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It’s a dog’s life on the road

1132
VIEWS

Our plan? To spend four weeks travelling around the country to discover as many campsites as possible that are suitable for more than just one night’s stay.

Our small, homebuilt Fiat Ducato motorhome (see Caravan & Outdoor Life, September 2016) ticked all the right boxes – but what about our little dog? We had made short trips with her before, but how easy would it be for us to find campsites that would accept her, without booking ahead?

We set off on a chilly day in July and spent our first night at the very pleasant Rondeberg Resort near Clanwilliam. We were in luck with the weather; it was a lovely mild evening suitable for our first braai of the trip.

After popping in at Klawer Wine Cellar to stock up with a couple of bottles of something sweet for the evenings ahead, we headed to Springbok Caravan Park, which we knew from past experience would be perfect for overnighting.

The following day, we travelled a longer distance and discovered the Red Sands Country Lodge in the hills above Kuruman. This resort was a lovely surprise, and each campsite had a private wash-up/braai area with added ablutions for a few extra bucks. So far, so good!

We gradually realised that there was a shortage of caravan parks along our chosen route, and started worrying about finding somewhere suitable before reaching Gauteng.

However, our luck held, and before too long we found Amigos Caravan Park at Rietvlei Dam, near Ventersdorp. Apart from a couple of fishermen at the other end of the resort, we had it all to ourselves. Being keen bird watchers, we camped close to the dam, spending hours with binoculars in hand.

Our only disappointment was the lack of hot water the next morning, even though we had checked that with the office when we arrived. It had been the coldest night we would experience on our trip.

The next couple of days were spent with family in Gauteng, before setting off to Mapungubwe National Park, leaving our furry companion behind in the company of her ‘cousins’. We travelled along the N1 – the toll roads are no joke – and stayed over at Boma in the Bush, a very pleasant and convenient campsite near Polokwane.

Well rested, we continued on to Mapungubwe – a new favourite national park of ours. The main reception handled our booking professionally, and in no time at all we were happily on our way to Mazhou campsite in the park’s western section.

We spent a wonderful 5 days exploring both sections of the park. It was the highlight of our trip.

The birdwatching at the Maloutswa Bird Hide over the dam was excellent, with flocks of yellow-billed storks and spoonbills flying up and down the dam every time the resident African fish eagle flew over. That night, we were kept awake by a very noisy herd of elephants – no complaints from us!

Within half an hour of leaving our campsite, we saw a breeding herd of elephant, as well as jackal, warthogs, waterbuck, impala, bushbuck, wildebeest, vervet monkeys and baboons. We didn’t see any predators, but heard lions and hyena in the distance.

The eastern section of the park is very different.  It has some wonderful views over the dry Limpopo river bed towards the Botswana bushveld.

With our happy little dog aboard once more, we set off to Nelspruit. After spending the night at Lakeview Lodge, we decided to pay a day visit to the Kruger.

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK

Leaving Lilo at the kennels for a few hours, we drove into a very dry and dusty Kruger to visit Berg-en-Dal and surrounds.  It was very sad to see the park so drought-stricken. We did, however, see elephants, impalas and quite a few rhino − including two black ones!

The weather quickly deteriorated the next morning, but we managed to get to Sundowner Lodge and Caravan Resort at the entrance to Piet Retief. This proved to be very convenient, with good shops, takeaways, and a garage close by.

However, we were woken up in the middle of the night, quite unprepared for what sounded like rocks being thrown at our motorhome… until we realised that we were in the middle of a violent hailstorm. Nervously, my husband went out the next morning to make an inspection, and was very relieved (and surprised) to discover that there were no dents.

KWAZULU-NATAL

When we left Piet Retief the next morning, we saw the hail piled up at the side of the road, looking like snow. Leaving the bad weather behind, we went happily on our way to northern KZN and better weather.

Our campsite of choice was at Bushbaby Lodge. After a few kilometres of bad road (our Ducato doesn’t like corrugations) we finally arrived at this oasis. We set up camp and then took Lilo for a lovely walk through the bush on their property.

