Farms, caves and houseboats: 10 Quirky SA stays and why they're perfect for your next break

2018-04-04 16:31 - Lauren Manuel McShane
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If you missed the opportunity to make the most of the Easter school holiday break - fortunately you have a few cracking, up-coming opportunities to make sure you get some rest and relaxation. 

What will you be doing for the upcoming winter school holidays? There is no time like the present to find what you're looking for and book it right away. 

Here Lauren Manuel McShane of the Travel Manuel shares ten quirky stays to consider to get you started. 

1.  Stone Corbelled Houses, Northern Cape

Osfontein Guest Farm

Surrounded by the veld, in the heart of the Karoo is probably the only place you can sleep in a stoned corbelled house or a stone shed.

Corbelled houses were first built by the Voortrekkers in the early 1800’s using only stone ( there was a shortage of building materials such as wood at the time) which allowed them to survive the Karoo’s icy winters and kept them cool in the blistering hot summers.

The owners decided to lovingly restore the one left behind on their farm and make it available as self-catering accommodation allowing passersby to enjoy this architecture of old which is all but disappeared from South Africa. Sleep in the original sheep shearing shed with outdoor shower and lounge fireplace or in the treehouse (only available during the summer months). Braai in the original fireplace with yellowwood beam, use candles for lighting and an electric stove for cooking. By day, enjoy the wide open spaces by walking, mountain biking or swimming in the pool.

Contact: 072 310 7979 or 0533822 or

Kagga Kamma Game Reserve

In the heart of the Cederberg, amongst endless dry mountain fynbos, renosterbos and sandstone lies the land the San called home for centuries. Between their rock art dating back thousands of years and the place where bontebok, gemsbok and Eland roam, is where you can lay your head to rest in a cave suite. Inspired by the superb beauty of this shrubbed landscape and unique environment, the owners of Kagga Kamma Game Reserve decided to offer forms of accommodation that would blend into the background. Aside from offering unique caves with every luxury available behind closed doors, the reserve does so in an environmentally friendly manner and powers the entire resort using a Solar Photovoltaic hybrid energy system.

Find contentment just looking out for one of the many mammal, bird and plant species or join one of the many activities on offer. Explore the rock art, go on a quad bike safari, follow one of their hiking trails, stargaze at the mini observatory, take a dip in the resort pool or go on a nature drive with an experienced guide who can point out a lynx, jackal, a few species of antelope and birds found in this region of South Africa. Experience a bit of Ceres, Cederberg and the Karoo all in one this Easter and enjoy family time out in the ‘middle of nowhere’.  

3.  Tin ‘Shacks’ or African Chalets, Free State  

Emoya Hotel and African Village

Always wanted to experience a stay in an African village or traditional Makhukus? Set on a private game reserve, you get to sleep in a dwelling with a tin exterior or an African Village chalet set with wifi, air-conditioning and even DSTV.  

Think boma braais, shebeen bar ( for the adults) plus a kid-friendly space for families to enjoy. The Makhukus has a fridge, electric geyser, shower and long drop outside toilet. 

Contact: 051 436 8471;

4. Teepee Tents, Mpumalanga

Lyndenrust guest farm, mpumalanga

Didn’t think you’d ever get a Native American Indian teepee experience in South Africa? Think again as only 3 hours from Johannesburg is where you can spend a night or two in a teepee tented camp at Lyndenrust guest farm. Below the Steenkamps Mountains, overlooking the Kwena Dam is where you’ll find all 160 hectares of this farmland in the Kwena basin. Bring the kids, bring your pets and enjoy camping in a teepee with no electricity and only solar powered lamps, phone charging facilities, proper flush loo and thankfully a gas geyser for a hot bush shower.

Wash your dishes, shower and go to the loo with nothing but wooden fencing around you- it’s bound to be wild and so much fun. Opt for a 1-2 hour horse ride, a mountain bike trail or a hike up the mountain with a picnic basket. And if the sweet solace of nature an’t hold you for too long, Pilgrim’s Rest, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, God’s Window and the Blyde River Canyon are all short drives away.

Contact: Cell: 071 244 7631 or email

5. Treehouses, Tulbagh

Vindoux Guest Farm

Vineyards behind you and zebra grazing in front of you, you might imagine you’re blissfully caught somewhere between the winelands and the bush. But then again, isn’t that the perfect combination including the fact that you’re perched in a treehouse with a corner bath and a romantic weekend in sight?

Vindoux truly offers couples the perfect escape in their treehouses and best of all is that you never have to leave, even for food as breakfast and a three course meal can be delivered to your doorstep.

Families can enjoy the self-catering tree lodge which sleeps up to 8 people, has a TV, outdoor area and enclosed pool. Walk through the orchards, visit the cows on neighbouring farms or drive into Tulbagh for a super meal, chocolate tasting or stroll past national monuments.

