It’s that time of year for early morning game drives, thermoses filled with hot tea, rusks, campfires, star-cluttered skies and orange-streaked sundowners. We’ve sussed out the most affordable places to escape to the bush around the country from the real budget busters to luxury stays at reasonable prices. Let us know your favourite bushveld escapes in the comments below.
Umgeni Valley, Howick, KZN
Courtesy of tommovillus via Instagram
There are three basic but well-appointed guest cottages available, all with astonishing views of lush Umgeni Valley. Anniversary cottage can host 2 people while uMhlangeni Cottage is a 4-bed cottage tucked between two streams. Hepburn cottage has views down the valley towards Albert Falls Dam and has three bedrooms and can sleep 6 in total. Cost: Cottages are R280 per person per night and R130 per person per night for Children U12. There is an R840 minimum charge in the cottage which can host 4-6 people.
Call: 033 330 3941 to make a reservation
Mbizo camp, iThala, KZN
The reserve offers atmospheric bush camps at affordable prices. Mbizo camp can host eight people in two separate four bed units, each having two rooms, one with a double bed and the other two single beds. Each unit has separate hot and cold shower and toilet facilities. There’s a braai and campfire area between the units
R410 each for the first 6 people then after that R205 per person.
About halfway between Durban and Johannesburg you’ll find iThala, 70km east of Vryheid on the south bank of the Pongola river. As a bonus this is a malaria-free reserve.
Spot leopard, rhino and elephant if you are lucky.
Call 033 845 1000 to make a reservation.
Mhlangeni, iThala, KZN
This camp overlooking the Ncence River offers complete privacy. It has five two-bed units. There are three hot and cold water ablution facilities with flush toilets. The communal lounge/dining-room/kitchen area is set above a sun deck and braai area offering incredible game-viewing.
It’s affordable at R410 per person for the first 7 people and then R205 each for the supplementary people (you’ll be able to fit a maximum of 10 people).
Call 033 845 1000 to make a reservation.
Addo Elephant Park, Eastern Cape
Courtesy of Patheka Ncwana via Instagram
The third largest park in South Africa offers a wide range of activities, you can even spot whales from the coastal areas of the park.
Accommodation from R265 per person to camp in the low season and R490 each for a family cottage of 4 in the low season.
Be on the lookout for: elephants, lions, spotted Hyena, Cape buffalo, and the flightless dung beetle.
Call: 042 233 8600 to make a reservation.
Witsand Kalahari Nature Reserve
Discover the wild and remote beauty of the Kalahari at Witsand. You’ll spot desert antelope, birds of all kinds and be wowed by the harsh beauty of the red and white undulating dunes.
The luxurious, self-catering chalet rates are a steal at: R520 per adult and R260 per child aged 3-16.
Call: 083 234 7573 to book.
For a first class luxury-tented camp safari experience that doesn’t break the bank consider Mavela Game Lodge. They offer an all-inclusive package (with drinks food, accommodation and activities) for R2200 per person sharing per night.
It sounds like a lot but compared to other premium safari experiences this is extremely reasonable. You get an en suite tented accommodation in one of their five guest tents, 2 x daily guided game drives in an open 4×4 vehicle, daily meals, early morning coffee with rusks and fresh fruit, full English breakfast, high tea and three-course gourmet dinner as well as all day tea and coffee, local beer, wine, spirits and soft drinks and the Zululand Rhino Reserve conservation levy. Book here.
This magnificent Karoo game farm just to east of Graaff-Reinnet is waiting to welcome you. Camdeboo means a “Place of green hills or pools” in ancient Khoisan. From May until the beginning of September there is an amazing special. R9000 for 4 double rooms – that’s R1125 each inclusive of accommodation, all meals, teas and coffees,
all local drinks, ales and house wine, excl premium brands and two game activities per day, sundowners & snacks, morning coffee and rusks on game drives.
You can spot up to 63 mammals in the park including rhino and giraffe and the bird life is also extraordinary at 206 kinds of birds.
Call: 049 891 0570
Courtesy of the_lost_society via Instagram
This private lodge within Addo Elephant park is set with jaw-dropping views of the Zuurberg mountains and is truly a luxurious experience. In the low season you can book a double room for R1900, breakfast included. That’s R950 each for a truly luxurious experience.
Contact: 082 611 3603
Plett Game Reserve
Combining the verdant beauty of the garden route with an exciting safari experience, this game park is one of the largest in the region.
Rates from 1 May 2016 until the 30 September 2016: Adults pay R790 per night, Children aged 2-11 pay 50% of the Adult rate, Children 0-1 pay R150.00, this includes bed and breakfast.
Extras: Supper at R150.00 per person and a Game Drive at R390.00 per adult and R150 per child aged under 11.
You will be able to spot: Lions, Wild Dogs, Cheetahs, Giraffe, Hippo, Crocodiles and Buffalo
Call: 044 535 0000 to book.
Buffalo Thorn Lodge, Pilansberg
Courtesy of Pilansberg via Instagram
Conveniently close to Johannesburg, Pilansberg offers the perfect bush break from fast-paced city living.
Look out for their last minute specials.
The luxurious Buffalo Thorn lodge situated within the Black Rhino Reserve area of Pilansberg sleeps 10 people and is available at R900 per person midweek. The unit is self-catering but includes morning and afternoon game drives with a qualified ranger, coffee, tea and fire wood as well as a fully equipped kitchen, home theatre system with DSTV and LCD screen, pool table, wine fridge, child friendly swimming pool, heated Jacuzzi, bar fridge and ice machine, open fire barbecue and gas barbecue.
A minimum of two nights stay is required
Contact them here.