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 with Gray Giants – Gorah Elephant Camp

Gorah Elephant Camp recaptures the romantic mystique of authentic safaris of centuries past. Gorah is steeped in history, tradition, and opulence. This exclusive safari tent experience brings you into the breathtaking natural world of Africa. Many adventurers before you have rated Gorah as an unforgettable five-star adventure. Glamping is new word for what safaris had already perfected.

“My discovery of this incredible place began in July 2002. Through my journey with her, I discovered that Gorah is the link between the enigmatic spiritual world that abounds in the wild; and the ancient song in our hearts that we silently ache for every day we are away from it.” – Nicola Schwim, South African game ranger and writer of the History of the Gorah.

Gorah Elephant Camp is a luxury tent camp, with an elegant manor house overlooking a waterhole teeming with wildlife. Sheltered under thatched canopies, Gorah’s 11 tented suites are luxurious and spacious, recalling the golden era of safari in the early 1900s. Each tent has a private deck offering a panoramic view of the endless Savannah plains. The posh interior of the tent is simple and authentic. Solar power lights the tent and turns the ceiling fans. The en-suite bathroom with vanity and shower is discreetly situated providing for complete privacy. Relax and unwind with a book on the comfy couch, or take an afternoon nap on the king-size bed.

Gorah Elephant Camp Tent Suite InsidePhoto: Gorah website

The Gorah House retains its historic magnificence and imparts a magical dining experience. Great attention to detail was given in creating Gorah’s dining experience. Warm fires and paraffin lanterns set the mood for a delicious meal while the open veranda invites the evening breeze. Wines are carefully chosen to enhance and elevate the meal and, to top it off, there is a grand selection of decadent desserts.

The 5,000 hectare private concession of the camp is located deep in the heart of the Addo Elephant National Park. Addo is home to the densest population of elephants on earth. Today these gentle gray giants are safe to roam in peace. Here, you can experience the thrill of quietly watching a herd stroll by. Gorah is also home to the Big Five Game that is touted about in all safari experiences. In case you’re not already in the know, the “Big 5” are the lion, elephant, cape buffalo, leopard, and rhinoceros. Addo is an incredible ecosystem from the large to the small. Watch your feet, you’ll probably see a dung beetle rolling by with its prize.

People have been living and visiting the land of Gorah for an estimated 250,000 years. The indigenous tribes relied on the water known as ‘de Goras’ or natural spring, and created a sense of place and spiritual presence to the area. Colonial settlers moved in, changing the landscape and the history, while the characters played out the drama. There was love, sorrow, and tragedy here, but above all, the peace and guardianship lived on and never changed. The gracious Gorah Manor House, a National Monument built in 1856, is now immaculately restored and period furnished. Gorah Elephant Camp has actively dedicated itself to the conservation of the Addo National Park.

Gorah Elephant Camp Manor HousePhoto: Gorah website

Gorah is a year-round destination. During the summer months from September to April the weather is warm to hot with wonderful balmy evenings. Temperatures can fluctuate from 25ºC – 35ºC in the daytime and there is a chance of rain. The winter is chilly at night and early in the mornings but the daytime temperatures can be pleasantly warm. Every now and then a cold front does pass over the lodge at which time daytime temperatures can be slightly cooler.  Games drives at Gorah are expertly led by passionate and professional guides and are a testament to the noble safaris of old. They intrepidly search the vast terrain for animals; this is the essence of the experience. Excitement lingers long after arriving back at camp from seeing elephant, rhino, and lion in their natural habitat.

See more of what Gorah has to offer by visiting the Gorah Elephant Camp website.