OBSERVATIONS

We had no trouble about being allowed into any of the campsites – even those which advertise ‘no dogs allowed’. We did, however, travel out of school holidays, our dog is small and well behaved, and we kept to the rules. It’s difficult to say no to a cute dog!

We received a pensioners discount everywhere we went, and in most places were given one. Our average campsite-cost per night as a couple was under R200.  This included two parks, which charged between R20 and R30 per night for our dog.  KZN caravan parks were the most expensive, but also amongst the best we visited.

The evening was spent pleasantly watching the bushbabies and enjoying a braai.

Our next stop was Umdobi Bush Camp, not too far from Sodwana Bay. What a delightful campsite! The stands are individual and very private, and the birding is superb.

Richard’s Bay’s campsites were surrounded by indigenous bush, with many excellent small ablution blocks dotted around.  We could see why many retired couples stay here for extended periods. Not a birding winner, and the weather didn’t play along, but the discovery of fantastic fish and chips from Max’s at the nearby shopping centre made up for that!

We continued on our route southwards, and our next stop was the Dolphin Resort at Ballito − situated very close to the beach and boardwalk, where we could exercise Lilo. The campsites were large and the resort well run and very upmarket. We could have stayed longer, but it was a long-weekend and they had a ‘no-pet policy’ for this period.

MacNicolls at Bazley , which was our next campsite, was fairly full. This is a very well run family resort with excellent facilities – Lilo was also welcome!

Our last campsite in KZN came as a complete surprise and was one of our favourites. Leisureview Holiday Resort near Port Edward proved to have beautiful lawns in a park-like setting with great sea views and sunsets.

EASTERN CAPE

Driving through the Eastern Cape, we decided to stay at an old favourite of ours: Yellowwood Forest near Morgans Bay. We enjoyed the lovely grassed campsites set in indigenous bush, the quirky ablutions, and the small restaurant with a pizza oven. As we were sitting and enjoying a sundowner, and listening to many different bird calls, we heard a very loud, unusual sound close by which we eventually identified as a Buffspotted Flufftail – a first for us!

With no idea where to stop next, we decided to investigate Cannon Rocks, which turned out to have the most upmarket modern ablutions we had ever experienced in a campsite. And we had the entire resort to ourselves! The campsites had great braai places, with a beach just a short walk away.

HEADING HOME

We were almost home, and decided to revisit Kleinplaas Holiday Resort on the outskirts of Oudtshoorn. This 4-star resort is close to upmarket restaurants and shops, and has grassed sites, lovely trees and excellent ablutions. We set off early the next morning, stopping at Calitzdorp to visit an excellent little coffee shop and a couple of the wineries, before arriving happily and safely back home.

WHERE WE STAYED

Rondeberg Resort, north of Clanwilliam, tel. 027 482 1487

Springbok Caravan Park, tel. 027 718 1584/ 082 548 9286

Red Sands Country Lodge, Kuruman, tel. 082 801 4414

Amigos Caravan Park, Ventersdorp, tel. 018 264 5433/084 264 2426

Boma in the Bush, near Polokwane, tel. 082 806 5939

Mapungubwe, SA National Park, tel. 012 428 9111

Lakeview Lodge, Nelspruit, tel. 013 741 5058/071 352 7458

Sundowner Lodge & Caravan park, Piet Retief, tel. 017 826 0885/071 612 5094

Umdobi Bush Camp, near Mbazwana, tel. 083 397 6700/071 357 7101

Richards Bay Caravan Park, tel. 035 753 1971

Xaxaza Caravan Park, Mtunzini, tel. 035 340 1843

Dolphin Holiday Resort, Ballito, tel. 032 946 2187

Mac Nicol’s, Bazley Beach, tel. 039 977 8863

Leisureview Holiday Resort, near Port Edward, tel. 039 319 2367

Yellowwood Forest, Morgan Bay, tel. 084 582 2601              

Cannon Rocks Holiday Resort, tel. 046 654 0043/084 867 5724

Kleinplaas, Oudtshoorn, tel. 044 272 5811

By Mark & Denise Jarvis

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