There is something about camping that brings us automatically closer to nature without, and for some our nature within. Perhaps it’s the derth of cement or tiles underfoot, and the tendency to go barefoot. Or simply that every gust of wind, intense ray of sunshine or drop of rain against the cheek is that much more accessible.
In KwaZulu Natal, with the Drakensberg and the coastline on your doorstep, camping is something of a no-brainer. And whilst the popular camping resorts like the Dolphin Holiday Resort in Ballito, Mahai in Bergville and Richards Bay Caravan Park are humming spaces ideal for school holidays, it is the smaller and quieter camps that word of mouth make popular and that make camping a little easier all round.
We’ve listed 10 unique campsites in KwaZulu Natal – places you can camp, many of them in and around the Drakensberg, by default. Each of these Campsites in KwaZulu-Natal has something special to offer, and all will allow one to escape from it all and get back to nature.
Bonamazi Game Park, Hluhluwe
Bonamanzi Game Park is a great alternative to the bigger and more popular parks in the vicinity – the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park – and is itself a 4000 hectare park that promises savannah grasslands, dense sand forests, swamp lands and a fever tree forest.
Besides its tree houses, luxury camps and lodge, Bonamanzi offers seven camping spots in its Wilderness caravan and camping site, situated in amongst the trees of the sand forest.
There are ablution facilities and electricity, but really you’re here for the experience. The game farm is child friendly – think swimming pools, a play ground (at Lalapanzi camp), a daily crocodile and tortoise tour and river safaris to appreciate the birds. Animals include elephant, leopard, giraffe, zebra, wildebeest, hippo, warthog, hyena and endless antelope. And you’re only 20 minutes’ drive from Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.
The Knoll Guest House, Hilton, Midlands
This beautiful, historical farm lies close to Pietermaritzburg on a hill where it’s misty in winter and cool and airy during summer. Aside from a couple of self-catering cottages, there are a few camping spots in the forest and in the grounds, with showers, toilets and a communal kitchen and braai facilities.
Bonus is that the barn, which was once a milking parlour, is now a bar and entertainment area for guests to enjoy a drink, play pool or games, or simply to read a book. The grounds are exceptionally pretty you can relax in our beautiful garden or go for a forest walk on the property.
Fountain Hall Guest Farm, Mooi River
This is my kind of campsite. There are only two of them, which means peace, quiet and space uninvaded. The guest farm is a working dairy farm in the Midlands, just 7 kilometres from Mooi River. It lies in the foothills of the Kamberg, so in winter, if you’re prepared to brave it, you just may experience snow.
The farm also offers a couple of self-catering cottage options but the camp site is right on the Mearns Dam, with an ablution block and kitchen facilities, as well as electricity in the ablution area.
Children will love the farm as it includes cows that you can visit at the dairy, there is canoeing and if you bring your own bike, plenty of space for riding and hiking. The farm is also on the Midlands Meander route and is close to a series of pubs, restaurants, battlefields and bushman paintings.
Mountain Splendour Eco-Resort, Winterton, Drakensberg
You’ll find this working farm in the midst of the Champagne Valley in the central Drakensberg, its camping and caravan park set in amongst a forest of trees, manicured lawns and gorgeous views of the mountains. Here you get the experience of the mountains and a working farm wrapped up in one.
And by all accounts, they do camping in style – luxury private bathrooms, pre-erected safari tents, large, levelled electrified sites, tea on arrival and assistance in setting up camp (when you bring your own). Fridges, mattresses and beds are for hire, there is freezer space and a laundry service.
Sani Lodge Backpackers, Sani Pass, Drakensberg
On Stromness farm on the Sani Pass, deep in the Drakensberg and right on the border of the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park world heritage site, is a wonderful campsite set amongst Jersey cows, farm cheese and milk, legendary chocolate cake, home-cooked meals and a beatiful series of gardens.
The camping is basic – no power points, basic ablutions and a kitchen – but the bonus is that there are a number of tours you can join, including Lesotho tours, a tour of Sani Pass, hiking, pony trekking, guided rock art walks and specialised guided mountain hiking. There is also a restaurant open for breakfast, lunch and dinner (book ahead) for those who do not want to self-cater.
Lake Eland Game Reserve, Oribi Gorge
The spectacular views over Oribi Gorge are yours for the duration of your stay at Lake Eland Game Reserve, including a suspension bridge over the gorge that was formed when huge quantities of water from central Africa swept through the ravine, gouging a pathway through the sandstone mountains. Aside from a series of log cabins, you can camp just a few metres from the fishing dam near the swimming pool.
Privacy is created with a series of wooden partitions, and the sites are electrified with communal toilets and showers. Further campsites are set right on the edge of the lake, perfect for fishing enthusiasts. There are no electrical points down here, and the communal boma and ablution blocks are shared with the fisherman’s cottages.
River Valley Nature Reserve, Margate
Another small campsite, this one set on the banks of the iVungu River on a privately owned nature reserve that the family who own it regard as a blessing. The shady campsite comes with plug points and braai with ablutions and hot water showers available and a washing up area with a small kitchen.
There is a beautiful walking trail through the reserve and over 150 species of bird in the riverine, wetland, grassland and coastal forest ecosystems that surround the reserve. If you’re quiet you’ll also see nyala, bushbuck or duiker.
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