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23 March, 2016

Catching Trout in South Africa on a Budget - Skurweberg Trout Hideaway

Skurweberg Trout Hideaway in Mpumalanga is an exclusive Luxury Trout Lodge Between Badplaas and Machadodorp. Here you can indulge in luxury self-catering accommodation in the Skurweberg Mountains of Mpumalanga, South Africa while casting flies to rainbow, brown and golden trout.

The Skurweberg Mountain Pass meanders through the mountainous area just outside Machadodorp in Mpumalanga, South Africa and offers breathtaking scenery to the nature enthusiast. The Skurweberg Mountains in the Mpumalanga Highlands was named after the ancient sandstone outcroppings, which apparently dates back to the Godwana period. Some of the flora found in the area includes yellowwood trees and a variety of aloes. About three quarters of the way down the pass from Machadodorp to Badplaas, Skurweberg Trout Hideaway's sign is on the left. 

Accommodation at Skurweberg Trout Hideaway

Skurweberg Trout Hideaway is the epitome of exclusivity as only one group of people is allowed at the lodge at any given time. No day visitors are allowed and guests have exclusive use of the earth dam and fly fishing in the Upper Boshoekspruit River.

Accommodation consists of a three-bedroom lodge, two of the bedrooms have en suite facilities and a third bathroom is shared. A sleeper coach in the living room provides accommodation for an additional two guests bringing the capacity of the lodge to eight people in total.

Friendly and competent staff services the lodge twice daily and all possible amenities are present. The kitchen is fully equipped with microwave, stove, fridge, freezer, cutlery, crockery and cooking utensils.
Comfortable couches in the living room makes watching television or lounging around the fireplace a pleasure. Outside the lounge, a wooden deck runs the length of the lodge and the wooden patio furniture is perfect for watching the sunset over the earth dam and surrounding mountains.

Turning left out of the sliding doors of the lounge, a thatched lapa contains a built in fireplace for barbecue as well as a garden table and sufficient chairs. A large fridge with freezer compartment provides extra space for preserving the day's catch.

Fly-Fishing for Trout at Skurweberg Trout Hideaway

Anglers can cast their flies to the rainbow, golden and brown trout, either in the one-hectare earth dam or in the three kilometer stream of the upper Boshoekspruit. The lodge affords a perfect view over the earth dam while the stream is a short walk away.

Two wooden jetties' facilitates long casts to the trout visible in the clear water of the dam. No artificial barriers limit the flow of water in the stream, but a few well-placed rocks create natural pools for trout to hunt and spawn. All trout caught are paid for per kilogram upon departure from the lodge.

Other Activities at Skurweberg Trout Hideaway

Besides fly-fishing for trout, guests can go for hikes on the property and picnic at the 90 feet tall waterfall a short walk upstream from the earth dam. The birdlife is prolific around the lodge and will keep avid birders occupied for hours. The property is safe and children can explore the surroundings on foot or by mountain bike.

Where is Skurweberg Trout Hideaway

From the N4 highway between Johannesburg / Pretoria guests should take the turnoff towards Machadodorp. Drive through the town and follow the signs indicating the road to Badplaas. Once tourists start descending the Skurweberg Mountain Pass, they should keep a lookout for the signpost on the left at a cluster of eucalyptus trees.

Bookings are essential to secure accommodation at Skurweberg Trout Hideaway, as accommodation at the lodge is fully booked well in advance.

Another trout lodge in the area is Waterfall Mountain Trout between Badplaas and Carolina.

19 March, 2016

Accommodation and Facilities at Berg-en Dal Rest Camp

Rest Camps in Southern Kruger National Park

Most tourists on vacation in South Africa try to include a visit to the famous wildlife park. With modern rest camps and comfortable accommodation, the popularity of the Kruger National Park increases every year.

From Gauteng, the rest camps in the south of the Kruger National Park, namely Berg - en Dal, Pretoriuskop, Skukuza, Lower Sabie, Crocodile Bridge and Biyamithi are the most accessible and therefore also the most popular. Tourists must reserve accommodation well in advance, as even the campsites are fully booked over weekends.

