As I evolve so should my blog. That’s what I realised this weekend. While it had done so naturally when it moved from “just a place to store my recipes” to writing out ingredients with accurate measurements and in order of use, adding reviews of all kind and then media trips, I think it’s time I restructure slightly.
One of the new items to look forward to will be my camp site reviews. My family and I really enjoy camping and I am always looking for spots that are affordable, child friendly and have good facilities (I am not quite ready for full-blown roughing it, I think).
If you are into camping, want to get into it or just curious as so why people would CHOOSE to sleep on the floor, stick around 🙂
To kick off I want to tell you about our magical weekend at Bontebok National Park.
Approximately 3 hours drive from Cape Town, Bontebok National Park is right next to the town of Swellendam. Surrounded by farmlands and the Breede river, this park is close enough to “civilisation” for emergency supply runs but secluded enough to see the stars at night.
We left Cape Town when I was done with work just after 3pm, we wanted to avoid Friday Afternoon traffic and we mostly succeeded, except for a patch between Settles Way and the Pinelands Turn off and then just after the airport until the end of the construction site. Once that was behind us we had nice open roads, even Somerset West was relatively free-flowing.
We knew we would be arriving after six, so we called the park in the morning to let them know. The park gates close at 18:00 so if you know you will be late, let them know. The ranger at the gate and the ladies behind the reception desk were super friendly, in spite of having to delay their Friday night plans by half an hour.
By then the sun had set and for that we got a pleasant surprise when we were “directed” to our camp site by a couple of hares. Their big, reflective ears lead us all the way to our camping spot. Seriously, we only saw them when we arrived and after we parked the bakkie at a possible site, the bouncy mammals disappeared.
For those wanting to stay at the park overnight there are a few options. You can camp in a tent like we did, there are sites with or without electricity points. You can caravan, there are sites with specific connectors for caravans or you can choose to use self catering cottages.All 3 options are on the same site. There is also day visitor facilities so you can get a room in a B&B in swellendam and still enjoy the park.
For the campers (and caravaners) the space of each individual camp site is quite significant. Lots of space to set up your tent(s) and a comfortable seating area. There are braais (Barbeques) available that are moveable (so not brick braais that are permanently in one spot) so you can really make the space suite your needs.
We had our tent on one end, the braai on the other and we parked our bakkie across the front of our space. It created a kind of fence. The bakke was also a great kitchen, the tailgate acting as the kitchen counter and everything was stored on the back.
Ablution facilities are impeccable. Hot showers, a bath and sufficient toilets WITH toilet paper. There was a large kitchen/laundry area too with large sinks and lots of electricity points. Everything was very clean and well maintained.
We didn’t just go to chill in our camp chairs for the weekend, although when we did it was really awesome, and neither should you, there are 3 trails that start at the camp of various lengths and difficulties. The Acacia Trail (1.6km), Aloe Hill Trail (3.3km) and the Bushbuck Trail (7.1km) all start at the camp site. There is also the Blue Crane trail that is further into the park, close to the perennial water source of most the buck in the park and 2 bike trails (you can hire bikes at the park)
We chose to do Aloe Hill and by we I mean The Husband, who told me we were just heading to the river for him and The Little Price to have a quick swim but he was prepared for a hike too. The water was too cold and the water vegetation too thick to consider getting in safely so on a hike we went. We did the trail the wrong way round and I was so glad we did. The easier parts were now at the end of the hike and although the uphill slog was difficult, it was easier than what I imagined the cliff face I came down would have been going up. The views were spectacular and you get to see the ruins of Lang Elsie’s house.
The park is a self-drive park and while a 4 wheel drive vehicle is not needed, you can do a little bit extra if your vehicle has high ground clearance and 4 wheel capabilities (arguably, the high ground clearance is the real necessity here). Having our 4×4 Hilux Bakkie meant that we could take a more rugged path through the park for which we were greately rewarded. We got quote close to 2 of the 8 Cape Mountain Zebras, 1 of the Red Hartebees and several of the 158 Bontebok as well as a few, notoriously shy, Grey Rehbok.
For twitchers, the park is magical too. I think if we had spent one extra day there I could have turned into a Disney Princess. The last morning there Cape Robin-chats and Southern Boubous were just about hoping onto my chair. The wagtails wandered around between our feet and only fluttered away when the Boubou came to chase them off “Their” humans. At any one time, my chair was surrounded by the birds mentioned above as well as Shrikes, Bulbuls and weavers as well as White eyes and Cape canaries. There are several raptors and water birds as well as the usual Guinea Fowl and Cape Spurfowl and much much more. Birding paradise.
You can check out the prices here: https://www.sanparks.org/parks/bontebok/tourism/tariffs.php
You can also book online, that’s what we did and it went seamlessly.
Bontebok is definitely on my list of going back places, for now I will need to find a recording of birds in the morning to replace my alarm because it was the best way to wake up in the morning.