Let’s go glamping
If you’re looking for a luxury camping experience, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve found some of the most amazing glamping sites from around the country to places like Namibia and Botswana. And you can rest assured that each spot has been tried and tested by our journalists.
1. 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 glamping 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
2. Woodbury Tented Camp, Amakhala Game Reserve
If you’re not into roughing it but appreciate the romance that camping offers, then glamping is for you. This combination of glamour and camping describes a genteel way of ‘submitting to hardships’. Woodbury Tented Camp, an intimate, family-run camp with heartfelt service, turns adversities into exciting escapades. Game drives through spectacular landscapes had us searching for at least one of the Big Five – and the animal gods delivered. Boating down the Bushman’s River is a popular activity. We, however, chose to explore the reserve on horseback – no Big Five in a certain section. Waking to birdsong and having a full day of outdoor activities meant we were ready for the comfort of our luxury tent with king size bed (we could have chosen twin beds) that night. A scrumptious brunch, high tea and three-course dinner were served with friendly, local hospitality – and the sunset game drive delivered a perfect African evening, as well as tantalising snacks and drinks. There are eight well-appointed, en suite tents and two large family tents, all on raised bases and discreetly ‘hidden’ in the bush. Just 75 kilometres from Port Elizabeth, this is a place where you can hear the bush breathe.
+27 (0) 42 235 1109, +27 (0)42 235 1141; [email protected]
Words Olivia Shaffer
3. Makkedaat Caves, Baviaanskloof
Let’s journey back to the Palaeolithic era, a few tens of thousands of years ago, and spend a weekend like a caveman. However, back then cavemen didn’t have comfortable beds, fully equipped kitchens, solar lighting, or fridges for their hooch, meat and berries. Makkedaat caves in the beautiful Eastern Cape Baviaanskloof wilderness area do. This is glamping at its best. Each of the six caves is unique. Some are open to the stars, a few have wooden cabin-like facades, while others are quaint and romantic. Our family spent several nights there and loved the way the owners have inventively incorporated comfort and even luxury into natural caves, hewn by nature over millennia, and inhabited since time immemorial. Our favourite was the largest (also most basic) of all the caves, The Aalwyn Bak. It sleeps up to ten and has an enormous deck overlooking a valley. As its name suggests, tall aloes frame the wide cave mouth. At night, we moved our beds out onto the deck and slept beneath the Milky Way, made bright and sparkling by a complete lack of light pollution. Bring a bear skin toga and thick wooden club, make a fire, and it won’t be too hard to imagine defending yourself against sabre-toothed cats and Neanderthals. In the morning, you can cook up some woolly mammoth bacon on the gas stove, have a hot shower, and go for a splendid hike in the foothills of the Baviaanskloof Mountains.
+27 (0) 44 934 1012; +27 (0) 82 215 5175
Words Dale Morris
4. Speekhout Tree House, Baviaanskloof
Seemingly built by the elves from The Lord of the Rings, the Baviaanskloof Speekhout Tree House is a delight for anyone who loves nature. Situated in a box canyon, surrounded by tall, redstone cliffs, this is the quaintest tree house I have yet encountered. It’s designed with economy of space in mind, while the tree in which it is perched, sprawls outwards rather than upwards (so none of us got vertigo). A flight of steps, covered by foliage, leads to a hobbit-like home where branches and boughs grow through the floor and out through the roof and walls. Artistic finishings and wooden joins have been cleverly made from branches and logs, such as a bough that appears to grow straight through the middle of a glass window pane. There are three rooms, and a fully-equipped kitchenette. Plenty of windows and a special room with a double bed beneath a skylight that slides open allow for stargazing. There’s even a fireplace for winter nights. Down below is a cobblestone patio and a garden alive with vegetation and colourful clivias. In these cosy confines are all the prerequisites of outdoor living – a table and benches, a braai with chimney, a swing chair and a wooden deck. The Speekhout Tree House feels like a movie set for a fairytale, and it was a novelty stay we thoroughly enjoyed.
Speekhout Tree House
+27 (0) 72 202 5752; +27 (0) 87 7004 494; [email protected]
Words Dale Morris
5. 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.
