You won’t have to break the bank to get out into the bush with these wallet-friendly options. Take the road less travelled and see what Limpopo, the Eastern and Northern Cape have to offer. We’ve picked 5 of the best and most affordable bush breaks.
Bhubesi Lodge, Welgevonden Game Reserve
Wanting reference for some of my wildlife paintings, we headed to the bushveld. Our ranger had just collected us at the gate of Welgevonden Game Reserve and started the trip to our lodge, when we spotted blesbuck and giraffe. As we trundled along the track, he suddenly headed off on another road and there, lying resplendent in the bush, her face speckled with blood, was a magnificent lioness and her kudu kill. Welgevonden’s name (‘well found’) lived up to its promise.
The reserve is home to the Big Five and more than 50 mammal species. We witnessed an attempted cheetah kill, saw a terrapin, aardvark, lynx, bushbuck and so much more. Welgevonden Game Reserve has several lodges to suit different pockets. The iBhubesi Lodge is self-catering (you bring the food, they prepare it for you). Rates include two daily game drives with a ranger and you can book the accommodation exclusively for your party of 10. The rooms are large and beautifully appointed. Minimum stay of two nights.– Ann Gadd
083 459 8409
086 166 33 42
2. Northern Cape
Mata-Mata Rest Camp, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
Situated on the banks of the dry Auob River, here’s a good choice for couples and small families. Chalets are fitted with two single beds, air conditioning and a small equipped kitchen.
There is no cellphone reception, but there is a swimming pool and a bird hide for really enjoying the prolific birdlife. I especially loved how you can light a fire while watching the sun set on another perfect day in Africa, and listen to the nightlife as darkness sets.
I was lucky enough to spot giraffe close to the camp (the area is a favourite haunt of theirs). Electricity is only available from 5am to 10pm, so plan accordingly. It’s a 2.5 hour drive from Twee Rivieren without much stopping. – René de Klerk
054 561 2000, www.sanparks.org
3. Eastern Cape
Endalweni Private Game Reserve, Kei Mouth
It’s an easy drive from East London, and we were charmed by the picturesque, undulating property. We even met a few of the resident animals on our way to reception – a giraffe, a variety of antelope and my favourite warthogs, with young. We had booked a suite on a bed and breakfast basis but decided to indulge in an evening meal at the restaurant, which was exceptional.
The accommodation comprised a well-appointed kitchenette and full en-suite bathroom. We didn’t need to go further than the veranda to view the game and the wealth of birdlife but, with no ferocious beasts here, we took a guided horseback tour and, apart from the animals, enjoyed identifying the flora that included prehistoric cycads. A scenic gorge on the Great Kei River was worth the visit. The friendly folk and restful ambience call for a revisit – and all this in malaria-free territory. – Olivia Schaffer
Skukuza Rest Camp, Kruger National Park
I find it difficult to pass up an opportunity to visit the Kruger National Park, and would much rather be stuck in a roadblock of zebras or impalas than in busy city traffic. Skukuza has easy access from the Paul Kruger Gate, making it a good option for a quick visit.
The rest camp has various accommodation options, but the bungalows are a good, affordable choice. These basic rondavels are equipped with single beds and an en-suite bathroom. The unit I stayed in had air conditioning and a small kitchenette with a fridge and basics. Some units are equipped with a small hotplate, alternatively there is a communal kitchen nearby if you don’t braai.
What contributes to the camp’s beauty is its location on the banks of the Sabie River, and there is no better way to experience it than with a sundowner in hand on the restaurant deck. This is the perfect location for beautiful sunset photos. – René de Klerk
013 735 4196, www.sanparks.org, [email protected]
Tlopi Rest Camp, Marakele National Park
Staring out at the calm surface of Tlopi Dam, I soak up the reflection of the Waterberg mountains. It’s just past sundown, and the fire on my deck overhanging the dam is a slight comfort, knowing that the wild is just over the railing.
A herd of elephants moves on after stopping for a drink and swim, and a Fiery-necked Nightjar sings not too far away. Marakele is unlike any other bush escape – it has striking mountain views, vast bush thicket, and is Big Five country. Marakele’s reputation for sensational landscapes, lush bush and pure wilderness is well-earned. In just one night, I hear lions, jackal and many screeches and huffs I can’t quite place.
The park is a haven for a diverse number of common and rare bird species, and home to the world’s largest breeding colony of Cape Vultures. You’ll experience wildlife heading down for a drink literally on your doorstep, so simply pack a bottle of bubbly and get cosy for the night. The safari tents each have two beds and a fully equipped kitchen. – Taryn Arnott van Jaarsveld
014 777 6928, www.sanparks.org, [email protected]