It’s almost time to light the fires, get out the guitars, sing Billy Joel campfire songs and listen to the crickets after a bad joke’s punchline, i.e. dad jokes. Being a Joburg local, I know people in Gauteng like to slow down, escape to the wild, and enjoy the company of loved ones in nature. That being said, I took on the challenge to try and convince people to trade a luxurious breakaway at a five-star resort for a camping weekend with nothing more than dad jokes and mosquito repellent. After a bit of research, I discovered that the camping numbers are actually on the rise and a smart financial move in today’s economy. According to a Forbes article published in 2018, Millennials and Generation Xers make up three quarters of all campers, which makes perfect sense when you think of all the Millennial nomads living minimalist lives with nothing more than a backpack and a camper van. We often forget the value of campfire laughter and social engagement, and we get our comedy fix from sitcoms or memes on Facebook as a stress reliever. It is, however, forgotten how a few bad dad jokes and awkward silences next to the fire can act as a brilliant stress reliever. Sure, the sounds of nature are mesmerising, but there’s always time for a joke or five, so keep the notepad at close hand and write them down as you discover the hidden gems of Dinokeng.

We often forget the value of campfire laughter and social engagement, and we get our comedy fix from sitcoms or memes on Facebook as a stress reliever.

Dinokeng, meaning “place of rivers”, was originally developed as a government initiative alongside the Pienaars River. This popular tourist attraction brings plenty of diversity to the Capital City, giving it a proper Africa experience where the Big Five freely roam. The Dinokeng Reserve opened in 2011 and covers 18 500 hectares of restored farm land, which is home to various wild animals. Today, this unique game reserve is owned by private landowners and supported by government. The reserve offers a variety of campsites and lodges on the respective holdings. Explore the Dinokeng Game Reserve and stay in these five camping spots.

Koedoesrus Bush Camp

Koedoesrus Bushcamp is in the Dinokeng Big Five Game Reserve and a mere forty-five minutes’ drive from Pretoria. This bush camp gives you the freedom to escape from your daily hustle and bustle, and clear your mind in the peace and quiet of the Bushveld. The camping sites have electricity points and can accommodate a large group of camping enthusiasts. There are also open-air ablution facilities with hot water and flush toilets, a boma for braais and a splash pool to cool off in. There are also more indoor toilets and showers available. For a more private camping experience, there is a secluded bush camp available with electricity and ablutions. Guests can see game roaming close by just outside the fence and self-drive game drives can be done at an additional rate.

“You can’t run through a campsite. You can only ran…because it’s past tents.”

Ngata Safari Lodge

Ngata Safari Lodge is hidden away in a picturesque bushveld setting in the Dinokeng Big Five Game Reserve. Accommodation is offered in luxury safari tents that overlook the beautiful bushveld. In addition, the lodge has a caravan and camping park with three large camping stands in an L-shape configuration. Each site is twelve square metres in size and comes equipped with its own electricity, water, braai facilities and light. Campers will have access to ablution facilities, which include ladies and gents sections. Each section consists of two toilets as well as an inside and outside shower. There is also an outside washing up area for dishes. A kids jungle gym is located at the main lodge. Guests are welcome to cool off in the communal sparkling pool during the day and enjoy sundowners and dinner next to a campfire in the boma.

“Camping is in tents …”

Ruah Park Camping & Outdoor

Ruah Park Camping & Outdoor is situated approximately fifty kilometres from Pretoria. The farm is also near to the Dinokeng Nature Reserve, and the valley of the Bobbejaansberg. Accommodation at Ruah Park Camping & Outdoor consists of twenty-two camping stands, each with a private ablution facility, a washing-up facility, an electrical point, a tap, and a portable braai area with beautiful views of the dam or mountainside. A natural spring runs throughout the farm, and fisherman can try their luck at the dam on the farm, which contains Blue Kurper and Bass, on a catch-and-release basis. There is also free-roaming small game and giraffe on the farm, and abundant and diverse bird life. For the more adventurous camper: There are nature trails along the banks of the dam, as well as the woody mountain slopes overlooking the dam that can be explored on foot.

“Did you hear about the kidnapping in the woods? It’s alright – he woke up.”

Wagondrift Lodge

Wagondrift Lodge can be found in the extended area of the Dinokeng Big Five Game Reserve. The lodge is ideal for people travelling with caravans and each campsite has its own ablution block consisting of a separate toilet, shower and washing-up area. They also have separate braai facilities, plug points and a lapa. The lodge has a swimming pool, boma and bonfire area and a jungle gym for kids, making the camping trip ideal for a family. Animals such as antelope, zebra, and wildebeest can frequently be seen on the property reminding you of the beauty of the bush. Wagondrift Lodge is also located thirty minutes from Mystic Monkeys and Feathers Wildlife Park, and a thirty-five to forty-minute drive from Cullinan.

“How can you tell if a bear is under your sleeping bag? The ceiling of your tent is very close.”

Dinokeng Resort

Dinokeng Resort lies on the outskirts of the Dinokeng Game Reserve next to the Boekenhoutspruit River. The campsites offer power points, water points and braai facilities, as well as ablution facilities with showers. Campers can enjoy private bomas with braai facilities that are ideal for social gatherings. A variety of leisure offerings can be found at Dinokeng Resort, which includes four outdoor swimming pools, an indoor heated pool, six supertubes, mountain biking trails, two trampolines, a jungle gym, bird watching, and a spa.

“Today, my son asked ‘Can I have a bookmark?’ and I burst into tears. Eleven years old and he still doesn’t know my name is Brian.”

Ba dum chhh! What can be better than tents flapping around in the wind and mosquitoes buzzing around your ankles? Definitely not hidden breakage deposit fees, dirty bed linen in luxurious hotel rooms with poor Wi-Fi signal or over crowded lobbies with children throwing each other with peppermints. So, if you feel like getting in touch with nature, pack your bags, load your tents and head to Dinokeng Nature Reserve for a fantastic camping experience without any of the above-mentioned headaches.

Feature image: Bigstock

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