Camping was never my thing (and to be clear, it still isn’t). It was one of those experiences that I liked to see locked in a cupboard with the other things of the past labelled “do not do that again.” This particular experience, however, doesn’t seem to want to stay in its place. I don’t have any deep-seated sociological reasons about why I don’t like camping, I’ve really only gone camping a handful of times and I just don’t like it. Despite that, it is my relationship compromise – I can commit to one night without complaining, provided the loo is not dodgy. That’s how I discovered the Bontebok National Park.
Bontebok National Park is a small park along the banks of the Breede river, outside Swellendam in the Western Cape. It was the first stop (the one and only night of camping) on a mini road trip along the Garden Route. The turn off from the N2 goes over an old railway track, which really threw google off and so we kept missing it. As you go down the dirt road, you suddenly forget that a few minutes you were on a busy truck road.
The park is peaceful and calm with a variety of activities available like bird watching; braai and picnic areas; nature hiking trails; mountain biking; and game viewing self drives. It is also part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, which is a Unesco World Heritage site and a global biodiversity hotspot. It is open for day and overnight visits where you can camp or stay in one of the chalets or cottages.
The park is small enough to drive through the park in a few hours and is a lovely stopover between Cape Town and the Garden route. They don’t have a shop inside, so you need to bring all your goodies along with you and I was thoroughly pleased to discover that the ablution block is clean, modern and not dodgy (I’ve seen some dodgy ones).
The activities available at Bontebok National Park are chilled, which I appreciate when camping. Let me tell you why, the thing that I find perplexing about camping as a holiday is that everything is an activity. You arrive and set up the tent before the sun goes down – Activity. You are hungry for dinner, set up the braai, wash dishes in the dark under a tap – Activity. Walking up the hill with a headlamp (falling over rocks) to go the loo to pee – Activity. EVERYTHING, is activity so the idea of having a long strenuous, active day and then come back to more “activitying” is just too much.
You have the option of choosing a campsite with a power point and one without. We were without and so torches, headlamps and fires were the flavour of the evening. The night is still, the stars bright and the moons’ beams dance along the water which seems to light up in agreement. Unless there is something luminous in the water, but it’s just the moon right? Right?
I live close to the stadium and have a neighbour who sleep walks and talks, so I’m very familiar with weird noises in the night. However, I prefer sounds I can easily identify. As I lie in the tent, I find that the quieter it is the more aware I am of the environment. I hear the water lulling in the river, the wind rushing through the trees, the chatter of birds of the night and the guy snoring hard in the adjacent campsite.
Oddly, as I drift off to sleep, I wonder about the luminous fish in the water and whether it can also survive on land.
Bontebok National Park
For enquiries email or phone Bontebok National Park
Tel: +27 28 514 2735