Inkwenkwezi Private Game Reserve
+27 (0) 43 734 3234, [email protected]
Words Marion Whitehead
6. The Dell Nature Reserve, Parys
Only ten kilometres north-west of Parys on the banks of the Vaal River, and just an hour’s drive from Joburg, we booked in for a weekend break. There’s a variety of accommodation, from camping to luxury chalets, on offer and we opted for the Swartwildebees tent, a fully equipped, self-catering unit with a thatch roof and canvas and brick sides. A traditional open-fire braai at sunset, with a bottle of wine on our private deck looking over the river, was exactly what we needed to regain our senses. A gas braai is also available. Several trails on this 280-hectare reserve, with a number of antelope species and giraffe, allow for close-up viewing, either on foot, cycling or on game drives. A small shop has basic necessities, including fishing gear, and you can rent mountain bikes and kayaks. The Likkewaan Trail, with large sections along the river, also provided us with splendid views from higher ground. We loved the no-noise, no music/TV policy, allowing us to listen to the call of jackal at night and to fall asleep to the sounds of the river below.
The Dell Nature Reserve
+27 (0) 72 486 9491, +27 (0) 82 411 7878, [email protected]
Words Riaan Hattingh
7. Monzi Safaris Tented Camp, St Lucia
Unlike most glamping spots, Monzi’s is in the centre of St Lucia, so the fact that it’s self-catering isn’t a problem if you’re not culinary inclined – there are good restaurant options within easy walking distance. Breakfast is offered at the camp by request. Although Monzi’s doesn’t have the wide-open spaces of a game reserve, it does offer the excitement of camping with the luxury of a warm shower and comfortable beds. The tents are on wooden stilts and the bathrooms have brick walls. Each unit is well insulated against ever-persistent mosquitos and has a raised deck for sundowners, with views over the canopy of trees that camouflage the wooden structures. The stairs may make some of the units less appealing for elderly guests. If you want to be sociable, the open central area has a well-equipped kitchen and communal cooking facilities. There is also a braai area. An essential rule, which I loved, is that no guests are to do any washing up. There are two pools with loungers for those days when you feel like just chilling. They have a strictly no-noise policy, so if you are planning a wild party with a group of friends, then this may not be the place for you. Personally, I enjoyed the peace. Take one of their safaris – groups or private – to Cape Vidal and Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.
Monzi Safaris Tented Camp
+27 (0) 35 590 1697, [email protected]
Words Ann Gadd
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8. Thanda Safari Tented Camp, Hluhluwe
Just off the N2 between the towns of Hluhluwe and Mkuze, we discovered this Big Five gem. Our field guide welcomed us at the gate of and from that moment until the end of our stay we were treated to a glamping experience that was five-star luxury in true African-safari style. We loved our tent with its private sundeck, large bathtub and outside shower, and far enough away from other tents to afford complete privacy. The camp is partially fenced to ensure guests’ safety, and walking between the communal area and your tent is not permitted at night unless you are escorted by a staff member. The superb communal area has a swimming pool, boma, bar and lounge where we enjoyed meeting guests from across the world between game drives and meals. Highlights for us were the large numbers of game we saw on the morning and afternoon drives and, with knowledgeable guides tracking them for us, we ticked off four of the Big Five in no time – unfortunately the leopard remained elusive as always.
+27 (0) 32 586 0149, [email protected]
Words Riaan Hattingh
9. nThambo Tree Camp, Hoedspruit
It’s normal on safari to hear the roars and coughs of predators at night, but it’s quite disconcerting to hear them below your room. That’s the thrilling sensation at nThambo Tree Camp, where five canvas-and-wood chalets are raised on stilts. The views from tree-top height are magnificent, and animals aren’t as wary of these raised chalets as they are of ground-based camps. The rooms have private balconies and en suite bathrooms, and with no single room supplement, it’s a real treat for solo travellers looking for a glamping experience. You won’t be lonely though. Meals are served at a communal table in the central lodge, where there’s also a small swimming pool. Klaserie adjoins the Kruger, and the game drives were exceptional, with elephants trooping past, shaggy-maned lions yawning at us from nearby, and a leopard scarpering up a tree. One evening the staff called us back from our game drive to witness a cheetah that had killed an impala between two chalets. We raced back to find the staff peeking out nervously from a doorway, and the beautiful cheetah still panting with exertion.
+27 (0) 21 712 5284; [email protected]
Words Lesley Stones
10. 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 glamping spot 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
11. 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 glamping 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
12. 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.
Marataba Safari Lodge
+27 (0) 11 880 9992, [email protected]
Words Carina Borralho
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13. 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 1 600ha 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 glamping good life.
