Legend Lodges Safari Camps in Waterburg, South Africa

Unaware of what it really meant at the time, I first went glamping on a trip to South Africa back in 1992.  We were up in the Sabi Sand at a private game reserve called Kirkman’s Camp.  It was quite a memorable experience since I left the U.S. single and returned engaged. I proposed during sundowners of the first safari my now wife and I ever went on.

We’ve been on dozens of game drives since, but certainly none as significant as that one.  Yet each one is special in it’s own right.  And it’s not always because of the wildlife that you see (or don’t see).  There’s simply something incredibly alluring about being in the African bush that keeps you coming back.

So when I received an invitation to speak at a travel conference in Johannesburg last month, I gladly accepted – just as long as I could extend the trip and return to the South African savannah I love so much.


Now that I’m quite familiar with the term and have done my share of glamping both in and outside of Africa, I specifically looked for locations that not only offered high-quality game viewing, but tented accommodations that would bring me that much closer to the environment in which these animals roam.  The Legends Lodges, situated in the Entabeni Safari Conservancy within the World Heritage “Waterberg Biosphere” wound up easily fitting the bill.  Not only do it offer the opportunity to see the “Big Five”, they were less than a three-hour drive north of Johannesburg and in a malaria-free zone, which meant I didn’t have to deal with any anti-malaria medication.

Another reason I chose Legends was because it offered much more than just safari activities.


Besides its diversity of wildlife, world-class wines, culturally rich cities, and historic past, South Africa is also world-renowned for its golf. The Legend Golf & Safari Resort has a one-of-a-kind championship golf course designed by eighteen of the world’s top golfers.  Set within the 22,000 hectare Entabeni Safari Conservancy, the course winds its way directly through the open grasslands and dense bush of the park.  During the round that I played, I literally hit a tee-shoot into a heard of gemsbok and later, had to steer my golf cart around grazing zebra.  Pretty cool.  Best of all, the pristine bushveld environment has been preserved and the course remains one of the most environmentally sensitive in Africa.

Legends Golf Course

The Resort also includes privately owned homes, a hotel, recreational facilities, a wellness center, a “Field of Legends” sports complex and a multi-functional conference facility.  But I came here primarily to see the animals, so after my round of golf and fancy dining, I headed straight into the bush to completely immerse myself in the beauty of these natural surroundings.

The Entabeni Conservancy has four distinctly unique bush camps situated in the midst of the reserve, so visits by lions and other predators is an expected and accepted part of the experience. This reserve is also one of those places where you do not need to search for animals, as plains game is plentiful and diverse, with at least 15 different antelope species, more than 55 large mammal species, 300 flowers, 50 grasses, 140 trees, 380 birds and innumerable insects, reptiles and amphibians.  And thanks to the highly trained rangers, there’s even a chance of seeing the Big Five up-close.


Meanwhile, the Conservancy is separated into an upper and lower escarpment.  The upper, which offers majestic craggy rock formations and wide open grass plains, sits atop 1800 foot high cliffs.  There you will find three of the five camps.   Kingfisher and Lakeside Lodge, each sitting on the banks of Lake Entabeni, offer guests an intimate and tranquil setting that is nature at its undisturbed best.  Ravineside Lodge, located under the shadow of Entabeni Mountain, is made of thatch and stone and is built on stilts hugging the cliff’s edge.  It offers spectacular views of unspoilt ravines and wooded hillsides. Visitors can take advantage of the observatory and listen to a professional astronomer explain the mystery and vast beauty of the southern night sky.


The lower escarpment is about three degrees warmer and is comprised mainly of sandy wetlands.  That’s where you’ll find the Hanglip and Wildside Safari Camps.

Hanglip, which evokes the romantic Africa of yesteryear, has ten luxury suites, each furnished in an African Baroque style, with private sun decks and breathtaking views across the wetlands and vast open plains.  Guests can choose to go on game drives or guided bush walks.  They can even opt for a horseback safari if they so choose. A wine cellar can also be rented out for the night to celebrate a special occasion.

I opted to stay at the Wildside Safari Camp, since that’s where they featured the en-suite glamping tents.  The camp itself captured the essence of the unspoiled wilderness of the Waterberg region perfectly.  The tents, which are permanently set to a wooden foundation and come in two or four-person “sizes”, are covered with a thatched roof and have fully functioning bathrooms (with semi-outdoor showers), very comfortable beds, a fridge, tea and coffee makers, and a small writing table to fill out the space.


But as alluring as the tents were, I found the pool to be a nice place to chill out and escape the heat of the afternoon sun.  After the evening game drive, the open lounge/bar area and the roaring fire in the boma created the perfect end to yet another relaxed and memorable day in the bush.

