If you are looking for a glorious off-the-grid getaway in the middle of nowhere, here are ten beautiful destinations to add to your South African bucket list.
Kagga Kamma in the Cederberg
Nestled deep in the scenic Cederberg Mountains, far from the buzzing lights and humming TVs of even the smallest town, this is your opportunity to get back to nature and sleep under the stars. The jewel in the crown is the Star Suite Open Air Room set on a private platform below the most astonishing hanging rock formation, three kilometres from reception. There’s a bathtub for a special soak under the stars as well as your own personal rock pool for a refreshing nighttime dip under the twinkling spread of the milky way.
The star room is only available from September- April (weather permitting). Guests who stay at the Star Suite have to be booked in at the Lodge in either a Hut or Cave Suite and can then add on to their stay by choosing the Star Suite at an additional cost.
Rates: The Sky Suite costs R1,300 per person per night.
Distance: Situated 242 km from Cape Town (via the N1)
Find out more and book at www.kaggakamma.co.za/star-suite.php
Elandsberg Cottages at Tankwa Karoo National Park
The Northern Cape is celebrated for its well managed and extraordinarily remote national parks and the Tankwa Karoo NP is a real gem. You’ll want a 4x4 to head out to this blissfully isolated spot and a few days to spare to make the several 100kms drive from Cape Town, much of it along dusty untarred roads, worth it. Once you reach the main reception deep inside the park, pick up your keys and drive another 18km through the rumbling desert to the utterly isolated and romantic Elandsberg Cottages, each of which comes with uninterrupted views over the desert, best enjoyed from your personal plunge pool. There are solar lights and kerosene lamps, a tanker of water and a fridge running on gas, no phone signal, internet or TV. Just you and the desert.
Rates: From R1270 per night (2 adults)
Distance: The Tankwa Karoo National Park is approximately 350km from Cape Town
Find out more and book at www.sanparks.org/parks/tankwa/
Dumbe Chalets in the Drakensberg
Choose from one of five isolated sandstone mountain cottages set amid the clear mountain streams of the foothills of the majestic Drakensberg mountains. The views from each cottage deck are beyond belief, just you, mountains and soaring African skies. Each cottage is very secluded and with a couples-only policy, meaning no noise, save for the crackle of the fireplace in the evening after a long hike.
Rates: From R540 sharing per night
Distance: Situated 280 km from Durban and approximately 300 km from Johannesburg
Find out more and book at: www.dumbe.co.za
Highlands Mountain Retreat in Golden Gate National Park
Located inside one of the most famous hiking spots in the Drakensberg, the Golden Gate National Park, these eight log cabins, designed to be habitable even in the snowiest depths of winter, are situated on top of the mountain at an altitude of 2,200 metres. Cabins sleep two or four people and each looks directly out over the awe-inspiring valley below with the impressive spread of the epic Maluti Mountain range spreading out in the distance towards the borders of the ‘mountain kingdom’ Lesotho. Make sure to check-in and collect your keys at the Glen Reenen reception down in the valley as it is at least 20minutes drive up the mountain to the cabins.
Rates: Log cottage (sleeps two) R1,710 per night, family log cottage (sleeps four) R2,745 per night (sleeps four)
Distance: 304km from Johannesburg, approximately 40km from Clarens.
Find out more and book at www.sanparks.org/parks/golden_gate/
Klein Rivier Stone Mountain Lodge in the Baviaanskloof
Spend your days exploring the trails through picturesque gorges and swimming in icy mountain pools before retreating to your mountain-top retreat at this celebrated lodge in the magnificent Baviaanskloof near Port Elizabeth. There’s a choice of tented camps but for true isolation join the waiting list to stay at the glorious mountain lodge located at the end of a nerve-wrackingly steep 4 x 4 dirt road (transfers from the main lodge are also available at extra cost). Alternatively, you can put on your hiking boots and hike the 5km Two Gorges trail to reach the mountain lodge (your bags and supplies can be transported for you at extra cost). The Mountain Lodge sleeps up to seven and must be booked for at least two nights
Rates: From R4,000 per night (sleeps up to seven people). Note a minimum booking of two nights is required for the mountain lodge property. Chalet, cottage and tented camp rates start from R400 per person per night.
Distance: Klein Rivier is situated approximately 77km from Port Elizabeth.
Find out more and book online at kleinrivier.co.za
Teniqua Treetops in the Outeniqua Mountains
Deep in the ancient milkwood forests that fill the slopes of the Outeniqua Mountains, around 35km from the Garden Route town of Kynsna, these delightful treehouses blend perfectly with their surroundings. Each wooden house perches out on stilts over the sloping forest canopy giving the sensation of sleeping in the treetops. The treehouses are also eco-friendly, perfectly equipped with gas stoves and compost toilets (don’t be alarmed by the rain spiders!) and fresh mountain spring water, which the locals call ‘cola water’ due to its unusual colour and distinct tanin taste.
