Six things that surprised me about Campervan travel in South Africa.
Despite being well-seasoned travelers, going on a caravaning holiday was new for both Dave and I. We are both privileged in having had access to holiday houses that gave us a very insular idea of what a holiday was. We always went to the same places, with the same extended family and friends and mixed with people with similar backgrounds.Then we both entered in to the tourism industry and have in our adult life spent much time in top-end hotels, safari lodges and resorts. We don’t have any experience of South Africa’s camping and caravan community and feel sure we have missed out.
So with Caravaning Magazine tucked under our arm, we set off in our Maui Campervan to give it a whirl. And what a gig it was! Our family left cape town in early April, headed up the N1, and got to KwaZulu Natal via the stunning Clarens area in Orange Free State. With our Mobile home we explored the whole Golden Gate and Drakensberg area, Durban and South Coast returning via the southern mountain ranges of Lesotho. What made it most fun, was that we never booked one place before we left. We used online research, some reading material and word of mouth to help find the places as we traveled. David in his years as a journliast for Getaway Magazine had some memories of his favourite spots – but time and development had blurred these memories so we were winging it. We compromised as a family by choosing a mix of remote natural campsites for the adults and vibey action-packed spots for our boys. We quickly worked out that the kids loved the swimming pools, fishing, bike riding, paint ball, zip lines, aquarium and other organized activities. These are some of my observations:
1. Its not camping. Its not even Glamping.
Most women, especial moms, will agree that camping in NO holiday. Every time you arrive in a campsite, its all the hard work of finding that flat spot, putting up tents, blowing up matresses etc, then the dish washing, cooking paraphernalia. Much of your energy goes in to cajouling kids to try to get them to help. Its hard work and its only briefly relaxing when the fire has died down and the dishes are done and you are sipping your coffee. So even though I have no issues with tent life, I don’t find this a holiday. Now a campervan on the other hand requires almost no work. You drive in sedate comfort, unraveling the miles through massive windows, until you glide in to your campsite, link to the power, chuck the mountain bikes off the back and go have fun. There is nothing to do but pour that Gin and Tonic.
2. It gives you flexibility: It truly is your home on wheels – flexibility and the ability not to plan. On our trip through KZN we didn’t book one thing. And with a mobile home, you never really need to, as you have all you need with you all the time. We also loved the ability to make a snap decision to move on. One morning we woke up on a bleek drizzly morning on KZN’s south coast and just made a unanimous decision to move on. Even out on excursions during the day when the weather turns- you have your warm clothes with you, and you can quickly make that hot cup of tea and a warm meal. Kids never need to be cold or hungry or tired. Afternoon naps, quiet reading time and snacks travel wtih you!
3. Kids adore it: Young kids love the fact that the security of home is following you despite multiple changes of campsite. Our boys adored the snug bed at the back, where they would lie and read their books and play monopoly while the car chewed up the miles. They enjoyed tidying it – organizing the cupboards and crockery and sweeping it out. There little possessions were nearby and food was on tap. Of course having an ipad charging station wasnt horrible either.
4. We met all sorts of people: As privileged kids, we grew up going to our holiday houses, and our kids have only ever done the same. Caravaning we found, is an amazing way to meet and move with an assortment of people. We found that the owner-run resorts attracted people we resonated with more – often families who had been coming to these resorts for over 20 years. Our kids rode off on their bikes and met tons of other kids. People who camp and caravan are not attached to comfort – they are relaxed free people who enjoy simple pleasures and slow time.
5. Its easy to drive but hard to maneuver. We dont recommend taking it on bumpy roads. We did return it with a ding on the back and a broken window - so take our full insurance.
6. It’s not cheap: At roughly R1800 per day ( in 2015), and add your camping fees and fuel - it is not cheaper than most entry level hotels. What you are buying is flexiblity and independence. We recommend Maui. Excellent vehicles, great service and 24hour emergency should anything untoward happen.