Sunday, 14 August 2016

Glamping in the Little Karoo: Gamkaberg Nature Reserve

Halfway between the towns of Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn off the popular R62 is a delightful provincial nature reserve called GamkabergHere you can experience the drama of the Cape fold mountains, an ancient geological process caused by the uplift of the earth's crust millions of years ago which has left behind deep kloofs carving their way into the mountains that flank the Little Karoo in South Africa.
Solar power is the order of the day
Gamkaberg has excellent facilities in the form of tented camps where you can do a bit of "glamping", a style of camping where all work has been done for you. You sleep between real sheets, but under canvas, close to the stars and where you can hear the owl calling at night and the Cape robin chat at dawn, without any sweat or arguments over putting up a tent. And because each of these tented camps is small, you can book one as a group for the weekend and it will be just you and your friends enjoying the outdoors together.

Tent at Fossil Ridge
We stayed at Fossil Ridge Eco Lodge which has two comfortably appointed tents, a separate ablution facility with two bathrooms, including a shower and composting or "dry" toilet (because this is a water scarce area). The fully equipped kitchen hut with outdoor braai area is where we spent our evenings around the fire. There was meant to be an eco pool but it wasn't ready yet (and in fact we were told that technically our camp wasn't open to the public because of it). The other camps in the reserve (Tierkloof and Soetdoring) had beautiful eco pools which looked very inviting, although it was still a bit too chilly in early August for swimming. In summer, though, the pool might just be the place where you spend most of your day and possibly part of the night.
Eco pool at Tierkloof. This camp sleeps eight and is right at the mouth of the kloof making for a dramatic setting. The reeds to the right cleanse the water which gets pumped back through the main pool area.
Close up of the rocky cliffs from inside the kloof.
The real reason for visiting this reserve is to delight in nature's detail: the rich fynbos, the birdlife and the striking views you can enjoy on one of many well signposted trails, one of which takes you deep into the kloof.

Exploring the ridge behind Fossil Ridge and Soetdoring camps
A commanding and precipitous view towards Calitzdorp on the way up the mountain

The road into the reserve is strictly 4x4
Iris flowering

A deceptively steep pass takes you up and down the mountain into the reserve proper
A labyrinth for those who have things to work out
TIP Double check with CapeNature that Fossil Ridge Eco Lodge is open when you make a booking. Even though we had booked, we were told upon our arrival that this camp was closed because there was still some outstanding work to be done on the eco pool. Fortunately, aside from the pool, it was all set up so we were allowed to stay on or else our 400km drive from Cape Town might have ended in disappointment. Tierkloof, closer to the mouth of the kloof, is also a delightful camp but takes eight people so we'll make up a larger group and test its facilities next time we visit. 
The road back to camp

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