After years of the usual 9 to 5 grind, my partner and I decided to take some time off with our puppy Pitbull named Kaak to tour our beautiful country. So we purchased a Jurgens Classique Caravan and hit the road.
After experiencing a few hair-raising and harrowing situations during our travels, we were quite fortunate to stumble upon a heaven-sent gem of a place called Nature’s Rest, which just happened to be a pet-friendly camping and caravan park in East London.
Believe me, it is not easy to find pet-friendly caravan parks in the country. We tried – desperately – but they are few and far between.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that when the security guard immediately met us at the gate at 3am and let us in with a welcoming smile, we breathed a collective sigh of relief. Actually, we were in for a pleasant surprise!
At sunrise, we were totally amazed and could not believe our eyes. It was really a sight to behold.
We noticed that as you enter the park, you are greeted by impressive Yellow Wood trees and aloes. The Zamnyana River flows through the koppies that surround the park, giving rise to steep cliffs with pools below teaming with fish and various species of water and other birds.
The diverse flora on the steep and rocky cliffs, throughout the park and beyond, is simply astounding.
What makes Nature’s Rest so special is that the beach is a stone’s throw away and easily accessible by all Nature’s Rests residents through a gate over a small bridge. Just a 10-minute walk through a beautiful and pristine lagoon estuary gets you there.
By chance, we visited the Park during the off-peak season and were the only ones on the beach as far as our eyes could see on either side for days on end. For those few days, we felt like the only living beings on earth. We could not but feel utter bliss and tranquillity.
Thankfully for us, the weather played its part. Temperatures reached the higher 20’s and it was sunny and balmy almost every day during our stay on the Sunshine Coast. It was wonderful to dress in summer clothing in June!
Kaak ran around on the shore, hunted mussels and crabs in the rock pools, and frolicked through the waves to his heart’s content. We have never seen him so carefree and enjoying himself with such abandon before!
As you exit the lagoon estuary and enter the clean seashore during low tide, there are several low-lying rocks and rock pools that Kaak and I easily tackled and explored.
This must truly and surely be a fisherman’s paradise and to your right, stands the most stunning rock formation now known as Cove Rock.
A bit of Googling revealed that it was previously known as Gompo Rock. Some of the earliest documented mentions of Cove Rock go as far back as 1687 when the Dutch ship Stavenisse was wrecked there and its sailors were rescued by the crew of the English ship Centaurus. Apparently, Cove Rock has also played an important role in Xhosa tradition, being regarded as a place of spiritual importance. We can personally attest to the fact that Cove Rock is undoubtedly majestic, magical and mystical with a pathway winding all the way up during low tide. Sunrises and sunsets over this pristine shoreline and background is simply stunning.
Every morning we were pleasantly awaked by the soothing and melodious calls of fish eagles, Egyptian geese, and water ducks quacking, the sounds and chirps of doves, weavers, cranes, cormorants, kingfishers, herons, Goliath herons, hadedas, egrets, and various other species of birds.
On one of our walks through the estuary, we came across fresh spoor and droppings of a small antelope but did not sight it.
Most nights we braaied under a breath-taking array of stars and one night, my partner even tried a spot of fishing in one of the Park’s pools. He caught a crab. We decided to release it and go to bed. As we drifted off into slumberland, we could hear the hooting of owls, chirping of crickets and bats and frogs croaking. There were also various other interesting, yet musical “night sounds” that we could not really place our finger on.
There is something for everyone and everything for some travellers like us at Nature’s Rest. Avid nature enthusiasts like birdwatchers, nature conservationists, stargazers, and wildlife photographers will be dazzled.
There is nothing more relaxing than fishing in either the Park pools, the estuary or the beach and a swim in Nature’s Rest’s “private” beach is a must as it is safe and quiet.
Activities also include pedal boats and canoes, a volleyball court and swimming pool while kids can be kept entertained in the trampoline, playground or tv room.
For those looking to expand their general knowledge about East London, we suggest quick day trips outside the Park to nearby attractions such as the Museum, Aquarium, Zoo, Botanical Gardens, Hemmingway Mall and Casino, the Art Theatres and a variety of restaurants that dish up delicious and diverse dining cuisines.
There are three types of accommodation at Nature’s Rest: caravan stands, camping sites, and self-catering rondavels.
The caravan stands and camping sites are situated on lush grassy stands interspersed among magnificent trees and power-points and taps are close at hand. As our caravan is considerably larger than most, it was a relief to find a spot that did not entail any scrapes, scratches, and damages. We were able to easily manoeuvre in and set up camp.
Tariffs are competitively reasonable and rates differ according to off-peak, mid and peak seasons. Pensioners get a discount and look out for regular specials and promotions.
The park tends to get a bit busier over weekends and public holidays as day visitors are allowed, but Nature’s Rest’s “no music” policy ensures peace and quiet for all.
If you would like to bring your four-legged best buddy along, the park’s Pet Policy is pretty straightforward: A once-off fee is required, bring along a leash and clean up after they have done their business.
A gigantic fig tree stands at the entrance to the ablution facilities where rare green pigeons come to nest annually.
There is a scullery with hot water for doing dishes; and as we are constantly on-the-go, doing laundry was a breeze as the token-operated laundry room boasts industrial washers and dryers which means that you never run out of clothes even when it is raining.
The ablution facilities are immaculately clean with piping hot water that never seemed to run out.
What really tickled my fancy and brought a huge smile to my face was the signpost indicating directions to the ablutions. It reads: “Men to the Left as Women are always Right!”. Understandably, though, my partner was not that impressed.
I would be remiss not to mention the kind and helpful staff at Nature’s Rest. We were always promptly assisted by the groundsmen, ablution cleaners, security officers, office workers, and all the way up to the manager who gladly assisted me after hours late one night with a token to dry our laundry. They truly go that extra mile and beyond the call of duty which, from personal experience, is uniquely refreshing.
We have travelled most parts of the country but go back to Nature’s Rest time and time again to relax, regroup, recuperate and rejuvenate before hitting the road again over the horizon and beyond in search of new adventures. That, in my opinion, says it all.