There was a right fuss on our pitch. Two of the campsite staff seemed to be beating the ground with big sticks. One of the lads lifted something above his head with a shout of triumph. It was a dead puff adder – the most venomous snake in Africa. And it had been sharing our shade tree.
We took our motorhome holiday in South Africa looking for adventure, and we certainly found plenty.
It was an amazing gorge. The rock walls reached up and touched the clouds. The woman at the campsite had been right. It was certainly worth the detour off our main route.
I asked Ann to drive up the road and turn round so I could get some good pictures of the motorhome in the amazing scenery.
I hopped out with only my trusty Nikon for protection and Ann and the van disappeared into the distance. Then I saw them, a pair of large and widely spaced eyes peering out at me from a roadside bush.
It was only then I remembered what else the lady at the campsite had said, “The gorge is also a great place to see leopard”.
I don’t know who was more relieved; me or the warthog who finally decided to make a run for it.
We had wanted to come to South Africa since Nelson Mandela put his Rainbow Nation, as he called it, on the long walk to freedom more than a dozen years ago. It is an exciting and beautiful country and there has never been a better time to visit it. We organised our own holiday but that just got much easier with the Club’s overseas holiday operation offering both escorted tours and individual holidays to South Africa.
This is a country of game parks, wildlife, wilderness and deserts as well as sophisticated cities, holiday resorts, historic sites and fabulous beaches. Our first adventure was Addo National Park famous for its herds of over 400 wild elephants. On the road to the park a herd of springbok – South Africa’s national symbol – bounded alongside our motorhome to welcome us to Africa.
You judge game parks by how many of the ‘Big Five’ they have, lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino. Addo doesn’t have rhino but as the park is coastal it claims a ‘Big Six’ adding the southern right whale and the great white shark!
We wondered how the seemingly humble buffalo got into the premier league. In fact it is the most dangerous of all. It is the only one that will attack vehicles without warning and it can upturn a motorhome with a flick of its head.
The campsite at Addo was impressive. There were guided game drives, an excellent shop and a good restaurant as well as great pitches. Food was good and not expensive although it was a little disconcerting to be out all day watching kudo, bushbuck and hartebeest and the finding kudo kebabs in the site shop and hartebeest and bushbuck casserole on the restaurant menu.
A floodlit waterhole gave wonderful evening game viewing. It was the most spectacular campsite entertainment ever. We took a guided night game drive. It was amazing how much we saw in the spotlight beam. We never saw the lion that we could hear roaring in the bushes worryingly close to our totally unprotected Landrover. We did see elephant, jackal, buffalo and even porcupine and indeed a score of other species. It was certainly a night to remember.
For the next few days we drove our motorhome around the miles and miles of road in the game park. We saw even more animals with the chance to stop and watch them closely. South Africa is a huge country and a place of amazing contrasts. At the civilised little town of Knysna we ate local oysters washed down with local white wine. Sitting outside on a terrace overlooking the oyster beds it could have been Brittany.
The Little Karoo desert is perfect for farming ostrich. Huge flocks of these unbelievable prehistoric looking creatures line the highway in and around the ostrich capital of the world Oudtshoorn. From here to the back of Table Mountain you’ll find vineyards and wineries making some of the fine wines that are South Africa’s best known export.
Virtually all of them welcome visitors and offer tours and tastings. It’s a popular trip out for the people of Capetown just over or through Table Mountain. Yes, I did say through, because the new road burrows into the heart of the mountain and out the other side to deliver you into the great city.
Capetown has much to offer. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, based on the old dock area is now a bustling mixture of shops, restaurants and bars. Boats leave on all kinds of trips but most popular by far is the trip to the offshore prison of Robben Island.
Today the world has no greater hero than Nelson Mandela. Thousands of visitors journey to Robben Island to pay tribute to the man imprisoned there for so many years. Capetown was the end of our trip. We would fly home from here but before we left we still had to reach the actual Cape and the road south through yet another National Park had some real surprises.
It was a beautiful day as we drove south. We were led astray by a tiny and seemingly deserted sandy cove. It was all too tempting and we stripped off to plunge into the warm blue waters of the Indian Ocean. Then we remembered this is great white shark country and we hurried back to the safety of the sands to dry off in the sun. It was then that we noticed that we didn’t actually have the beach all to ourselves.
Just along from us were another family. Mum and dad were busy teaching the two youngsters to swim. In fact the two tiny tots seemed remarkably good swimmers already. The whole family totally ignored us and it didn’t seem our skinny dipping worried them at all. It was our first real experience of sharing the beach with a family of african penguins!
Just another surprise, another African adventure.
Our South African adventure.
Our trip was organised by the Overseas Touring arm of the mighty Camping and Caravanning Club. They offer both escorted tours and independent motorhome holidays in South Africa.
The trips include flights, motorhome hire and full motor insurance, all campsite fees and national park admissions. There are many organised guided tours some of which include a meal.
For full details of this and the independent travel opportunities offered by Carefree in South Africa ring them on 0845 130 7701 or view their brochure at www.campingandcaravanningclub.co.uk
This article first appeared in Camping and Caravanning Magazine.