+27 (0) 78 345 3825; [email protected]
Words Riaan Hattingh
14. Storytellers, Agter-Pakhuis in the Cederberg
Lovingly named after the animals that live in the surroundings, Porcupine Place, Dassie Den and Tortoise Terrace provide an opportunity to enjoy the peace of the wild, rugged Rocklands area in glamping comfort. The outdoors is yours to savour in Storytellers’ off-the-grid glamping accommodation. As you drive out of Clanwilliam onto the Pakhuis Pass and beyond, find yourself far away from the busy-ness of the world. Nature is on your doorstep as you soak in a hot tub, watch the rocks turn gold at the tail-end of the day, and celebrate the richness of life under the constellations of the night sky. Rest up in your hammock with a good book, walk to the dam for a refreshing dip, enjoy a wine and olive oil tasting on the neighbouring farm, join the boulderers to scale the rock faces, and explore the Pakhuis Pass with its rock art and distinctive Cederberg character. Further afield, take a slow drive to the Bidouw Valley in flower season when it transforms into bright and boundless beauty, and to nearby Wuppertal for an interesting off-the-beaten-track excursion. Sitting snuggly between fynbos and rock, the three tented units have private bathrooms (with handmade organic soap), fully-equipped kitchens and outdoor braai areas. Your escape from the rigours of civilisation has never been so easy.
+27 (0) 27 470 0057, +27 (0) 82 862 7372, +27 (0) 71 179 7972
Words Ron Swilling
15. 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.
Glen Eden Farm
+27 (0) 71 100 2782
Words Marianne Heron
16. Sweetthorn Eco Lodge, Oudtshoorn
Hidden away in the mountains of the Klein Karoo, CapeNature’s Gamkaberg Nature Reserve has four eco-lodges, as well as Ou Kraal (a cluster of four cabins built in the form of old herders’ huts) on the top of the mountain. We booked into Sweetthorn Eco Lodge, that consists of three, safari-style tented rooms erected on wooden platforms. Each camp is exclusive, so we had the place to ourselves. There was such an incredible sense of peace and tranquillity that we felt as if we were the only people in the reserve. The camp was spotless, the paths so neat and tidy that they must have been swept daily. Powered by solar and gas, the communal facilities include a well-equipped kitchen, two lounge areas, eco-friendly waterless toilets and hot-water showers, a braai and grids. There’s also a splash pool and a deck where we lounged under a big umbrella. We sat out at dawn and dusk, taking in the views over the magnificent Swartberg range, watching little Karoo Scrub Robins hop about, and listening to more elusive birds. Our days were spent hiking the kloofs of the rugged reserve and 4×4-ing up to the plateau to look for Cape mountain zebra and other game. The weekend passed too quickly, but now that I’ve discovered this affordable Klein Karoo hideaway, I’ll be back.
+27 (0) 21 438 0190, [email protected]
Words Fiona McIntosh
17. AfriCamps at Ingwe, Plettenberg Bay
To say my last two camping trips were unsuccessful would be an understatement, so the thought of camping without actually having to camp was rather appealing. That’s exactly what AfriCamps at Ingwe offers. Canvas tents in natural surrounds complete with enamel coffee mugs and the traditional campfire, but with all the creature comforts we non-campers battle to live without. This includes a fully equipped kitchen with a fridge and gas stove, spacious bathroom with an enormous shower, and beds to die for, with crisp white linen and puffy duvets. Fluffy blankets, electric blankets and a wood-burning stove put paid to those cold Plett evenings. What I loved most were the rustic touches – the use of corrugated iron and plenty of natural wood throughout ensure that these tents (there are six in total in the camp) don’t feel like you’re cheating too much with a glamping experience. But if you do want to up the glam you could always order ‘room service’ in the form of a scrumptious breakfast basket or traditional braai pack (sorry, it’s all DIY when it comes to the cooking), both delivered daily to your tent, or hire a private chef to come and do your braaiing for you. To walk it all off, there’s an easy-to-moderate two-kilometre circular forest walk that takes in parts of the indigenous forest, including an original logging trail.
