The beautiful entrance to Lions Rock.
Back in the good old days, many South African families went on ‘camping’ holidays. Technically, the word “camping” refers to the act of staying and sleeping in an outside area for one or more days/nights, usually in a tent – which is defined as a ‘portable shelter made of cloth, supported by one or more poles and stretched tight by cords/guy ropes attached to pegs driven into the ground’. That, however, leaves much room for variation/interpretation.
The comfortable interior of the tents. Image supplied.
Remember the old ‘pup’ tents? Or those awful barely-there nylon tents – wonderful as a cool alternative in the heat of summer, but you’d better hope it didn’t rain! They leaked like sieves… And don’t get me started on the activity that tests both societal bonds and psychological limits – erecting a tent (a game the whole family is encouraged to play, usually in the heat of the day, when tempers are short and frayed). Never mind ‘the only way to really get to know someone is to go camping with them’ – my money is on erecting a tent to get to know anyone’s dark side!!
The tents are nestled between the Sabie River and the lush foliage of hundreds of macadamia trees, providing lovely surroundings for an unforgettable experience.
Enter “Glamping” – an elegant ‘crossover’ between camping and hotels. Nomadic people (Bedouins, Berbers, Arabs and Kurds) have, for thousands of years, lived outdoors in some kind of tent. Royalty used elaborate Persian and Turkish tents, with inlaid jewellery and intricate patterns. The large, heavy tapestries of the tents were even carried by elephants! During the time of Genghis Khan, Mongolians started using yurts (circular tents made from felt or animal skins). In the early 20th century, wealthy Europeans started going on safaris in Africa.
I can smell you…
Not wanting to part with all the creature comforts of home, they stayed in tents that were luxuriously furnished with antiques, Persian rugs, and real beds. They were also catered to by butlers and chefs. Behold the birth of ‘glamping’. The word was first used in the United Kingdom in 2005, and by 2016 it was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary. As with the term ‘camping’, there can be huge variation in interpretation. Somewhere, there is a sweet spot between luxury and cost-effective – and we found that at Lions Rock Rapids Camp, just ten minutes outside Hazyview.
An air-conditioned tent is a genuine luxury in the heat of Africa.
On arrival, we were shown to our luxury, air-conditioned tent, which featured an en suite bathroom. Since we had been driving from early morning, we chose to chill on our lovely, covered deck overlooking the Sabie River and the pool. The birdlife was plentiful, and we whiled away a pleasant afternoon simply relaxing and taking in the beauty of the Sabie River Valley. As the day ended, we took a stroll along the riverbank, drinking in the peace…
The view from our deck…
Dinner that evening was a spicy pumpkin soup, followed by beef stew and rounded off with custard and malva pudding. The food is authentic, simple, well presented, and delicious. Home cooking with an elegant twist. On returning to the tent, it wasn’t long after our heads hit the pillows that we were in dreamland. All too soon, the alarm sounded, and we were up and preparing for a day of game driving.
Lioness pacing the road in Kruger National Park.
The Phabeni Gate is located only 20 minutes’ drive away, and soon we were in the legendary Kruger National Park. The weather started off overcast, and slowly became progressively warmer, clearing completely by about midday. It was one of those wonderful drives where you have sighting after sighting. With us on the vehicle were two foreign guests – and it was wonderful to experience their joy and wonder. As a South African who is regularly exposed to the wilderness, it is too easy to forget how magical it is to see a lion or an elephant close up. Our guide, Phanos Nkuna, was phenomenal – finding four of the big five all before midday.
Anyone else for a shower?
On our return in the late afternoon, we enjoyed a long, cool drink on the patio of the riverside bar, contemplating our perfect day before heading to dinner. We had risotto balls as a starter, a main course of perfectly prepared pork chops with mashed potatoes and spinach on the side, and a traditional milk tart to round off the meal. After a peaceful night’s rest, we had a leisurely breakfast (fruit, yoghurt, cereals, flapjacks, omelette – simply delicious) and were once again on the road as we had another commitment. As they say, all good things eventually come to an end…
The rapids at Lions Rock Rapids.
As we only had one full day here, and thus limited time for activities, we chose the safari option. One can, however, explore many of the natural wonders of the surrounding area, with at least 10 magnificent waterfalls and numerous view sites (God’s Window is one) virtually on the lodge’s doorstep. It’s not called the Panorama Route for nothing! Quad biking, river rafting, ziplining, hot air ballooning or horseback riding are available close by, and there are also many exhilarating hiking and mountain biking trails in close proximity.
A herd of buffalo chilling near a water source.
Or you can simply choose to chill on-site and enjoy the pool, the river, and the beach. Leisurely walks and animal/bird spotting are gentle ways in which to relax. One could also give tubing down the rapids a bash or even try your hand at fishing. There’s a pool table in the bar area, and the relaxing lounge invites the sipping of cocktails, reading of books or simply lounging about enjoying the view. After dinner, a campfire is provided – I can highly recommend simply sitting and gazing into the flames. The perfect way to unwind…
There were elephants everywhere…
The best part of it all? This lovely camp is reasonably priced, and only a comfortable five-hour journey from Johannesburg! So, whether you’re looking for a romantic weekend, a family treat or some time away with friends, you will have a great time here…
Jacqui Ikin & The Cross Country Team
Lions Rock Rapids Camp
+27 010 109 4498