River Glamping Cabin Attracts Worldwide Attention

It’s a boyhood dream to build a tree house, to create a retreat from the everyday, a getaway perched high in some unforgettable setting with an amazing view, presumably difficult for adults to reach. This may be a common dream, but some who actually act on it often build them in uncommon places, and not always in trees.

huffington post

Behold the Drina River House, a structure born of that same imagination and inspiration. It was built during the summer of 1969, after a group of adventurous boys had expanded their sunbathing platform that they had built the previous year on a huge rock in the middle of the Drina River. Milija Mandic (who still owns the house) along with his friends built the structure that, despite being swept away by floods on occasion, has been returned to its perch where it has remained ever since. And just like the building of a tree house, where the difficulty of hauling the building materials to the site is half the adventure, the daunting task of building a cabin on a rock in the middle of a river was obviously part of the fun and challenge that motivated building it. They transported construction materials by boat and kayak and floated the bigger pieces downriver to the rock.

national geographic

Not only possessing incredible views, the river house is part of an incredible view as well. Hungarian photographer Irene Becker discovered the picturesque cabin near Tara Mountain on the eastern edge of the Tara National Park (bordering Bosnia), and her amazing photograph of it was featured as a Photo of the Day by National Geographic,  since attracting worldwide attention.

Those who wish to visit the house may not be able to stay there, but glamping options are available in the breathtakingly beautiful Tara Mountain Valley. Jasika Villa and Omorika Villa offer cozy A-frame cabins with stunning views of the valley. And even if you may not be able to stay at the Drina River House, its existence shows that sometimes the adventure of glamping is not always a place to find, but a place to build.

Glamping Review: Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle

From the lookout at the highest point of the Four Seasons Tented Camp Golden Triangle, I could see Myanmar and Laos from my Thailand perch. To make matters even more exceptional, I had just come from meeting a herd of rescued elephants I would trek with the next day. In a state of shock and awe, clutching a flute of Champagne—it is the Four Seasons after all—I stood in silence surveying the landscape, wishing I had the power to freeze time.


While “Once in a lifetime” is overused in travel, this is one of very few experiences in the world I would offer this phrase. Because the Golden Triangle is an incredibly unique coordinate; because trekking with elephants who have been saved from dire straights is a sensitive way to explore the landscape; because watching the sun rise over Northern Thailand’s lush plains while rinsing off in your tent’s outdoor shower is refreshing.

In the wide world of glamping, the Four Seasons Tented Camp crosses at the high point of luxury and experiential travel. As the only all-inclusive Four Seasons, no service is spared, not even a trip to the private tree house-style spa, open on two sides to the bamboo jungle below.


Starting with a splash, your stay begins by boat. My capable captain picked me up an hour from the city of Chiang Rai and whisked me to camp in one of Thailand’s famous long-tail boats. Tousled hair and all, I floated into the petite and undecorated dock with my purse and a boatload of anticipation.


Within seconds of my arrival on firm ground, I spotted a trio of just-bathed elephants who’d come to welcome me. I knew I’d see many more of nature’s gentle giants over the next few days, still, I couldn’t help but linger. When I was finished the mammal meet-and-greet, I climbed the stone-built stairs leading to camp only to find a world of umbrella drinks served in hand-crafted bamboo tumblers.


Over fresh papaya-guava smoothies, I was welcomed to camp with three clangs of a gong, given a brief orientation and swiftly guided to my 581-square-foot tent. (Intuitively, camp hosts know guests are eager to get straight to their jungle dwellings).


Each of the fifteen Bill Bensley-designed tents sit scattered over a half-mile, nudged against the hillside for the best view potential. The foliage is so near and dear around each tent, you feel as though you’re entering a chic tree house—the kind a 19th century explorer would fashion with treasures from afar.


Inside, dark hardwood floors, elephant-inspired bathtub fittings, an outdoor shower, and a veranda complete with ropes securing the railings runs the entire length of the perch. Though, it was the bed overlooking the roaming elephants and the copper tub that made me want to take up residence (for research purposes, of course).


I love it when hotels host nightly traditions, and the camp custom I treasured most was  pre-dinner cocktails in the thatched-roof Burma Bar, not surprisingly, overlooking Burma (Myanmar) in the distance. Here, over lemongrass martinis, I had a chance to meet other adventure-prone guests and discuss our shared trekking tales as the sky turned from orange to pink. Dinner, worthy of a well-traveled explorer, followed fireside in Nong Yao Restaurant.


During the day, every hour takes a different tone from learning how to ride elephants bareback, to practicing serenity-now by the oasis-like pool. Then came my spa appointment. Over the suspension bridge and through a bamboo thicket, I came upon my treatment hut, one of two at the property, a 10-minute walk from camp for the utmost in escape and privacy.


Inside the wooden-platform bungalow blending into the verdant valley like a chameleon, I changed into my spa robe in the open as if I was a free spirit without a worry in the world. The setting in and of itself was enough of a spa treatment, yet I welcomed my mahout recovery treatment (the perfect remedy after a day of trekking) with its au naturel soundtrack of chirping birds and wind-blown palms. And again, felt the urge to freeze time.