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South Africa

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Affordable bush breaks

Article from the June issue of Country Life Magazine.

There’s nothing to beat escaping to the bush and being surrounded by nature, game and birdlife. Here’s our selection of ten bush lodges that won’t break the bank
1. Namibia

Erongo Wilderness Lodge

Omaruru

Erongo Wilderness Lodge

Set among dramatic granite mountains, Erongo Wilderness Lodge forms part of the Erongo Mountain Rhino Sanctuary Trust. Although you do occasionally see rhino and desert elephant, this is not somewhere to head for big-game viewing. Rather go for the beautiful setting and to climb the granite domes, or dine under the stars on a candlelit deck high above the valley. The 200 000ha reserve forms part of one of Namibia’s most diverse wildlife sanctuaries, with a large number of endemic floral and fauna species. It’s also a twitcher’s paradise – a special treat as you eat your breakfast is the chirping of Rosy-faced Lovebirds enjoying theirs on the rocks below. Guided walks are included in the package and an additional activity is a visit to the Paula’s Cave rock-art site. – Fiona Mcintosh

+264 61239199, info@erongowilderness-namibia.com  

erongowilderness-namibia.com

2. KwaZulu-Natal

Ingudlane Lodge Dundee

Ingudlane Lodge DundeeIngudlane Lodge promises the best of two worlds – the African bushveld and First World comfort. Just two kilometres outside Dundee in Northern KZN, it is within a private 1 900ha game reserve and set against a backdrop of mountains. Uncrowded and tranquil, Ingudlane offers quality accommodation in en suite double rooms adjacent to the main lodge, and three secluded self-catering chalets each with a swimming pool. Sightings of wildlife grazing nearby can include giraffe, hippo, red hartebeest and more secretive critters like serval and caracal. Birding is excellent with over 90 species recorded so far. Adding to the appeal is that it’s central to the Battlefields Route and minutes from the world-famousTalana Museum. – Andrea Abbott

082 879 7734, info@ingudlane.co.za, www.ingudlane.co.za

3. Limpopo

nDzUti Safari Camp Greater Kruger National Park

nDzUti Safari Camp Greater Kruger National ParkI was on a budget but wanted to show my family from England the best of SA’s bush experiences. Fortunately I saw an article on nDzuti Safari Camp in the Klaserie Game Reserve, part of the Greater Kruger National Park.Thanks to its location, the abundance of game, the wide-open spaces and the warm welcome, I enthralled my guests, who continue to shower me with accolades after their long weekend there. I chose to self drive and self cater. It was a long way but offered the ideal opportunity to view our scenic countryside.The camp has no fences between the various private parks, including the Kruger National Park. After about six hours from OR Tambo International Airport, we stopped off at the Bush Pub near Enkulu Gate before checking in. We took over the entire lodge which was spacious and had an understated elegance. Apart from the Big Five, of which we had sightings of four, it was the many other animal and bird species that excited our party of eight, as did the dazzling sunsets, picturesque landscape and charming, personal yet discrete hospitality. We left nDzuti with many happy memories. – Olivia Schaffer

083 382 5098/7, info@wildlife-encounters.co.za, www.ndzutisafaricamp.com

4.  Western Cape

Gondwana Game Reserve Mossel Bay

Gondwana Game Reserve Mossel BayWhen one thinks Western Cape, vineyards spring to mind, so my surprise weekend getaway turned into a remarkable revelation. All I knew was that I was landing at Cape Town International Airport and I pictured long sunsets and sipping the best of the Cape’s wines. Instead I found myself on a four-hour picturesque drive to Gondwana Game Reserve’s unique, off-the-beaten-track bush villas. There is only one fynbos reserve in the world that is home to free-roaming Big Five game and this is it. The spectacular landscapes, abundant game and bird life, luxury accommodation, invigorating hikes and, of course, the spa treatments appropriately named Africology, made this a truly worthwhile destination. We soaked up the great outdoors and views of the Langeberg Mountains from every angle and then, after glorious sunsets and sumptuous cuisine, we slept in comfort and peace. The area is malaria free and has a temperate climate. Next time we’ll stay a little longer and explore the coastal ambience of Mossel Bay, play golf and frolic in the ocean. This is a must for any bucket list. – Olivia Schaffer

021 424 5430, reservations@gondwanagr.co.za, www.gondwanagr.co.za

5.  KwaZulu-Natal

Shongweni Tented Camp Shongweni Dam

Shongweni Tented Camp Shongweni Dam

I was pleasantly surprised to find this little gem in the middle of nowhere, well almost nowhere. The Shongweni Tented Camp is quite literally out in the sticks at Shongweni Dam, between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.The elevated tents are rustic but more than adequately equipped and have great views over the dam and surrounding reserve. Apart from the birds singing or an occasional paddler splashing by, it’s a quiet place although there’s plenty of action to be found sailing, hiking, fishing, canoeing, rock climbing, birdwatching, game drives and even rapp jumping for serious adrenaline junkies. But there is nothing quite like sitting back with a book or just listening to the majestic cry of the resident Fish Eagles echoing across the water. So why stay in the city when you can escape in less than 20 minutes? All you need to take along is food, binoculars, walking shoes and, perhaps, something for sundowners. – Shaen Adey

