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.

Glamping News: Glamorous Camping in Shantytowns

One of the top news stories this week that had nothing to do with glamping was the announcement that Stephen Colbert would be taking over for David Letterman when he retires from “Late Night” sometime in 2015.

If you’re an avid viewer of his late night satirical television program on Comedy Central, The Colbert Report, perhaps you remember the November 12, 2013 episode that aired a bit on Shantytown Glamour Camping.  In the piece, Colbert describes the latest exotic hybrid that combines luxury with ‘roughing it’: Shanty Town, a lodging option available at the Emoya Hotel & Spa in Bloemfontein, South Africa.

“Shanty Town is modeled after the ramshackle hovels of South Africa’s townships.  Now,” the comedian explains, “you can bring the whole family to stay in an authentic corrugated tin shack, each with it’s own black smoke spewing barrel fire, beef tallow candle, and squatter’s kitchen.”  How goes on to joke, “it’s like staying at a Sandal’s Resort . . . if the sandals where made from old tire.”


In reality, you certainly wouldn’t categorize this form of accommodation as “glamping”.  It’s more like “Glamour Slumming”, or “Glumming” teases Colbert.  All kidding aside, however, the sad truth is that millions of South African’s live in these settlements across the country.  These shantytowns typically consist of homes constructed of old corrugated iron sheets or waterproof material that act mainly as shelters from the elements.  Since they typically don’t have electricity, you’ll find paraffin lamps, candles, a battery operated radio, an outside toilet (also referred to as a long drop) and a drum for the fire they use to cook with.

In Shanty Town, guests can experience staying in one of these crude accommodations within the safe environment because it’s not actually located within a real shantytown or township.  Instead, it’s found within of a private game reserve, complete with under-floor heating and wireless internet access!  The website even promotes the fact that Shanty Town can accommodate 52 people and is ideal for team building, fancy theme parties, and braais (South African barbeques).


If “glumming” is something that might seriously interests you, there is another option that’s much more genuine because it’s found in a “real” shantytown.  Within South Africa’s most famous township, Soweto, you can arrange an overnight stay with one of several hosts that will put you up for the night.  Arrangements can be made by visiting www.sowetotownshiptours.com and inquiring about a home stay.

One such opportunity can be found in Motsoaledi, where visitors are offered overnight housing right smack in the middle of a shantytown.  Beware that there is no climate control, but the bed looks comfortable and the hostess (together with her 4 year-old daughter) are very hospitable.  One night stay will cost you ZAR 80, or about $8.00.  For ZAR 150, or $15, you can have breakfast in the morning, which includes fat cakes with polony (an African sausage) and achaar (a spicy salad made of mango and oil).


So why would someone want to venture into a shantytown and sleep in a tin shack?  Tours of Soweto have become big business ever since Nelson Mandela was released from prison and Apartheid was dismantled in 1994.  Tourists are eager to see Nelson Mandela’s home, where some of the infamous riots took place, and what shantytowns look like up close.  And for those who really want a richer experience and deeper understanding of life in Soweto, “glumming”, just like glamping, serves as yet another unique form of getting visitors that much closer to the places they travel to.

Glamping News – Treehouses for Adults

When’s the last time you spent time in a tree house?  Chances are, it was probably when you where in elementary school.  Well tree houses are not just for kids anymore.  Savvy hoteliers and entrepreneurs the world over are designing incredible structures for sophisticated travelers looking for a uniquely different experience and a deeper connection with nature.

A recent article in HiConsumption, a lifestyle magazine catering to men, covering the latest news in architecture, design, fashion, and art, compiled a list of some the greatest tree houses on the planet.  For those of us who never grew tired of tree houses, here’s an excerpt:

Treehouse Cabin in CO -hiconsumption

Rustic Treehouse Cabin in Colorado

This elevated cabin was designed by architect Missy Brown with adults in mind. The treehouse is located in the mountains of Vail, and includes an awesome rooftop patio – perfect for enjoying a summer time beer. The tiny getaway is anchored to a 90 foot spruce tree on the owner’s property, and features a sleeping quarters and a rooftop patio.


bobini at treehouse point

Treehouse Point in Washington

Located in Issaquah, Washington, Treehouse point is technically a treehouse hotel. There are several different accommodations scattered throughout the property and there are a variety of events that can be planned during your stay including concerts and treehouse building workshops.

tom's treehouse from theletteredcottage.net

Tom’s Treehouse in Wisconsin

Part of Wisconsin’s Wandawega resort, this three story cottage was designed for guests looking to experience the great outdoors.  The space is so warm and cozy with wood paneling, an upstairs sleeping and reading nook. There’s a chandelier crafted from antlers, and the textiles are native inspired. Beautiful!


Finca Bellavista Sustainable Treehouse in Costa Rica

This sustainable community spans over 600 acres in Costa Rica. All 25 structures on the property are connected by a series of suspension bridges. Any stay at FBV will have amazing views, but the treehouse views are unparalleled. The “base camp” holds all of the other details you might be participating in– campfires, bath house, dining hall and even a wedding garden.


birds nest from treehotel.se

The Bird’s Nest Treehouse in Sweden

As the name would suggest, this treehouse looks like a giant bird’s nest. While the outside may look primitive, the interior has been decked out with modern conveniences, and one would never know they were sleeping in an oversized bird’s nest. It’s part of the Treehotel, and was designed by Indrednin Gspruppen. Inside it’s a high standard room with modern design. A coachwork panel decorates the inner wall. There is space and beds for a family with two children. The bedroom is a separate room with sliding doors. You access the nest by a retractable staircase.

the minister treehouse from impactlab.net

The Minister’s Tree House in Tennessee

Perhaps the most famous treehouse on the list, this structure is absolutely mind boggling. The 5-story treehouse measures in at 100 feet tall, and includes 80 rooms. The building process began back in 1993, when Minister Horace Burgess says he was inspired by God to build it. It’s got everything from a basketball court to a full-fledged church. This tourist attraction is said to be the tallest treehouse in the world.

ufo treehotel.se


UFO Treehouse in Sweden

Another one of the rooms in the Harads, Sweden based Treehotel, this UFO inspired treehouse is nothing short of amazing. With the fog effect on, this thing looks like it’s descending from the sky, getting ready to make contact with planet Earth. It will set you back about $600 to book a room here. There are currently 24 rooms planned, with six now available for booking.


Mirrorcube Treehouse in Sweden

Sweden’s Treehotel is absolutely amazing, so it shouldn’t be too surprising that 3 of its suites made our list of the best treehouses. This particular one was designed by Tham & Videgard architects, and is crafted from a lightweight aluminum that has been draped in reflective glass. This design makes the treehouse look like it’s part of its natural surroundings. In case you were wondering about birds flying into it, this thing has been equipped with infrared film that’s only visible to birds, so that rarely happens. Prices range from $400 to $600 per night.

lionsands.com chalkley

Lion Sands Game Reserve Treehouse in South Africa

The best way to experience everything South Africa has to offer, Lion Sands includes 3 treehouses that place you right in the heart of the action. The reserve is home to lions, hippos, leopards, birds, and much more – so expect everything to come to life after dark.

pine tree shaped houses


Sustainable Pine Tree-Shaped Treehouse

Certainly a lot more modern and futuristic than the other homes on the list, these concept treehouses are amazing. They were designed by architect Konrad Wojcik, and are completely sustainable. Each home features 4 floors, solar panels, and even a bio-digester to recycle human waste. We’re sure with enough support we could someday see this concept come to life.