When one thinks of the quintessential South African safari, a few destinations spring to mind. Whether its spotting leopards in the Sabi Sands, enjoying a game drive in the Kruger National Park, overlanding through the Kgalagadi or counting elephants at Addo – these experiences can be found on anyone’s bucket list. But there is one place few think to visit but those who do will be rewarded with a safari experience quite unlike any other. Enter Mount Camdeboo in the heart of the Great Karoo.
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What makes it unique?
Surrounded by fantastical mountain ranges, Mount Camdeboo offers a unique setting for a safari. Originally a farm, the property was purchased in 1996 as a family country retreat and has since been restored into a unique Karoo getaway and game reserve.
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The décor at Mount Camdeboo is in keeping with the historical homesteads found in the area. In fact the manor in which I stayed, and that also serves as the main dining and living area for guests on the reserve, dates back to the 1800s. It’s quite a surprise to find a typical Cape Dutch style house in the middle of a game reserve – a refreshing option as opposed to the thatched or tented safari lodgings of other reserves. In keeping with this style – the furnishing are over the top but ever so comfy and the roaring fireplace with its plush leather chairs just envelops you in homely warmth on a chilly Karoo evening.
Along with the traditional game drive experience, Mount Camdeboo also offers some unique activities that really make your safari unforgettable. For instance, you can take in the scenic beauty of this area from the skies with Fly Karoo, marveling at the surrounding sights of Graaff-Reinet, Spandau Kop and the Valley of Desolation. You can also take a drive to see some Boer War relics or rock paintings and a number of walks are also available with a demarcated 1,6km trail on the cards.
Their rehabilitation project for cheetah has been a great success and seeing these creatures in their natural habitat is an experience that is rare on any safari, but more likely in the Karoo! The reserve is also home to a number of unique species, such as the mountain zebra, while large herds of giraffe and eland are most likely to make an appearance during a game drive.
What’s there to do at Mount Camdeboo?
The reserve prides itself on offering a personalised experience and it’s a promise they definitely delivered on during my stay! Stay in winter or midweek and you may get a game drive vehicle all to yourself – like we did. And even if you don’t the reserve guides and managers will go out of their way to pair you with like-minded guests. Meaning you can virtually dictate your day, say what you would like to see and they will try their utmost to make it happen. One afternoon we went in search of aardvarks with our guide and even as darkness fell, our guide wasn’t willing to give up on our quest. Even though we were unlucky, his never ending enthusiasm and hope to have us accomplish our dreams will have us returning to try again.
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Grand plans are afoot
And while keeping an eye out for the little things is part of the appeal at Mount Camdeboo, the reserve has big plans for the future. The Mountain Zebra Camdeboo Protected Environment initiative is one the reserve is deeply passionate about. Mount Camdeboo is a pioneering land owner in the area, passionate about conserving this land, and is encouraging surrounding landowners to join them in their eco-tourism endeavors. In addition, Mount Camdeboo Private Game Reserve is reintroducing elephant and lion onto the 14 000ha reserve in 2018. This means that Mount Camdeboo will become home to some of the famed ‘Big Five’ – offering a truly unique experience in the Great Karoo!
Words Janine Avery
Photography Janine Avery; Fly Karoo
A journalist by trade, features writer on occasion and now the digital editor of SA Country Life. The first chance she gets, Leigh will tell you about a podcast she was recently listening to and how you simply have to make the move from radio. In a previous life, she once taught English on Jeju which left her with an insatiable craving for kimchi.