While Cape Town is currently going through a scorcher of a week, recent – albeit welcome - rains have served as a reminder that the summer months are eking out their last rays of golden glory.
Having said that, it’d be an absolute shame to allow the remaining days of sunshine to slip through our steadily-paling fingers.
The problem? Our pools are all dry – unless you’re one of the jerks topping yours up in spite of our impending drought doom.
Dust-bowls aside, summer is for swimming, and while Cape Town is famous for its glamorous beaches, there are also plenty of pools, rivers and dams just a short drive away!
Here are five of the Western Cape’s best campsites, complete with natural fresh-water swimming-spots, prime for sun-soaked weekend getaways.
Bontebok National Park, Swellendam, Overberg
For those on a quest for endless, rolling hills, with wild, unshackled creatures roaming eerily beautiful landscapes, look no further than Bontebok National Park.
Established as a haven for its once desperately-endangered namesake, the park offers camping quite literally on the banks of the Breede River, with a majestic view of the sweeping Langenberg Mountains.
Home to several antelope species and a myriad of birds, it’s a genuine game reserve just hours from Cape Town. Don’t fret, though – you’ll never be far from fantastic ablution facilities, complete with hot showers.
When you’re not lounging your days away in the cool Breede waters, there are also several trails – both by wheel and foot – that take you right into the heart of the park’s wild territory.
There are also game-viewing self-drives that get you close to the park’s many critters, but if your car can’t handle the bumps, don’t worry – the bokke will come to you!
Time from CT: 3hrs
Price per campsite: R240-R285 p/n (for up to 2 campers), plus conservation fees (R37 p/p p/n)
NB: The Breede River is prime fishing territory, so bring your rods along!
Algeria Campsite, Cederberg Wilderness Area, West Coast
High up in the mountains of the West Coast, straddling the citrus-laden valleys of the Cederberg, the curiously-named Algeria campsite offers tented seclusion in one of CapeNature’s premier nature reserves.
Electrified campsites are facilitated by decent ablution facilities. However, the campsite’s main attraction is its ‘swimming hole’ – a dammed-off section of one of the Cederberg’s many mountain streams, deep enough for dives from two-metre high rocks along its banks.
Further up in the mountains, isolated by a two-hour hike, a towering waterfall cascades down sheer cliffs, creating a cool-down spot complete with the quintessential Cederberg view – mountains, mountains, and even more mountains.
There’s a daily donkey-cart ride for the little ones, but don’t let them get out of sight – the local troop of baboons is notoriously brazen, and will raid your campsite for leftovers when given the chance!
Time from CT: 2hrs 30min
Price per campsite: R300-R330 p/n (for up to 6 campers), plus conservation fees (R60 p/p p/n)
NB: Strong tents are a must, as the wind can be extreme at night.
Oewerzicht Guest Farm, Greyton, Overberg
Beyond the slots and hot springs of Caledon lies the tiny dorpie of Greyton. Its farmlands are vast and dull, but they hide a secret – Oewerzicht Guest Farm.
While it boasts luxury cottages and holiday homes, the farm’s real gem is its campsite, tucked conveniently against the Riviersonderend River.
Credit: Oewerzicht Guest Farm
Grassy sites are paired with wooden canopies to create an ideal relaxation station along the banks of the river, which itself is perfect for swimming.
The owners of the farm have even taken it upon themselves to make the meandering waters a bit more exciting by installing two rope-swings – one of which deposits thrill seekers from five metres in the air!
The campsite’s bathrooms are exquisite, with beautifully-crafted outdoor showers and meticulously-cleaned toilets.
Unlike Algeria, Oewerzicht’s kiddie cart ride is mechanical, with a tractor trudging little ones along every Saturday.
There are several hiking and biking trails around the property, as well, so you’ll never go without a fun activity.
Time from CT: 2hrs
Price per campsite: R330 p/n (for up to 4 campers)
NB: The Overberg is notorious for its unpredictable weather, so bring a jacket along!
Umshanti, Swellendam, Overberg
Lying just beyond South Africa’s third-oldest town, Umshanti takes full advantage of the man-made Buffeljags Dam to create a watersports paradise in the shadows of Marloth Nature Reserve.
The family-orientated location is home to massive chalets, a honeymoon suite and a campsite, with the latter being a dirt-cheap access point to Umshanti’s world of fun.
The Umshanti campsite from above. Credit: Umshanti
There’s a fantastic jungle gym that’ll keep the kids busy under the watchful eyes of the resident dogs, while the adults tackle the custom-built, 200m-long, 45m-high zipline that plonks adventurers right into the dam!
Other than that, there are canoes parked at the wooden jetty just a short trundle from the campsites – not to mention the perfect swimming conditions.
Umshanti’s best-kept secret is hidden in plain sight – the double-story barge parked at the jetty is available for hire, and owner Kosie will happily take you and your family out to a beautiful gorge for the day, where you can braai, swim, and even canoe to a quaint, man-made waterfall.
Time from CT: 3hrs
Price per campsite: R250 p/n
NB: If you’re a watersports fanatic, take your boat and skis along – Kosie will get it down to the shore!
Tweede Tol, Limietberg Nature Reserve, Cape Winelands
High up between the jagged cliffs of the Du Toitskloof Mountains lies the Limietberg Nature Reserve, a protected area that is home to some of the Cape’s best freshwater rock pools.
The Tweede Tol campsite is popular with campers and day visitors alike, and combines good facilities with some of the most incredible swimming spots open to the public.
Just a few metres from your tent, you’ll find a wide stretch of river dotted with naturally-formed swimming-holes, complete with four-metre high jumps and nature’s own granite sun-beds.
For those seeking more of a rush, however, a slightly-challenging hike up into the mountains is rewarded with even higher plunges amid breathtaking settings.
The contrast of the white granite poking through the Limietberg’s hardy vegetation makes for a striking and unusual landscape, flanked by sheer cliffs and perilous drops. This camping experience is definitely a no-no for those with vertigo!
Time from CT: 1h 30min
Price per campsite: R300 p/m (for up to 6 campers), plus conservation fees (R40 p/p p/n)
NB: There is absolutely no cellphone reception up here – get ready to disconnect!