If you’ve never stayed at Tsendze Rustic Campsite in the Kruger National Park (read why Kruger is the centre of Africa’s soul), you’ve never experienced how great camping can be. Last year I raved about this camp (about 7km from Mopani) and I’m raving about it again this year. Here’s why.
1. Hate getting into a tug-of-war to secure a site at the increasingly busy Kruger campsites? I do. That’s why the camping-only Tsendze is bliss. There are just 34 sites and before you arrive you can request the specific site you want by phoning Mopani reception. (See camp layout here.) Tsendze’s following is such that people book their special favourite up to a year ahead.
2. Each site is carved out of the natural bush. This gives you some privacy and a sense of being in ‘the wild’ even though there’s a perimeter fence for security. Many sites are along the fence, so you don’t miss out on passing animals. But unlike at other camps that also have perimeter sites, you don’t have to sacrifice your personal space to enjoy front-row seats.
3. The campsites are generously sized and come with everything a camper could want – bin, room to spread out, braai, water tap nearby, and shade for at least part of the day (our favourite site has an appleleaf tree).
4. The rustic nature of the camp means there are no power points at the sites, but you still have solar/gas power for the ablutions and kitchen. (Don’t fret, there are communal gas freezers for those who don’t come equipped with their own battery-powered fridges.)
5. Some people like all the bells and whistles of electricity, shops, restaurants and fuel stations, but I prefer the peace that comes from their absence at Tsendze.
6. Three cheers for Rodgers Hobyane and Elina Mona, who look after the camp. They’re high up on the list of reasons to love the place, friendly and helpful in a way that’s won them many hospitality awards. They come around in the evening to check everything is okay, or perhaps to share the secret hiding place of an owl. They’ll go out of their way to help you – even at their own expense, as when Rodgers offered the use of his own newly-acquired car so visitors could get the part they needed from Phalaborwa.
7. Nowhere in Kruger – or possibly in South Africa – will you find such a clean braai. Most places think sweeping out the dead ash constitutes cleaning a braai; not Rodgers and Elina. They have magic system of cleaning that leaves it as good as new day after day. We usually put our own folding braai grid on top of a braai so our meat doesn’t have to touch the age-old grease and ash left behind by previous fires, but at Tsendze we slap the meat directly onto the spotless braai, no question.
8. The same care and cleanliness can be found in the thatched ablutions and kitchens.
9. A nice touch is outdoor showers for a spot of star-gazing while you wash away the heat of the day. For traditionalists or cold-snap visitors, there are standard indoor versions too.
10. Tsendze (as a sign announces near the gate) is a low noise impact facility, so it generally tends to draw people who enjoy nature and are more interested in listening to the sounds of the bush than making a noise themselves. No generators are allowed.
11. You won’t be plagued at your campsite by thieving vervet monkeys or baboons because there are none here. You may, however, have some excitement when an elephant decides to try to push down the fence!
12. There are some fab game viewing points in the area, like the Nashawu waterholes and Tihongonyeni on the Capricorn Loop.
You can still go on an early morning bushwalk or sunset drive from Tsendze; a guide from Mopani will pick you up from the entrance gate to Tsendze and drop you off again.
Check out more of the best bush campsites in South Africa
1. On one of the nights we were there, our nearest neighbours were a couple with a small toddler and a baby. The toddler was into screaming, the baby into crying. Don’t shoot me, but I think children under 10 or 12 shouldn’t be allowed at Tsendze, so as to maintain the special atmosphere of peace in what SANParks itself calls a ‘low noise impact’ camp. Duty managers are aware of any disturbances but they’re not always easy to resolve tactfully and peaceably. Let me know in the comments below whether you agree or disagree.
2. But the thing I hate most is having to leave Tsendze behind until our next Kruger trip.
Book Tsendze Rustic Camp Site through SANParks.
Tel 012-428-9111 or email@example.com.
Once you have the booking you can phone Mopani reception, tel 013-735-6535/6, to request a specific site.
Price: R190 a night.
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