Rates: From R1,193 per unit per night
Distance: Teniqua Treetops is approximately 483km from Cape Town via the N2, 35km from Kynsna
Find out more and book online at teniquatreetops.co.za
Matjiesvlei Mountain Cottages in the Klein Karoo
The perfect pit stop for a secluded break while exploring the famous Route 62 road that winds through the small towns and vast open vistas of the Western Cape’s Klein Karoo. A scenic drive along winding dirt roads off the R62 (around 15km from the small town of Calitzdorp), the Matjiesvlei valley is scattered with the remains of a Victorian-era farming village. Accommodation is in quaint rustic stone shepherds cottages now transformed into well-equipped self-catering rentals, each surrounded by its own sprawling garden and with the only disturbance the occasional stray sheep from a nearby farm.
Rates: Cottage rental costs from R410 per person per day.
Distance: Approximately 364km from Cape Town via the N1 and R62.
Find out more and book online at www.calitzdorpaccommodation.co.za
Wolwekrans in the Schoeman Mountains
Take your pick from three self-catering cottages or two luxury safari tents looking out over the valleys of the Schoeman Mountains in Mpumalanga. Classic wilderness extras include your own private boma for those summer fireside evenings under the stars. A completely eco-friendly lodge, everything is solar-powered and the water comes from a pure mountain spring that lies within the property.
Rates: From R1700 per night per chalet.
Distance: Wolwekrans is situated approximately 306km from Johannesburg via the N12 and N4.
Find out more and book online at wolwekrans.com/self-catering-chalets/
Lion Sands Private Game Reserve treehouse experience
The ultimate in African bush luxury, the spectacular Lion Sands Reserve in the Greater Kruger has three ultra-luxurious and insanely romantic treehouses (these must be booked in conjunction with a stay at the main lodge), where, for a price, you can enjoy the experience of a lifetime. Your field guide will take you on a walking safari at sunset to your exclusive treehouse in the remote wilderness. Up in your personal luxury treehouse, lit by dozens of lanterns, a gourmet picnic basket awaits. After watching the sunset with a glass of wine and listening to the sounds of the bush coming to life, settle down for a night sleeping out under a canopy of stars in an opulent open-air four-poster bed perched high above the bushveld.
Rates: The Treehouse Experience costs from R3,750 per person per night and must be booked in conjunction with a stay at the main lodge accommodation.
Distance: The Lion Sands private game reserve is approximately 452km from Johannesburg, 115km from Nelspruit
Find out more and book online at www.more.co.za/lionsands/experiences/treehouses/
Dwesa Nature Reserve on the Wild Coast
South Africa’s Wild Coast in the Eastern Cape is among the most remote regions of South Africa. Long and winding dirt tracks skirt up and down towards the dramatic coast and even regular visitors find it very easy to get very lost.
For the most intrepid travellers Dwesa Nature Reserve is among the area’s most ruggedly beautiful and isolated spots. Bordered on one side by the Indian Ocean and on the other by rolling grasslands with fringes of dense coastal forest between, the area is criss-crossed by rambling trails and populated by hundreds of species of birds. There are five 5-bed chalets and three 4-bed chalets equipped with gas fridges and stoves. The handful of other guests are likely to be the only other people you will see as you explore the endless stretches of pristine coastline. Bring plenty of supplies and make sure to book in for a few days to switch off and escape.
Rates: Two-bed chalets from R340 per night, four-bed chalets from R660 per night
Distance: The reserve is approximately 235km from East London.
Find out more and book online at www.visiteasterncape.co.za/parks/dwesa/
SANParks Kalahari Tented Camp
SANParks sprawling Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park forms the South Africa section of the vast Kalahari Desert and together with the Namibian and Botswana sectors of the park across the border this is one of the largest protected wildlife areas in the world. SANParks runs three traditional styled rest camps in the vast park (with a shop, cafe, restaurant and swimming pool) as well as six unfenced ‘wilderness camps’ which accommodate only a handful of visitors in remote cabins and stilted cottages.
Generally the wilderness camps can only be reached by 4x4 and you will need to ensure you have brought plenty of food and drinking water with you. Lighting is solar and the fridge runs on gas so that when the sun sets there are no noisy generators and electric lamps to spoil the most spectacular desert star-gazing. Camps also come with a caveat that this is the wild and there are no fences. Wild animals may visit the camp at night (especially hyenas). Keep your distance and do not feed them. All camps also have a staff ranger on site should you be worried about there being any dangerous animals entering the camp. If you want to sleep under canvas book for the Kalahari Tented Camp. Situated high up on a red sand dune, overlooking a waterhole in the dry bed of the ancient Auob River, there are 15 desert tents each with their own deck and braai area for cooking, plus a swimming pool for cooling off on hot desert afternoons.
Distance from Johannesburg: Approximately 12 hrs drive from Johannesburg, 4hrs drive from Uppington, 6hrs from Windhoek (Namibia). Note that to reach the camp inside the park a 4x4 vehicle is essential
Rates & Bookings: Find out more and book here via the SANParks website.