This story was updated on 14 March 2019.
Find luxury and style in the middle of Mother Nature by visiting these top luxurious tented camp destinations across South Africa. Glamping is luxury camping at its finest.
1. Marataba Safari Lodge, Marakele National Park
In the breathtaking Waterberg mountain range just 3½ hours from Johannesburg, Marataba Safari Lodge has 15 luxury tented suites, each with a private view of plains and berg. Each tent has a large private bathroom area, indoor and outdoor shower, and a free-standing bath with a view to die for. The large king-size bed opens onto a wooden deck where we sat and listened to the call of the African Hoopoe. The birdlife is abundant, and Malachite and Woodland Kingfisher, Yellow-billed Hornbill and Little Bee-eater were just some of what we spotted.
Two daily game drives are given by expert guides around 23 000 hectares of private concession. A journey of giraffe crossed our path, before we sighted other magnificent beasts including hippo, wildebeest, zebra, impala, kudu, wild dog, and jackal.
I ticked an elusive young female leopard off my bucket list.
A water safari is part of the experience, and we enjoyed snacks and drinks on a lazy boat cruise where sunsets are superb and peace can be found. There are also various walking trails. The food is divine, and the service humbling.
A place not to be missed.
+27 (0) 11 880 9992, [email protected]
Words Carina Borralho
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2. Kwafubesi Tented Safari Camp, Mabula
I spent much of my childhood in the Waterberg, and its magnificent bushveld has always had a place close to my heart. Kwafubesi is the tented camp of Mabula Game Lodge, 50 kilometres west of Bela-Bela on 12 000 hectares of remarkable Big Five bushveld. It was the perfect spot to visit all these years later.
We checked in at the main lodge, which is reached by tar road, and were driven to our camp by our field guide. That was the beginning of a blissful weekend being spoilt 24/7. Everything was laid on for us in our luxury tent (one of five). Meals, prepared by our chef who had a great sense of humour and sure knows how to cook, were served in the lapa. Game drives with our guide, a veritable library of everything about the bush, were the best we’ve ever had – great companions in the vehicle and great game spotting (we saw it all but my highlight was caracal).
For the rest, we enjoyed quiet time on our private deck, drinks at the bar and spent plenty of time in the swimming pool with a view.
The peace, the surroundings and, let’s face it, getting back to nature amid such luxury, really was much-needed food for the soul.
+27 (0) 11 516 4367; [email protected]
Words Riaan Hattingh
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3. HillsNek Safari Camp, Amakhala Game Reserve
A regular and enthusiastic camper, I decided it was time to experience roughing it in style, and having heard rave reviews about HillsNek Safari Camp, one of 11 lodges in Amakhala Game Reserve in the malaria-free Eastern Cape, we were fortunate to find a cancellation. We were booked into one of four opulent, en-suite tents that offered awe-inspiring, panoramic vistas of a wide sky and open plains from the expansive wooden deck.
We enjoyed the privacy of this boutique, four-star, family-run property. It’s a romantic place where exceptional meals, experienced rangers and personalised service are customary. The all-inclusive rate included game drives in open Land Rovers through a rolling landscape of Big Five country.
Evenings were spent sipping sundowners under a star-studded sky as we reflected on our good fortune.
Here you’ll find the fine line between tourism and conservation has been achieved. This piece of paradise is an easy drive from Port Elizabeth and conveniently located off the N2 on the way to Grahamstown.
+27 (0) 82 324 3484; [email protected]
Words Olivia Schaffer
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4. Glen Eden Farm, Montagu
Glamping is having the fun of camping without the pain. In this case it also has a true fairy-tale element. Imagine the romance of a handcrafted gypsy waggon combined with the comfort of a king-size bed. Dream of an authentic tepee for the kids with a smoke hole for viewing the stars from twin beds, then add a charming little pod with open-fronted kitchen/dining area, and a shower and loo behind it.
This glamp is in a sheltered spot at Glen Eden Ranch, in a pretty valley just ten minutes’ drive from Montagu on Route 62. The concept is the brainchild of Andy and Claudette Cooper, originally from the UK, who fell in love with South Africa and bought their farm, where hospitality has won over farming sheep, pigs and chickens.
“We farm people now,” jokes Andy. The dog-friendly farm also offers three luxury cottages with plunge pools, a petting farm with alpacas, lambs and goats.
