#LongWeekend Escape: Camping spots that beat the changing season

2018-04-14 08:30 - Gabi Zietsman
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The sun is getting cooler, the western parts are getting wetter while the northern provinces are getting drier, and the chill of winter will soon descend upon South Africa.

Autumn is still here though, and if you plan carefully enough you can still get that summer feeling on a long weekend camping trip this April - because camping in rain and cold can ruin any outdoors experience.

There's a camp spot for every kind of traveller - the party revellers, those looking for peace and quiet and the wild child who want to escape to the bush or ocean.

SEE: Rooftop vs ground camping: Up in the air or planted on the ground?

Pick your spot from one of the Mzansi-tastic campsites around the country:

Algeria Campsite, Cederberg, Western Cape

You are guaranteed sunshine and warm weather in the Cederberg, and CapeNature's Algeria Campsite is the best place to set up your headquarters to immerse yourself in the cultural and natural landscape of this wilderness. 

The campsite is very shady with grassy spots, and you don't have to hike up steep mountains to get to a rock pool - the camp has its very own making for little hassle when your older kids want to go swim. All sites have power points and ablution facilities, and the road to Algeria from the main road is easy-going compared to other routes in the reserve.

If you are a climbing enthusiast or want to escape the crowds of Algeria, there's also camping facilities at Kliphuis near the quiet town of Wupperthal with easy access to Rocklands - a world-famous bouldering spot.

WATCH: Bouldering fun for all ages in the Cederberg 

Glen Reenen Rest Camp, Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Free State

Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The park derives its name from the brilliant shades of gold cast by the sun on the park's sandstone cliffs, especially the imposing Brandwag rock, keeping vigil over the main rest camp.

Although there are rondavels a-plenty, get in touch with the honest soil of the province by pitching your tent in the stunning, shady Glen Reenen Campsite. There are braaing facilities, well-maintained bathrooms and a variety of activities to indulge in.

Also if you still feeling the Black Panther craze, many scenic shots in the movie come from this park, so this is the best place to live out your Wakandan fantasies in real life!

SEE: #BlackPanther: You can visit Wakanda IRL at Golden Gate National Park 

Klein Paradys Caravan Park, Brits, North West 

If you enjoy something a bit less wild and less admin, Klein Paradys Caravan Park is an hour from the glittering Sun City, but you don't even need to leave the resort to keep you and your squad entertained. 

Besides the obligatory swimming pool, it comes with a super tube, trampolines, tennis courts, golf, putt-putt and water activities on the dam where you can set up camp on the river's edge. All sites come with electricity and portable braais.

The resort closes over the winter months, so the Freedom Day long-weekend is the perfect time to get your last celebration of summer in.

SEE: Climb like a spider with Sun City's newest attraction

Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Northern Cape

Sunny weather abounds in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park throughout most of the year, although frozen nights become more common the deeper into winter you get. Explore this stunning landscape just before winter grips it and get comfortable with the springboks, lions and ostriches that call the park their home.

The park offers a range of camp options - from the traditional rest camps situated on dry riverbeds with your usual amenities like Twee Rivieren, Mata-Mata and Nossob, to its wilderness camps that are unfenced and can only be accessed by 4x4s like Bitterpan, Grootkolk, Kieliekrankie, Urikaruus, and Gharagab.

For some of these latter camps, it's a 'bring your own water' type situation and only for the super experienced campers that are able to start a small town with all their camping gear.

SEE: Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park: Exploring the Highwayman's Adventure Route

Olifants River Lodge, Presidentsrus, Mpumalanga

Falling asleep to the rush of a roaring river is quite a dreamy experience, and the Olifants River Lodge offers camping grounds right on the massive river. The area has enough activities to keep the Brady Bunch busy, from hiking in the lush green forests to fishing its deep waters - and if you're in the need of an adrenaline jumpstart they also offer paintball.

They have heated indoor pools in case the winter turns up early and a restaurant and bar is available if you love the sleeping part of camping but hate the food-making part, and the area is malaria-free. For hiking trails, the lodge is the main point where you need to check-in before going on any trail.

The area, called Presidentsrus, is known as an eco-community and was once a rest stop popular with President Kruger and became a popular suburb where wildlife is on your doorstep.

SEE: I went glamping and now I don’t want to camp any other way ever again

Buffelspoort,  Gauteng

The Buffelspoort campsite is less than an hour away from Johannesburg, tucked in the middle of the little valley, shaded by trees and where a good time is had by all.

It is an ATKV resort, which means it is very much slanted toward an Afrikaans-speaking market. Like other resorts, there is a fully-fledged waterpark as well as a full range of facilities including everything from a hairdresser to a bottle store. 

Remember that the campsite does get busy, so if you like a party this is the place for you. It has numerous swimming pools, super-tubes and fun activities to keep everyone in the family entertained.  

SEE: #ItsReal: Get moving with Gauteng's new integrated transport app

Mountain Zebra National Park, Eastern Cape

Mountain Zebra National Park may have been originally created as a conservation area for the once-almost-extinct Cape Mountain Zebra, but it also has one of the most exciting game walks you can take in South Africa. Instead of heading to an interaction centre that keeps these long-range animals in small compounds, you can get up close to a cheetah in the wild for only R400 - an experience that surpasses even the most riveting game drives. 

Its campsite has 20 units and although the sites vary in terms of ground cover and shade, you cannot pre-book a specific spot. It comes with a swimming pool and is safely fenced so that a roaming 'dagga boy' doesn't come upset your camping experience.

The park is a great Eastern Cape escape if you're looking to do more than just sit in a game drive vehicle, but have a truly wild bush experience that doesn't come with a luxury price tag. Just don't try to outrun a cheetah.

SEE: Eastern Cape Escape: Track cheetahs on foot in Mountain Zebra National Park

Natural Moments Bush Camp and Diving, KwaZulu-Natal 

Some prefer their camping trips to include some fun in the sun on a beautiful beachfront or exploring the underwater magic of the sea, and Natural Moments gives you the chance to get your scuba diving certification while enjoying their eco-camp.

You can get discounts if you combine the camping with a PADI-course and the spot is a real beach bum paradise. On the border with iSimgangaliso Wetland Park, where their Sodwana Bay Festival will run over Freedom Day, you're sure to get your money's worth in beauty. 

The festival programme includes a healthy serving of surfing action bringing people of different skill levels together, plus their annual photographic competition pits amateur photographers against each other to see who can capture the bay the best. 

SEE: Conservation meets fun at the revamped iSimangaliso Sodwana Bay Festival