+27 (0) 63 170 4222, [email protected]
Words Bronwyn Mulrooney
18. AfriCamps at Oakhurst, Wilderness
Ever indulged in a wood-fired hot tub under a full moon? A first for us too, so we loaded up the hot tub burner with wood as soon as we dropped our bags at our tent. Two hours later we were enjoying a soothing soak under the stars. This, along with air-conditioned rooms, a gas hob, fridge and oven, wood-burning fireplace, builtin braai and deck, ample Wi-Fi and comfy linen put paid to any idea of slumming it – this is glamping. The camp is set on a 640-hectare working dairy farm at the foothills of the Outeniquas, surrounded by fynbos, forest and rolling green pastures. The tents overlook this abundant landscape and guests have access to all the activities on the farm, including forest trails (for walking or mountain biking), horse outrides, swimming in the farm dam and fishing. The farm has a fully stocked farm shop for everything from delicious, ready-to-eat meals and farm fresh milk and eggs to toys, collectables and farm-inspired decor items. Stock up on firewood for a braai (and hot tub), or order braai packs and breakfast or picnic baskets, that you can enjoy on your deck or at any of the picturesque spots on the farm.
+27 (0) 63 170 4222; [email protected]
Words Bronwyn Mulrooney
19. Camp Kuzuma, Chobe
Camp Kuzuma sits in the world’s busiest elephant corridor between Chobe National Park and Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. That means herds of pachyderms at the camp, especially in the dry season from July to November when up to 140 elephants have been seen jostling for position at the waterhole, or drinking water from the swimming pool. I prefer to visit during the wet season when the ellies are dispersed far and wide across the plains. But we found them by the Chobe River. Viewing elephant, crocs and hippos from a tiny boat on a vast river is superb. Camp Kuzuma is tented, although tent is too modest a description. The canvas sides of our cabin enclose king-size beds, overhead fans, safari-style furniture and decor, Victorian baths, and both inside and outdoor showers. The seven suites include a honeymoon suite and a family one. Raised wooden walkways lead to the central lodge complete with a long wooden bar, comfortable couches, and a dining room. The organic garden supplies the kitchen with vegetables. It’s all off the grid, and an hour’s drive from Kasane Airport.
+27 (0) 60 961 8584; [email protected]
Words Lesley Stones
20. 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
21. Zambezi Mubala Camp, Katima Mulilo
There’s little to match the excitement of waving goodbye to the fast lane for a holiday around Namibia. With its great infrastructure and incredible scenery, this country is ideal for roadtripping at a relaxed pace. As much as I love the desert extremes, I always include the water-rich, north-eastern corner of the country for a well-balanced sojourn in the land of big sky. As a nature lover and regular camper I love sleeping close to the earth, but every now and then creature comforts like a soft bed, fluffy towels and a shaded kitchen area are much appreciated. Especially on a long roadtrip. Our accommodation at Zambezi Mubala Camp – one of Gondwana Collection’s Camping2Go destinations – was a fully-equipped, en suite safari tent that sleeps four – ideal for a family. This glamping spot is in a grove of tall, leafy trees on the banks of the Zambezi River, 40 kilometres east of Katima Mulilo. Pick up a braai pack from reception and light a fire, or eat at the camp’s rustic restaurant where a pizza or burger is a welcome change from the usual camping fare. Highlights are boat trips on the river where you can revel in the abundance of bird life, and if you’re a keen angler, try your luck at luring the elusive tiger fish (catch and release). Relax to the tune of nature on the shores of one of Africa’s most famous rivers. Welcome to the
+264 (0)61 427 200; [email protected]
Words Ron Swilling
22. Chobe River Camp, Zambezi Region
Set on the riverbank, opposite the Chobe National Park, a few kilometres from the Ngoma border post, this laid-back rustic camp offers superb wildlife viewing when the river is high and the Chobe floodplains fill with water. Buffalo, elephant, water-adapted antelope, like sitatunga, and myriad bird species move onto the floodplains. The spectacular wildlife show can be enjoyed on the camp’s daily boat trips, a highlight of the afternoon. The day ends with a ruby sunset, best appreciated with a celebratory drink in hand. When the water is low at the end of the winter before the rainy season, the camp provides a peaceful refuge for travellers and is a relaxed and favourite stopover on the way from Namibia to Botswana and Vic Falls. Glamping takes on new meaning on this African adventure, when you return from some of the best wildlife viewing to the comfort of your tented accommodation, and dine outdoors overlooking the floodplains. Quiet and birdsong lull you into grateful reverie at this natural oasis.
+264 (0) 61 427 200, [email protected]
Words Ron Swilling
Photography Writer’s own; supplied
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