+27 (0) 71 100 2782
Words Marianne Heron
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5. B’sorah Luxury Tented Camp, Broederstroom
For us, the dream life is about falling asleep to the sound of frogs and a stream in front of our tent, enjoying peace at night, and bird chatter at sunrise telling us it’s time to get the kettle going. We found all this on a weekend break at B’sorah Luxury Tented Camp, ten kilometres west of Broederstroom and an easy hour’s drive from Gauteng.
We opted for one of the four eco-friendly luxury tents and had round-the-clock hot water from a ‘donkey’ and solar power. Tents are serviced – excluding Sundays – and, when pre-arranged, a hot breakfast is available most days at the farmhouse. Picnic baskets can be ordered for any meal, should you wish.
We hiked the two trails on the 1600ha farm, soaking up the fresh air and endless small attractions like insects, spoor, plants and game such as impala, nyala and warthog. Evenings were enjoyed with a glass of wine and a crackling fire while appreciating the good life.
+27 (0) 78 345 3825; [email protected]
Words Riaan Hattingh
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6. Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve, Chintsa
There’s an ice bucket for the bottle of wine and a spa bath on the elevated timber deck, so it’s nothing like the camping I did as a child. But I’m definitely sleeping under canvas in a large comfy double bed with fine cotton sheets instead of my smelly old sleeping bag.
Glamping is way different to ordinary camping and not too hard to get used to when it comes with so many luxuries, such as a private bathroom with slipper bath. The safari tents are tucked away between the trees in a kloof not far from the lodge’s lapa where we enjoyed meals in the spacious dining room with views over the valley. My friendly guide drove me to my tent in one of the game-viewing vehicles and carried my bag up the meandering forest path. Shy bushbuck and nyala can be spotted from the private deck and birdlife is plentiful.
There’s plenty to do on the Big Five reserve, including visiting the white lion camp. Inkwenkwezi is less than an hour’s drive from East London, and the beaches are some of the finest in the country.
+27 (0) 43 734 3234, [email protected]
Words Marion Whitehead
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7. Tatasberg Wilderness Camp, |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park
We’re soaking up the starlit skies of the Richtersveld on the first night of our stay when, finally, a slight breeze drifts in from the Orange River. With no humans within at least a ten kilometre radius other than the camp attendant, Tatasberg offers a remote escape. Its rustic chalets are perched only a few dozen metres above the river. Each unit has a fully-equipped kitchen, bathroom and bedroom. Solar panels and wind turbines provide light and hot water.
The following morning, we drive out to the surrounding Tatasberg mountains – eerie giants of granite boulders, with quiver trees jutting out here and there. Alongside the river, we enjoy the birds and dragonflies and, in the late afternoon, we once again light the fire as the barking sound of baboons echoes from the hills.
We watch as the water turns from orange, to pink, to blue and then black. When finally the cool air sets in, and we are able to tear ourselves away from the deck. We sneak inside and curl up, windows and doors open. The deck creeks outside, and we catch the fleeting tail of a genet in the torchlight.
It’s best to take a few days to explore the vast masterpiece of creation that is the Richtersveld.
+27 (0) 12 428 9111; [email protected]
Words Taryn Arnott van Jaarsveld
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8. Bontle Tented Camp, Marakele National Park
Bontle Rest Camp in the Marakele National Park is a gem in the Waterberg Mountains, just outside Thabazimbi. If, like me, you enjoy a break from pitching a tent now and again, then a tented camp is the perfect alternative. Firstly, you don’t need to spend hours setting up camp, plus you get the added luxury of a soft bed, your own en suite bathroom and, of course, a fully-equipped kitchenette.
All units offer unobtrusive views of the unspoiled bush and are located close to the park’s main entrance gate, so you don’t have to spend hours driving to your destination. There are options for couples (two single beds) and families (double bed and two single beds).
I loved lighting my fire every evening, listening to the night sounds while sipping a glass of wine on the veranda.
There is a lot to keep you busy too, including a drive to Lenong Viewpoint. From there you have stunning views of the surroundings and if you are lucky, spot the Cape Vultures soaring overhead. Or take a break at the picnic site or the bird hide.
+27 (0) 14 777 9928
Words René de Klerk
Looking for more glamping spots? Find 8 more here.