This story was updated on 4 March 2019.
In the days of old being environmentally friendly entailed pitching a tent, lighting the fire and having an icy shower. But, you no longer have to give up on your creature comforts to stay green, says René de Klerk.
We rounded up some off-the-grid park stays where your impact on Mother Nature is minimal.
1. Vhembe Wilderness Camp, Mapungubwe National Park
Tucked away on a ridge within a valley and with only four units, Vhembe is a great option for a secluded breakaway. While rustic, each unit comes with beautiful views and private braai areas.
Energy: Solar lights and a gas stove.
Note: Unfenced camp with shared fridge in the communal kitchen.
Cost: From R772 for two people.
2. Mountain Cottages, Mountain Zebra National Park
Take in the park’s atmosphere by booking one of two secluded and rustic mountain cottages. Tucked away in the rocky surroundings, you are bound to experience tranquillity.
Energy: The kitchen has a gas stove and gas-powered fridge/freezer. Hot water shower is gas-powered.
Note: Access only with 4×4 or 2×4 with diff lock. Ablutions are outside, but the unit is fenced.
Cost: From R979 for two people, but up to 10 can be accommodated. One room has a double bed, and the other two single beds. There is a room with six bunk beds, but own bedding is required.
3. Afsaal Cottage, Karoo National Park
Visitors are guaranteed peace, tranquillity and thousands of stars at the former shepherd’s hut 35km from reception. The unit even has its own private waterhole.
Energy: Solar lights, gas for cooking, gas fridge and shower.
Note: Toilet separate, but unit is fenced.
Cost: R1 045 for two people. Arrangements can be made for two additional stretchers for children.
4. Narina Bush Camp, Addo Elephant National Park
Spend some time in a magical forest on the banks of the Wit River with the Zuurberg Mountains as your backdrop.
Energy: Paraffin for hot water, gas stove and fridge, solar lighting and water, paraffin lamps.
Note: High clearance vehicle required to get there.
Cost: From R1 529 for four people. Up to eight can sleep in four tents.
5. Overseers Cottage, Table Mountain National Park
This cottage high up on the ‘other side’ of Table Mountain is exclusive, but there is a catch – it is only accessible on foot. Arrangements can be made to transport your luggage up to the top, though.
Energy: Gas geyser, stove and paraffin lamps.
Note: No vehicles allowed.
Cost: R 2 981 for six people, but the unit can accommodate up to 16 people.
6. Rhenosterkop, Agulhas National Park
Stay on one of the oldest farms in the Strandveld, established in 1742. Beautifully restored, these units give you the opportunity to experience the farming lifestyle.
Energy: Solar lighting and gas for cooking, hot water and refrigeration.
Note: Rhenosterkop is 31km from the lighthouse.
Cost: From 868 for two people.
7. De Zyfer, Tankwa Karoo National Park
Most of the options in the park qualify as off-the-grid, but De Zyfer Cottage is truly special. An old farmhouse, this unit offers accommodation in the traditional sense.
Energy: Gas stove, lanterns and candles for lighting. Solar power runs the fridge. Make a fire for hot water
Cost: R737 for two people.
8. Jo-Anne’s Beach Cottage, West Coast National Park
This latest offering is situated next to Jo-Anne’s Beach Cottage and has recently been revamped to accommodate four people. It is also the ideal point from which to explore the park’s scenery.
Energy: The fridge, geyser and stove are gas and electricity is solar.
Note: Water comes from a well and is safe to drink.
Cost: From R1 615 for four people.
9. Wilderness camps, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
All six wilderness camps in the park fall in this category and offer visitors an exclusive stay in an unfenced area. Urikaruus is our choice.
Energy: Solar fridge/freezer, solar lights and gas-heated water.
Note: Bring your own drinking water and firewood.
Cost: Riverside Cabins from R1 862 for two people.
10. Tree house, Mokala National Park
Spend a night in the branches of an old camel thorn tree while you watch game at the waterhole.
Energy: Gas freezer and burner. A gas geyser heats water.
Cost: Priced from R1 360 in low season for two people.
11. Oranjekom Gorge Cottage, Augrabies Falls National Park
Enjoy spectacular views on the edge of the spectacular gorge. The unit is situated underneath the Oranjekom viewing deck.
Energy: Gas stove and solar power for lights.
Note: Ablution facilities are not inside unit. There is also no fan or air-conditioning.
Cost: From R1 826 per night for two people.
12. Gannakouriep, /Ai/Ais- Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
These stone and canvas structures are situated far from civilization and you are sure to enjoy the surroundings. There are four units available.
Energy: Gas stove and solar powered fridge and geyser.
Note: Bring your own drinking water and firewood.
Cost: From R924 for two people.
13. Boulders Bush Lodge, Kruger National Park
Most bush camps and wilderness trail camps in the Kruger qualify. For a family or group getaway, pick Boulders, about 25km from Mopani Rest Camp. The lodge is built on a rocky outcrop overlooking its own waterhole.
Energy: Solar power and gas geyser.
Note: The unit is unfenced.
Cost: From R5 629 for four people (max 12)
14. Urikaruus, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Get an even better experience of this sandy paradise by booking a night in one of the six popular wilderness camps. There will never be more than eight people per camp, which makes it an exclusive experience.
Energy: Solar lights, gas geyser and gas stove.
Note: Supply own drinking water and wood. Camp is unfenced.
Cost: From R1 862 for two.
Words René de Klerk. Originally published in SANParks Times.