Facilities at Berg - en Dal Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park

Berg en Dal rest camp nestles close to the town of Malelane, which is on route to Mozambique.  Tourists often overnight in the camp for a day or two before proceeding to the sunny beaches of Mombasa. Mountainous terrain surrounds Berg en Dal Rest Camp and hence the humidity causes pleasant temperatures even during the cold winter months. The Matjulu Stream borders the one side of the camp while dry riverbeds and a dam forms the other borders.

When designing the outlay of Berg en Dal rest camp, management kept the disturbance of the natural vegetation to minimum and large trees provide a shady environment for tourists. This also leads to the local wildlife, especially Vervet Monkeys, running riot inside the camp.

A shop in the rest camp provides basic amenities as well as a selection of books, clothes and curios. The restaurant overlooks the river and dam where elephants and other animals often quench their thirst. A paved walkway provides excellent game and bird viewing in front of the restaurant and reception, while the Rhino Perimeter Walk, a hiking trail inside the fence, teaches tourists more about the local trees and flowers. The trail also caters for visually impaired people with information available in braille.

During peak tourist season, management screens wildlife documentaries in an open theatre under the African skies.

Other facilities in Berg en Dal Rest Camp include:

A filling station proving unleaded and lead replacement petrol as well as diesel
A Laundromat
An internet cafe
Post box
Basic first aid assistance
Auditorium and conference center
Swimming pool

Accommodation at Berg en Dal Rest Camp in Kruger National Park

Accommodation at Berg - en Dal is varied and caters for all tastes.

The campsites are shady, the ablutions and kitchen units clean and well maintained and the staff servicing the campgrounds are friendly. The kitchenettes provide boiling water to guests twenty-four hours a day. All the campsites have electrical access points, but tourists should remember to buy a blue caravan adapter, as the power points do not accommodate normal electrical plugs. The shop sells these adapters, but may run out of stock during peak holiday seasons and tourists should rather bring their own.

Several 3-bed bungalows, mostly built towards the dry riverbed, offer self-catering accommodation to tourist. The beds are brick - built into the face brick interior of the bungalows with comfortable mattresses. These bungalows are essentially two-roomed units with an open plan kitchenette and bedroom and a small bathroom with a shower, basin and toilet. They are fully serviced with the camp providing linen and cutlery.

Family cottages provide accommodation for six people in face brick buildings. Each family cottage has two bedrooms and two bunk beds in the lounge. These units have two bathrooms with a shower and bath and are fully serviced.

The J Le Roux and Rhino guesthouses are luxury units built in prime locations of the rest camp and accommodate six and eight guests respectively. With multiple rooms, bathrooms, and limited channel DSTV, these units are extremely popular with international and local tourists alike. All the units, except for the campsites are air-conditioned and fully serviced on a daily basis.

The Kruger in Africa remains one of Southern Africa's prime tourist destinations and no holiday in Africa is complete without a visit to the famous national park.

Bookings for accommodation at Berg en Dal Rest Camp in the Kruger National Park are essential and may be made eleven months in advance.  

10 July, 2012

Kruger Park : Planning a Camping Trip

Nothing gets you closer to nature than pitching a tent under an Acacia tree. Listening to night fall and the awakening of the nocturnal animals makes you realize you are but a small piece of the creation. This is food for the soul.

It’s no surprise then, that many people actively search for an excuse to get to the bush. I often hear comments like “The Kruger isn’t bush anymore” and “There’s too much luxury at the Kruger Park to be a true bush experience”. While both statements might be true, I’m a firm believer that experiences are clouded by perspective.

If your normal day consists of sitting behind a desk in a posh office, relaxing on the deck of a guesthouse or cottage in the Kruger will feel like roughing it – simply because it’s different. For me, regardless of where I stay, as long as I can hear and see the African bush, I’m happy. I’ve learned that you can enjoy a holiday staying in the luxury chalet of a wildlife reserve just as much as camping in a tent. It’s all a matter of expectations.