SEE: Tulbagh: Of tents and teething syrup


 6. Parked Train, Mossel Bay

Santos Express

If you’re an avid lover of trains and the romance they bring to travel, then you’ll love the experience of sleeping in a parked train at Santos Beach in Mossel Bay.

Even though the Santos Express no longer moves, the mere atmosphere of sleeping in a double or single compartment similar to the Trans Karoo is alluring plus there’s super sea views ( with the ocean only 30 meters away) and hot showers available. While bedding and a light breakfast is provided, you have to bring your own towels. Eat your heart out at the Fork and Train restaurant and definitely go for their speciality which is seafood.

Contact: 083 900 7797 (Local) or +27 83 900 7797 (International)

7. Oxwagon, Hartesbesspoort dam


Keen to spend your nights enjoying a ‘trekker’ braai with roosterkoekies, plaasbrood and moerkoffie before retiring for the night in your restored oxwagon? Unlike the Voortrekkers, you won’t have to do without wifi, hot shower or electricity. Sleeping is one of the only things you’ll do in the actual Oxwagon where a double bed can be found. As for the shower, toilet and additional single beds, these are situated in the attached ‘hartbeeshuisie’ chalet.

You’ll wake up in a cosy oxwagon before starting your day with a champagne breakfast. Bring the entire family and shack up in the converted double-decker bus with bunk beds which is bound to keep you all entertained and enjoying a brilliant backpacking experience. Visit the Oxwagon museum to catch a glimpse of the 100 year old technology. If you're there on Sunday, oxtailpotjiekos will be waiting. Couples seeking a romantic escape will not be disappointed by their romantic sunset picnic basket and if you’re there to party, dance the night away in their party room overlooking the Hartebeespoort dam.

Contact:; 078 075 0720

8.  Mud huts, Bulungula Wild Coast

Far from the complications and noise of the city is where you’ll find the pink mud huts of Bulungula overlooking a peaceful spot where the river runs into the ocean and children herd sheep across the endless green hills.

Owned by the Nqileni village and run on solar power, Bulungula is the place you can go when you don’t want signal and need to desperately only hear the sounds of the ocean, drumming and the fire crackling at night. The sweet simplicity of sleeping in a mud hut, eating fire-made pancakes on the beach at sunrise and floating down the river is just what your weary soul and body needs.

Shower in one of their legendary rocket showers, canoe with a guide in the Xhora river or learn to drum with the children from the village. This is not however the place for a quick stop and is best enjoyed when you’re in no rush to get anywhere fast. Google Maps will not help you get here and their directions need to be followed to the tee. It’s often places like these that prove tough to get to, but all the sweeter once you’ve arrived. It’s also one of those spots where you don’t need to worry about locking your door or worry about theft. And if you’re keen to immerse yourself in the Xhosa culture of the wild coast- make bricks, visit the local sangoma or ask the fishermen how to cast a net.

Contact: 047 577 8900 (local) or email

9.  Flycatcher castle, graskop mpumalanga

Accommodation fit for a king and queen is what you’ll find at Flycatcher castle right beside Graskop.  Here in Mpumalanga’s lowveld is where sculptor and designer Manie Connoway created his work of art. Finding inspiration from the St Colamba Presbyterian Church in Parkview, Johannesburg and Castle Nuovo in Napels, Italy, the castle and all it’s inner treasures behold much beauty. Stay in suites named after classical composers, enjoy art deco windows and a gallery of Manie’s sculptures such as bronzed antelope, eagles and the human body.

With God’s window, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and Blyde River Canyon so close, a myriad of adventures await such as the big swing, skyway trails, water fall visits to Mac Mac falls and pools, Elands River falls and Lone Creek Falls. In the garden alone, you’ll find a magnificent view of the Mantitshi wetland river as well as many bird and frog species along with wild flowers.

Contact: +27 (0)13 767 1114; email

Flycatcher Castle is perched on the edge of Grasko

(Photo: Flycatcher Castle - Facebook)

10. Houseboats, Kraalbaai

What could be better than waking up to find you haven’t in fact spent the night on dry land but floating on the bluest of lagoons along the West Coast? Tucked away within the West Coast National Park, Kraaibaai ’s azure waters and soft white sand will have you wondering if you teleported to some tropical island. The smallest houseboat sleeps 8 and the biggest one 22, so bring your family; even all of your friends and make a long weekend of it or one massive party.

Either way you’ll find every kind of amenity you’ll need on board. Back on land, you can drive around the park looking for bontebok and watching the rough Atlantic wear the rocks down. Even better is that you never have to leave the boat or the beach and just enjoy that this is where you’re anchored.

Contact: +27 (0) 21 526 0432; email