From past to present, how South Africa is owning glamping

Pop-up hotels are making camping a fun and luxurious experience for all
Pop-up hotels are making camping a fun and luxurious experience for all
Image: Supplied

When it came to escaping the humdrum of their everyday lives, many royal European families dating as far back as the 16th century took to extravagant excursions in the wild. Flash-forward to 2019 and “glamorous camping” is becoming a go-to experience even for the everyday South African.

While there is no noted originator of the term, glamping only made it into the Oxford Dictionary in 2016. The popularity of glamping was catapulted into fame by the wealthy A-list models and actors of the 2000s seeking an escape from the trappings of their mansions to pimped-out teepees and wigwams with comfortable beds and running electricity.

It was not until a short left to Mpumalanga that I realised glamping as a viable getaway option. Kruger Grande is a pop-up hotel experience in the Kruger National Park that aims to promote an interest in camping and conservation among diverse groups. A mission dear to the heart of Thebe Tourism Group CEO Jerry Mabena and the founders of Chiefs Tented Camps.

While the Kruger Grande offers a traditional glamping experience of crisp linen and ablution services, it ups the ante with an onsite bar, dining facilities, a lounging area and mobile conference spaces. The campsite takes two weeks to erect and can stand for up to a week. Chiefs Tented Camps offers private exclusive camps for up to 1,200 guests at a time.

Did I mention that dining services are offered on a river? The ashen river bed, which stretches wide and far enough to resemble a desert, dries up during the winter in which the many fish who call it home bury themselves nearly a metre and half beneath the soil. This is all part of creating pop-up hotel experiences in spaces that would not be considered a go-to space for leisurely travel.

Other than game drives and treks around the flora and fauna, there are also opportunities to be part of the Legacy Experience, where glampers can be first-hand spectators of the preservation of many wild animals who are constantly under threat from extinction. Of its main focus, the Legacy Experience includes darting on the basis of research.

If you are seeking a digital detox this might be the perfect excursion for you. Forget all about the Wi-Fi password as the site offers absolutely no network. The game drive, which kicks off before sunrise, is a chilly venture of endless kudu and impala; you will be lucky to spot other fauna without a pair of binoculars.

As part of expanding the glamping experience, Thebe Toursim Group also plans to host seasonal camps called Imagine that will take the Kruger Grande to various locations in and out of South Africa.

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