While we’re talking about expectations, people who know me, know that I can rough it with the best of them. As long as I have something to protect me against the rain and a couple of steaks to barbeque, I’ll camp anywhere. But, you knew there was a “but” in there, didn’t you. I’ve never had to carter my camping gear to the destination without a vehicle that had a boot. Boot as in something covered. Like a trailer or caravan or simply just my LC105 EFI’s luggage compartment. (Those who don’t speak Land Cruiser language, a 105 EFI stands for Land Cruiser Station Wagon, Model 105 4500 EFI ) 

No ma’am, we are going camping at the end of the month with a LC 79 Pick Up. Like in one with cattle rails and absolutely NO luggage compartment. And no canvas cover either, because it takes too long to manufacture and we don’t have time to leave the vehicle there. So, for the first time in decades (I refuse to say how many as I will reveal my age) I have to give serious consideration about how I’m going to get my gear to my destination – preferably intact.

Still not seeing the problem? Yes, I can hear you men out there grumble. Hubby also don’t understand it. According to him I’ve never had more space to load the camping gear. Let me explain the dilemma I’m faced with:

1. We live in approximately 500 km away from the Kruger Park, which means somewhere along the road you have to allow for a bathroom stop. With the gear stowed on an open pick up, someone will have to remain with the vehicle at all times – that rules out a nice Wimpy breakfast along the way.We live in South Africa after all.

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2. As we are traveling eastwards, although it is winter, chances of rain can’t be ruled out. So anything that needs to be kept dry, must be placed in waterproof containers.That’s not so bad, is it? Mmm, considering we’re camping that includes bedding, food, cameras, laptops (you didn’t think I would leave it at home, did you?) tents (not a major issue, but try to pitch a wet canvas tent and tell me again it’s not that bad), freezer, etc. Some of these items will need BIG containers if you have to stow it away. Now we do have canvas bags to cover some of the items, so this might turn out not to be such a big deal. .


3. Then, my biggest issue. What do we do once we are inside the park? If you’re anything like me, you wait at the gate in the morning for it to open. Last night’s barbequed meat and toasted sandwiches are your food for the morning until you can stop at a picnic spot to prepare brunch. So, how do I keep the baboons and monkeys from stealing my food off the load bin? I’ve seen baboons at Balule run away with an entire cooler and scale the electric fence without missing a beat. A cooler on the back of an open vehicle will pose no problem to them.


So now I’m spending the next couple of weeks to figure out how to keep all hands off my equipment while I traverse through the Kruger Park. Once I’ve sorted the problem, I’ll update you on how I managed.

09 February, 2012

Augrabies Falls: Budget Camping Accommodation and Luxury Self Catering Chalets

Augrabies Falls South Africa

Whether you choose camping in a one-man tent or opt to stay in the self-catering chalets, the accommodation offered at Augrabies Falls National Park will satisfy the most discerning tourist.

Augrabies Falls National Park is situated in the Northern Cape Province of South Africa. Being a semi- arid region, the annual rainfall is low and extreme variations of temperature occur. The rock formations surrounding the Orange River Gorge add to the already high summer (January and February) temperatures, which average 41o Celsius, and can push the daytime temperature up to 70o Celsius. During the winter months daytime temperatures average a mild 20o Celsius while nights hover around 0o Celsius.

Regardless if you prefer to stay in the camping site or luxury accommodation, the best time of the year to visit the Augrabies Falls National Park is during autumn and spring. All accommodation offered by the park are within a short walking distance to the waterfall, restaurant and swimming pools. The park has a small, well - stocked shop to replenish supplies and fuel is available inside the park.

Rock Formations at Augrabies Falls

For those adventurous travellers, the resort offers activities like hiking, mountain biking, game drives and adventure sports like the Gariep 3-in-1 adventure.

