean. This is what you find if you visit the jewels of the Southern Cape from George to Knysna and everything in-between. Camping sites here are plentiful and located in some of the most magnificent locations. Whether you choose the Victoria Bay popular with surfers, Wilderness National Park where hiking and kayaking will keep you busy, the Island Lake Holiday Resort, Sedgefield, Knysna or any of the numerous other sites, the experience will make you come back for more.
George Tourism Tel +27 44 801 9295 or email firstname.lastname@example.org; Wilderness Tourism Tel +27 44 877 0045 or email email@example.com; or Knysna Information Tel +27(0)44 382 5510 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
East London Area
This is another beautiful coastal region of South Africa where you will be spoilt for choice when it comes to camping sites. Caravan and camping sites are well maintained with excellent facilities. Whatever your fancy, whether just beach-bumming or surfing, snorkelling, fishing, kayaking, kitesurfing, hiking, or shopping, eating out, or whatever, you’ll find it here. And after a hard day’s fun you can return to your tent or caravan, light a fire, open a beer, and sit back in contemplation of the wonderful day you had. Your choice of places to pitch your tent start in the south at Port Alfred, all the way up to Hamburg, Christmas Rock, Kidd’s Beach, East London, Nahoon, Beacon Bay, Gonubie, and on to Chintsa, Cefani, Haga Haga, Morgan Bay and Kei River Mouth.
Visit Eastern Cape (Tourism) Tel +27 (0)43 492 0881 or email email@example.com.
Few experiences are as soul refreshing and spiritually healing as a stay in one of South Africa’s many beautiful national parks and nature reserves. And the cherry on top is that most of them also having excellent camping sites. Closer to nature one cannot get! Whether you pitch your tent on the Diepwalle Forested Camping Decks deep inside the Knysna forest, in the Mata Mata Rest Camp in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, at Lang Elsie’s Kraal Rest Camp on the banks of the Breede River in the Bontebok National Park, or in the Skukuza Rest Camp of the Kruger National Park surrounded by nearby lions, elephants, cheetahs and other exquisite wild creatures, it will be a treat of a lifetime.
SANParks Central Reservations (Pretoria) +27 (0)12 428 9111 or mobile +27 (0)82 233 9111 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Golden Gate Highlands & Maluti Mountains
For a camping experience with a difference, visit the Golden Gate Highlands National Parl nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north-eastern Free State. Rejuvenate yourself; spend time in the majestic Maluti Mountains; go hiking, horse riding, exploring caves and much more; all in the indescribable golden glow of the vibrant rock colors and awesome rock formations. The Vulture’s Restaurant (bird hide) welcomes birders to a proper vulture feast. The Basotho Cultural Village will transport you back in time and take you on an incredible journey where a chief offers you mqombothi (sorghum beer), his wives offer you the fruits of their labour and a traditional healer offers you insight into African spirituality. You can also visit Cathedral Cave, visit the nearby artists’ and farming community of Clarence, or try to ascend the Brandwag Buttress. Also nearby is the start of the Sani Pass that crosses high up into mountainous Lesotho with breathtaking views. In winter the area becomes a snow-covered wonderland.
Golden Gate Highlands National Park Tel +27 (0)58 255 1000 or fax +27 (0)58 255-0980 or email Goldengate@sanparks.org.
Storms River Mouth
One of the most awesome camping and caravan sites in South Africa can be found at the mouth of the Storms River in the Tsitsikamma National Park, which forms part of the larger Garden Route National Park. You will be camped just meters away from the roaring Indian Ocean in a well-kept park with all the necessary amenities, including a popular restaurant with a large wooden deck overlooking the river mouth and ocean. Hikes galore will keep you bus when not cavorting in the ocean or kayaking up the deep dark waters of the river in a canyon, dwarfed by steep cliffs on either side. Just outside the national park you will find Stormsrivier village with its B&B’s, restaurants, pubs, and canopy tours, as well as the Big Tree and Storms River Bridge.