031 7691283, shongweni@msinsi.co.za

6. Western Cape

Afsaal Cottage, Karoo National Park Near Beaufort West

Afsaal Cottage, Karoo National Park Near Beaufort WestI am not one to say no to a secluded night away from the buzz of people at busy camps, in fact, the quieter the better. So when the opportunity presented itself for a visit to the very rustic Afsaal Cottage in the Karoo National Park, I grabbed it. This old shepherd’s hut lies in the middle of the park and has been renovated to serve as accommodation away from the main camp. For those who need some luxuries, Afsaal is equipped with solar lighting, a gas geyser, fridge, gas stove and braai area. There are two single beds, but two stretchers can be arranged for children. What adds to the adventure is that, apart from a little stone wall around the cottage, the area is unfenced, allowing free range to the park’s wilder residents. A waterhole on your doorstep provides relief to animals in this barren landscape. Cellphone reception is very limited, so best you forget about technology. Whether you pick Afsaal Cottage for the tranquillity or the magnificent Karoo views, it is guaranteed that you will leave enriched. – Rene de Klerk

023 415 2828, www.sanparks.org

7.  KwaZulu-Natal

Tembe Safari Lodge Zululand

Tembe Safari Lodge ZululandIn the far northern corner of Zululand, Southern Africa’s biggest tuskers roam the sand forests and marshes of theTembe Elephant Park. Owned by theTembe people and managed by Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, this Big Five game reserve is the darling of ellie lovers, bush junkies and wildlife photographers. Tembe’s Private Safari Lodge is the sole accommodation facility in the park and, with a maximum of 15 units, exclusivity is assured. The luxury en suite tented units are spread out in the bush, each with their own bird bath that not only attracts feathered friends, but nyala. And when the electric fence goes ping in the night, it is a sure sign that iSilo, the huge tusker, is visiting camp. A day in Tembe starts with a very early light breakfast before the morning game drive, followed by a huge, sumptuous brunch. Lounging at the bar or dipping in the pool takes care of the midday hours and, after high tea, the game-drive vehicles once again head for the bush with ample provisions for sundowners along the way. A campfire and the friendliest of staff welcome you back and the three-course dinner is highlighted by a visit from the resident bush babies. – Anita de Villiers

082 651 2868, info@tembe.co.za, www.tembe.co.za

8.  Limpopo

Venda Village Lodge Soutpansberg

Venda Village Lodge SoutpansbergThe self-cater Venda Village Lodge in the Leshiba Wilderness is one of the most unique lodges in Africa and is a bucket-list destination within reach of most South African travellers, in terms of distance and pocket. Leshiba Wilderness Game Farm, home to the Venda Village Lodge, is perched on the summit of the Soutpansberg plateau among dramatic cliffs and beautiful vistas. With creative input from renowned Venda artist, Noria Mabasa, the Venda Village Lodge is like a living work of art. A village day has been depicted in clay, with a chief sitting solemnly in the shade of a tree and maidens leaning over the wall to greet visitors to the kraal. Drummers are poised in an ancient rhythm of African time and a sculpted man holds a soap dish in an outdoor shower overlooking plains that stretch towards the slowly setting sun. Giraffe munch the treetops below you and beyond that is the game-filled mountain wilderness where you can see rhinos and admire rock art. Game drives are relaxed and informative, particularly for those interested in the rich diversity of tree species and in medicinal plants. If you book the entire lodge, you have the option of your own chef. – Lisa Martus

011 4831841,083 444 0456 info@leshiba.co.za, www.leshiba.co.za

9.  KwaZulu-Natal

Zingela Safari & River Company Near Weenen

Zingela Safari & River Company Near Weenen

I first heard of Zingela from a fishing buddy, who raved firstly about the flyfishing (for yellowfish), then the incredible beauty of the bushveld views, the epic white-water rafting, and finally the relaxed serenity of the camp itself. Set on the banks of the Tugela River near Weenen, Zingela proves that the bushveld has so much more to offer than just another game drive. It is set in the 50 OOOhaThukela Biosphere, which means a variety of game and an abundance of birds. Walks through the bushveld, quad rides, horseback rides and a 4×4 trail are just some of the ways you can get deeper into the bush, if abseiling or rafting seems a bit too extreme. Be prepared for a long, adventurous 4×4 trip to get to the camp – it’s part of the remote experience, and if you don’t have a 4×4 (or if you don’t want to put your prize possession to the test) transfers are available. Zingela offers a wide range of accommodation, so there is something for everyone. – Stephen Smith

036 354 7005/7250, zingela@futurenet.co.za www.zingelasafaris.co.za

10.  Western Cape

Karoo National Park Main Rest Camp Near Beaufort West

Karoo National Park Main Rest Camp Near Beaufort WestThere is a quietness to the Karoo that subtly settles in my bones as soon as I drive into its vast landscape. I was en route to the main rest camp in the Karoo National Park, which is down Klipspringer Pass not far from the main gate, and easily accessible just off the N1 outside Beaufort West. The camp is self-catering, but breakfast in the restaurant is included, as is a guided walk up the mountain close by. I started out before the sun, and watched it rise over the landscape as a reward. There are lion and brown hyena here, but I was a bit lax with the game- viewing, choosing to go for just one long game drive. Instead I explored the park’s Fossil Trail, which takes you through the rich geological and palaeontological history of the Great Karoo, while the landscape where these creatures once roamed stretches out before you. I learnt a lot here, but it’s the silence that touched me the most. – Petro Kotze

023 415 2828/9, brian.vanderwesthuizen@sanparks.org, www.sanparks.org

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