Campsites at Augrabies Falls

Campsites, Augrabies Falls Park

The campsites at Augrabies Falls National Park are shady and planned well. Short wooden polls, planted close enough to each other to keep vehicular traffic out, cordon off a grass covered semi- circular area. This grassed surface is exclusively for the use of tent campers and the absence of vehicles inside the circle ensures the safety of the campers.

Caravans, trailers, auto villas and camper vans utilize the area around the grass surface on the outside of the wooden polls. These sites are gravel covered and relatively level. Huge trees provide shade for both tent campers and the caravans. All campsites have electrical outlets and a communal camp kitchen, equipped with two - plate stoves and basins for doing dishes, is placed at a central location. The ablutions include a laundry and ironing room.

A maximum of six people are allowed per campsite, with one vehicle and one tent or caravan.

Self- Catering Chalet Accommodation for Visitors to the Augrabies Falls

Augrabies Falls National Park also offers chalets accommodating two adults and two children. These air - conditioned chalets are equipped with outfitted kitchenette, bathroom, microwave oven and two single beds. A double bunk bed, which is not suitable for adults, is available for children. Each chalet has barbeque facilities outside the building and several of these chalets are adapted to accommodate people with physical disabilities.

Family Cottages for Larger Families Staying at the Augrabies Falls

These two bedroom cottages have two single beds in every bedroom and a children's sleeper couch. The open plan kitchen is fully equipped with cutlery and crockery. The lounge provides seating for six people while the bathroom contains both a shower and bath. On the outside, provision is made for holding a barbecue and the units are air - conditioned to ward off the extreme temperatures of the area. Some of the cottages are also adapted to cater for people with physical disabilities.

Tourists planning to travel to and stay over at the Augrabies Falls National Park must reserve the accommodation in advance to avoid being turned away especially in the tourist season.

02 January, 2012

Mabuasehube with an Off-Road Caravan

As you all know from previous posts, Mabuasehube Game Reserve in Botswana, Africa,  is no place for the feint hearted. Due to the fact that there is no hotels or self-catering accommodation available, tourists must be completely self-sufficient.

Yep, that translates to CAMPING!

Now, if you’ve missed the previous post about the Mabuasehube Reserve that forms part of the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, here is a quick recap of the important facts:-

1. The reserve is unfenced. Yes, that means the campsites are unfenced too and visitors often find themselves held hostage by groups of lions.

2. The ablutions consist of pit toilets surrounded by a wooden snail-like structure open at the top and bottom. (If you don’t believe me about the lions, just check out the claw marks on the seats of those toilets.)

3. Mabuasehube forms part of the Kalahari Desert and the roads vary from sandy (and I do mean sandy) highways to deep rutted sandy tracks.

4. Your closest neighbours are often on the other side of the salt pan and more than a kilometre away as the crow flies.

Using an Off-Road Caravan when Visiting Mabuasehube

On our first visit to Mabuasehube we towed a Jurgens Explorer off-road caravan behind a Mitsubishi Pajero 3.2 DiD. It was late July after a dismal rainy season and the sand resembled the upper part of a beach where the waves never reach. You know, that part where the hot sand always get into your shoes no matter what you do.

Off-Road Caravan at Matopi, Mabuasehube

It seemed like the best solution at the time as we could carry enough drinking and washing water as well as enough fuel for the four day stay at Lesholoago Pan. We also would be protected by something more than just mere canvas from the predators that roamed the semi-desert landscape. A fact my daughter made full use of by retiring inside when darkness fell and only emerging when morning came.

It also meant we could use our own shower as at that time, the campsite at Lesholoago didn’t have water. Over all, it was a great decision to go to Mabuasehube with a competent off-road caravan. But, as you can guess, it wasn’t all moonshine and roses.

Advantages of Towing an Off-Road Caravan to Mabuasehube 

Please bear in mind these my own experiences of using a caravan. Other people may have different opinions and you’d do well to research them before making a decision.

1. As mentioned before, we had a solid structure to protect us from the elements and predators. During winter, the nights at Mabuasehube is bitterly cold and the temperature often drops to well below zero. Having the protection of the caravan, the cold was barely noticeable inside.

