The age of pop up luxury


René de Klerk spends a night glamping in the heart of the Kruger National Park with Chiefs Tented Camps and Thebe Tourism Group

I woke up as a pack of hyenas wandered through the camp, laughing like naughty children. In the distance, objects were moving. Next to my tent, a twig snapped. It was pitch black outside, and I could not hear any movement from the tents next to mine.

Only a layer of canvas separated me from the wild. Somewhere in the distance, a lion roared…
This was such a different experience, so wild. A few years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a night at Chiefs Tented Camps mobile camp among the Namaqua wildflowers during flower season. This is one of the advantages of a mobile setup – the camp is hosted for a few weeks, and then broken down to leave no traces of its existence.

The only difference this time around was that I found myself in the heart of the Kruger National Park. It was the same concept, but the tents were pitched in an isolated location in the middle of the Kruger bush next to the Nwaswitshaka River, completely unfenced.

When we arrived at the location with Thebe Tourism Group, we received a safety briefing. Armed rangers were stationed at various points throughout the camp to look after us.

We received strict instructions not to walk to our tents alone after dark. Much later, a lone hyena ran
off when the ranger escorted me to my tent. Sleeping in a tent is not for everyone, but this is far removed from sleeping on a thin mattress in a sleeping bag on the ground.

Each tent is furnished with comfortable beds, electric blankets (in winter) and electric lamps powered by generator power – though not 24 hours a day. Tents include a chemical portable toilet, basin and facilities to shower.

Lysta Stander, director of Chiefs Tented Camps says their camps tread lightly on the environment. Stander says returning a year after their test run, there were no signs of the camp’s existence from the
previous year.

Meals were definitely one of the highlights. After sundowners and snacks, dinner consisted of starters, mains and decadent desserts.


Photo: Provided

It is difficult to imagine freshly baked muffins in the bush, but the chef pulled out all the stops before our morning game drive.

Breakfast included real coffee, omelettes and croissants – everything you would expect to find in
a good hotel.

Thebe Tourism Group recently acquired a 50% stake in Chiefs Tented Camps. CEO Jerry Mabena had attended a fundraising event where Chiefs provided the accommodation for those who attended. He immediately fell in love with the concept, and wanted to be a part of it.

“We saw the quality in how Chiefs Tented Camps put their camps together, from the tents to the professionalism of the teams and services they provide, and that really resonated with us,” Mabena says.


Written and photos by René de Klerk. 

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