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

2018-01-22 18:00 - Herman Eloff
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Nkomazi Game Reserve

Imagine waking up to the sound of rain drops drumming on the tarp of the luxury Noble tent as you snuggle even deeper under the crisp and comfy duvet. 

The rhythmic spinning of the ceiling fan provides a constant flow of fresh air brushing against your skin as it invites in the refreshing smell of rain. 

Outside birds are eagerly welcoming the cool and wet start to the day with song whilst the faint rumble of the mighty Komati River provides a low bass tone that masterfully completes Mother Nature’s early morning orchestra. 

This dreamy scene played itself out during my recent stay at the Nkomazi Game Reserve situated just outside Emanzana (Badplaas), about a three-and-a-half-hour drive from Johannesburg. The main camp at Nkomazi is nestled between giant green Jurassic Park-like mountains creating a lush valley rolling out from under a thick misty blanket every morning.

[DID YOU KNOW: The Komati River is 480km long and runs through Swaziland, South Africa and Mozambique. The name Komati is derived from the Swazi word “inkomati” which means “cow”. The abundance of water in the river is compared to a cow that always has milk.]

READ: Botswana luxury safari options to suit all budgets 

I stand on the wooden deck atop a hill overlooking the majestic surroundings whilst sipping on a freshly brewed cup of coffee. I don’t even want to imagine returning to reality as I desperately try to soak in every sweet moment of this quick getaway.

After the Western Cape drought, the wet and rainy weather means more to me than ever before. Even the luxury of soaking in a Victorian outdoor bath is amplified by the fact that I know what a privilege it is to have this rare resource in such abundance.

Each of the 10 luxury tents at Nkomazi provide the ultimate "glamping" (glamourous camping) experience and are fully kitted out with everything from a king-sized bed to a walk-in closet, to your own plunge pool. 

The Out of Africa styled tents blend into the surroundings and are extremely private, linked only with footpaths through the thick bush. You are truly able to isolate yourself from everything and everyone with the only visitors being a curious nyala dropping by or an inquisitive tribe of monkeys peeking down from the trees surrounding the tent.

[DID YOU KNOW: The surrounding Makhonjwa Mountains, also known as the Barberton Greenstone Belt, are some of the oldest exposed rocks on Earth and are estimated to be between 3.2 and 3.6 billion years old.]

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Mornings at camp start with a warm cup of coffee before the game ranger takes you out on a morning drive. The 15 000 hectares reserve is home to a very diverse ecosystem with both High- and Lowveld game species and over 300 bird species. That means you’ll find everything from eland, to springbok, to impala, and kudu.

It was impressive to drive around and find animals, birds and even interesting insects around every corner. From the majestic lion to the humble dung beetle – our guide made sure to point out everything whilst sharing his abundance of knowledge about the area and animals.

[DID YOU KNOW: Two dung beetles, a male and a female, will roll and bury a ball of dung in a soft spot in the soil. The male is normally tasked with rolling the ball with the female often hitching a ride. The beetles mate underground after which the female will lay eggs inside the ball.]

Back at camp visitors are treated to an impressive breakfast selection served in the dining tent. The options are endless and they truly cater to all dietary needs. Dinner is usually served in the boma around the fire at night – weather permitting of course. All meals are included in the rates. 

My first night at the lodge ended with a delicious potjie served next to the campfire. Guests each get their own tables and lanterns to ensure a more private dining experience away from other visitors. 

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The biggest challenge is probably deciding exactly how to fill the hours in your day. Luckily there are plenty of activities to choose from. If you’re into something adventurous you can go on a guided mountain bike ride or try out one of the guided nature walks where you’ll get the unique opportunity to see the ancient San rock art. Birdwatchers can also go on a birding safari to find those species that have been eluding them and need to be ticked off their “spotted” list. 

There’s also the chance to go fly-fishing in the Komati or even try out stargazing at night when your game ranger unveils the secrets of the stars of the Southern Hemisphere. What you absolutely can’t miss out on is the chance to experience a pampering session at the River Retreat Spa. Enjoy complete tranquility at the hands of the skilled staff as you drift off whilst listening to the soothing rumble of the river. And of course, there’s plenty of time and comfy spots to relax with your feet up whilst reading a book. 

[DID YOU KNOW: The rock art sites at the reserve date back more than 3 000 years and depict the spiritual beliefs and lives of the San. Ingredients used for the paint consisted of red ochre, animal bones, coal and aloe sap. The sap and protein in egg and blood preserve the art that exists today.]

The highlight of my trip had to be one of the sunset game drives at the end of yet another relaxing day at camp. Our ranger picked out the perfect spot atop a hill to watch the sun go down whilst we enjoyed a glass of wine and some snacks.

As the sun was setting on the west, a super-moon was rising on the east. Driving back to camp we spotted one of the reserve’s male lions resting alone on a boulder. He was relaxed and lazy as he spread out on the rock with the full moon bathing him in light. A truly glorious moment that perfectly captured the beauty of Nkomazi and its surrounds.

[DID YOU KNOW: A super-moon is a full moon that coincides with the closest distance that the moon reaches to Earth in its elliptic orbit. This results in it looking slightly larger-than-usual in size as seen from Earth.]


- All 10 tents can sleep a maximum of 2 adults per tent. There are nine king-bedded Noble tents and one royal tent with a private lounge tent. 

- No children under the age of 12 years allowed at camp.

- No private vehicles are allowed on the reserve. Guests are transferred to the lodge from the welcome lounge situated at the main gate. All cars are left in safe, secure and shaded parking spots. 

- Nkomazi Game Reserve is part of the Newmark Hotels group.

For more information on Nkomazi Game Reserve visit their website.

*Disclaimer: Channel24 Editor Herman Eloff was hosted by Newmark Hotels group.