2. We had ample space to carry supplies such as water, fuel and wood inside the caravan.

3. All our amenities were in one place. The caravan comes equipped with a fridge/freezer, washing basin, two plate gas stove, cutlery and crockery, king sized bed and bathroom cubicle.

4. The awning provided shade during the day and protection during the evenings against the dew. It also provided cover for the stove and washing basin.

5. It doesn’t take a long time to stabilize and you can set up camp fairly quickly.

6. The pull-out kitchen made having a cup of coffee or a quick meal along the road, easy as you didn’t have to unpack everything in order to get to the kitchen.

Overall, I loved the idea of the caravan and the convenience it offered.

Disadvantages of Towing an Off-Road Caravan to Mabuasehube

You guessed it, there is a “But” in there somewhere. Towing an off-road caravan that by its nature is a large, heavy structure, does have a number of disadvantages. I suspect many of my complaints about the caravan are of my own doing, but it just didn’t justify the hassles I experienced. Here is why I say that:-

1. Off-road caravans are heavy beasts. Empty it weighs nearly a ton and fully loaded you creep to nearly one and a half tons. Moving that beast around in sandy soil is no picnic. If you consider that my husband and I usually travel alone and that despite my size I am not the strongest person in the world, this caused many grunts and complaints along the way. Even on level tarred surfaces the sheer weight of the caravan was daunting.

Couple this weight with sand dunes not compacted and rutted and you might get this result:

Stuck in Sand Between Nossob and Matopi

Going up a large loose dune, the vehicle in front of us braked suddenly. We had to stop and the digging above was the result. In the end we had to winch both the car and caravan to the top of the dune. We were so intent on getting the vehicle out of the sand, that we stopped checking for predators after a while. On our return we found these two just on the other side of the same dune.

Lions Mating on Nossob-Mabuasehube Road

2. As stated before the roads are heavily corrugated at times. During our first visit to the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, the road between Askham and the entrance gate at Twee Rivieren, were not tarred. The corrugations were so bad, people were often asked to drag empty tires behind their vehicles in order to try and tame the corrugations. So our first taste of what corrugations could do to an off-road caravan came relatively early on our trip. By the time we reached Mabuasehube from Nossob, I was getting used to cleaning up inside before we could bed down for the night.

Although the Jurgens Explorer is a competent off-road caravan (and believe me if I say we tested it on a variety of terrains) the inside is still manufactured from a type of hardboard. This means that the thin wooden panels had to withstand an amount of vibration. They often didn’t. I cleaned up mayonnaise, sugar, coffee and various other stuff that simply shook out of the cabinets on the corrugations. Although these items were in closed containers, the locks on the cabinets failed and the contents were shaken out – this was before the time of clip – seal plastic containers. Cleaning up before you could set up camp, prolonged the getting settled process unbearably long after a hard day’s driving.

3. Dust. I hate dust. The clips of the slide windows on the Jurgens Explorer didn’t hold up on tough terrain and would shake the window open. Even the slightest opening allowed the dust to settle on the bedding and we had numerous nights where we had to shake out the bedding first before we could go to sleep.

4. Due to the amount of fuel and water we had to carry to Mabuasehube for consumption, we had little space for other camping equipment inside the caravan, The cabinets inside the caravan is small and being winter, we had to pack our clothes in suitcases which had to go on top of the bed. Camping chairs, table, and various other items also found a traveling space on the nicely made bed. We had to unload this first before we could get some sleep.

5. Accessing the fridge while on the road was a menace. The fridge/freezer is located under the three-quarter sized bed on the nose side of the caravan. You had to lift the bed to get to the fridge. When loaded with items, this proved to be irritatingly difficult. Even when the bed was made, you still had to lift it to access the fridge.

Now, you might say these are petty concerns, but travelling for weeks on end with the same problems, these petty concerns become major irritations. Would I use an off-road caravan to Mabuasehube again? Maybe. You have to decide what is more important to you. For me, I don’t think I’d do it again.