Glamping The Garden Route
If you haven’t heard the word “glamping” yet, be prepared to hear it a lot more often in the future, because it’s the latest thing when it comes to camping and outdoor adventure experiences, this is doing camping in style.
So What is “Glamping” Anyway?
According to the good people at glamping.com (and they should know):
“Glamping is where stunning nature meets modern luxury. It’s a way to experience the untamed and completely unique parts of the world—without having to sacrifice creature comforts.”
I would add to that by saying that this is the way to go when the urge to get out into the wilderness strikes, but without the hassle of carting around all that gear, erecting tents, and even worse, taking it all down again afterwards. I could get used to this, I’m not going to lie to you.
Africamps at Oakhurst Wilderness
We spent a rainy weekend glamping at Africamps newest property in the Western Cape, Oakhurst at Wilderness and what can I say other than that this is my new favourite way to spend a weekend.
Oakhurst is a 640-hectare working dairy farm in the mountains above Wilderness, along the Garden Route coast. The farm has a herd of 800 Jersey cows which I have to say, live a pretty good life in the most beautiful surroundings imaginable. The farm was first established in the early 1800’s, with the main house, still in use by the descendants of the original owners, built in 1840. Owners and hosts, Jake and Claire Crowther are 6th generation descendants of the original owner Henry Dumbleton, and what wonderful hosts they are too, nothing seems to be too much trouble for them.
Glamping at Oakhurst
Oakhurst Farm has offered holiday accommodation in converted labourer’s cottages and the Old Forge for some time, but the latest addition, launched in October 2018, comprises of 8 luxury tents overlooking rolling green fields, forests and the magnificent Outeniqua Mountains in the distance. This is what Africamps is all about, stylish camping in beautiful surroundings.
The tents, which sleep 5, are fully kitted out with everything you might need, with quality linen, shower and ablutions (indoors, no walking out into the night here) and even air-conditioning. All your cutlery and utensils are provided in a kitchen that’s equipped with fridge, gas stove and oven, and if braaing (barbequing for non South Africans) is more your thing, a built-in braai awaits on the spacious wooden deck. On a cold evening, such as was the case during our visit, a wood burning stove quickly warms the whole tent. It’s something special to sit in a warm space, listening to the rain drumming on the canvas, drinking a glass of red wine, or hot chocolate if that’s your preference while watching the flames cracking behind the glass of the fireplace.
Although it’s a self-catering experience it’s possible to purchase a breakfast basket or dinner basket comprising of a traditional South African braai pack. We enjoyed both and man they are delicious, with farm fresh milk, free range eggs, yoghurt from the farm dairy for breakfast, and a selection of meats, veg and breads for dinner. The packs do come at an extra cost, but are totally worth it in my view.
The shower is gas operated, actually my experience of gas heated showers hasn’t been that great, and this one didn’t break the mould, it was either too hot or too cold, we just couldn’t get the temperature right. Maybe there’s an art to it that we have yet to discover. The beds though, what can I say? super comfortable mattresses crisp clean linen, a warm duvet and your beloved, it just doesn’t get better than that.
The tent is super spacious, whether you are visiting with the kids or with friends, there is space to get some privacy, not at all like traditional camping. There are 2 bedrooms, one of which has a double bed, the other has a bunk setup with a double bed on the lower bunk and a single above it. The spacious wooden deck is where you may be spending a lot of time, in any case, we did, with expansive views, comfortable seating, a picnic bench and a built-in braai, it’s a great spot to relax.
The farm shop is handy for those things that we always forget, and it’s got a stock of some interesting farm fresh products as well. If the door’s shut, it either means that the shop is closed, in which case come back later, or else the proprietors are busy with other farm stuff nearby. Their house is right next door, so I just knocked and the friendly lady (sorry I forgot her name), was more than happy to open up for us to replenish some stocks.
Plenty To Do
There’s no end of stuff to do if sitting around watching the scenery gets boring. Shady walks through the indigenous forest, horse riding, trail running or cycling trails for the more energetic are all at your doorstep. I’m not that much of a horse person, but my missus was something of a rider while growing up, she went on the trail ride and came back impressed if a little tender in the rump. There is a farm dam that is stocked with Bass, I was told that some large ones have been caught, but they eluded me on this occasion, I guess conditions were just not right 😉
The daily dairy tour is really fascinating, I recommend it. This is a scientific operation, everything is measured, calculated and computer controlled. Those cows really seem to enjoy it, and why not, they get a delicious treat and probably feel way better after the milking process, which only takes a few minutes. The farm already has a big focus on sustainable energy consumption and plans for solar energy will build on that.
But it’s not only about rural and farm stuff, the Wilderness area is one of the most beautiful parts of the Garden Route. Famous for its long stretches of unspoiled beaches, rivers, lakes, forests, waterfalls and lagoons, Wilderness really does have it all, and it’s a short 20 minute or so drive away.
Just a few other local attractions are; the ‘Map of Africa’ viewpoint at Wilderness Heights which shows off with a breath-taking vista of the Kaaiman’s River valley (personally I think it looks as much like a sleeping crocodile as it does a map of the African continent). Dolphin Point at the top of Kaaiman’s Pass on the N2 on the road to George, has a magnificent view of the endless ocean, with regular sightings of whales and dolphins in season.
Hiking, dolphin and whale watching, hang gliding, paragliding, horse riding, mountain biking, scenic drives, the up and coming “Wilderness Lakes Art Route”, all deserve a spot on your Wilderness bucket list. And, if you enjoy shopping, Wilderness also has a craft market selling unique, locally made items.
The (Condensed) Africamps Story
The Africamps business philosophy is strongly based on the principle of sustainability. The company manufactures the tents and furniture in their own facility in Atlantis in the Western Cape. Hiring and training staff from an area with a high unemployment rate, they have taught them sewing, woodwork, welding, painting, electrical skills and more, giving them a real skill that they can use in the real world.
Founders and owners, Manou Bleumink and Jeroen van Rootselaar are a couple of entrepreneurial Dutchmen who arrived in Cape Town around 2006, which is where they met, and where the idea of Africamps was born. The pair had already witnessed the phenomenon of “glamping” that was taking off back in their Dutch homeland, and they knew that the time was perfect to bring the idea to South Africa.
With the help of YouTube videos, Jeroen and Manou taught themselves how to sew canvas, work with wood and weld steel, eventually, through sheer determination, the first Africamps tent was born in an old asbestos factory. Today, with 8 camps throughout South Africa and a 9th on the way, the brand is at the forefront of the glamping trend. Long may they prosper, because this is a really good product, and they are just really cool guys.
Our stay at Oakhurst was at the invitation of Africamps, opinions expressed are my own