There are certain areas of South Africa that hold unique value to our natural beauty, and the Karoo is one of them. Spanning several provinces and hosting myriads of species, the Karoo is a marvel of Mother Nature’s work.
Tucked away among cragged mountains, where the scrub-filled plains stretch towards the Indian Ocean, Mount Camdeboo is a gateway to the secrets and biodiversity of inland Eastern Cape.
Comprising 14 000 hectares of prime game habitat, the private reserve is home to an array of incredible African species, all of which are eagerly tracked on sunrise and sunset game drives.
A true bastion of luxury and seclusion, Mount Camdeboo is a prime destination for travellers looking for a taste of wild Africa, with all the comforts and extravagances of modern life.
Where better to begin? That’s why we venture out into the wilderness, isn’t it? Biodiversity is something South Africa prides itself on, and Mount Camdeboo is a sublime example of why.
Aside from the various species of antelope, the reserve is also home to zebra, giraffe, wildebeest and buffalo – all marvellous in their own right.
The Karoo is, of course, a birder’s paradise - listen out for the call of the pale chanting goshawk as it swoops between dead branches.
The region is also home to a couple of slightly more curious critters, like the nocturnal aardvark and aardwolf and the showy porcupine.
There are also white rhino trudging among the thickets, protected under the watchful eyes of the reserve’s rangers. Getting up close may take much patience, but it’s absolutely worthwhile.
Arguably Mount Camdeboo’s crown jewel, however, is the group of cheetahs that prowl every inch of the land. This is where the magic happens – rangers can, at their own discretion, take guests out to track cheetah on foot – an experience I’ll never forget.
As we tread carefully between the thousands of cobwebs dripping with dusk’s creeping frost, the cheetah delves her bloodied head into the fresh carcass of a blesbok – one of Africa’s fastest antelope, but no match for the spotted speedster.
Unbothered by the presence of awe-struck humans, she eagerly munches on, with sunlight fading fast, and the brights of her eyes beginning to glow.
Wonder. Absolute wonder.
All of this is facilitated by twice-daily game drives, led by the expertise and experience of a passionate ranger. At the midpoint of each trip, there’s a drink and snack break – a hot cup of coffee is vital on those bitter, dew-strewn mornings.
The Land Rovers meander effortlessly along tough roads, taking guests through the different environments at Mount Camdeboo. A drive that begins among the dense thickets may end on a mountain plateau, overlooking the vast expanses of the Great Karoo while the reserve’s wild residents graze around you. Hold on tight – the drive down gets bumpy!
Mount Camdeboo offers stays at three beautifully-restored Cape Dutch homesteads, as well as in two surprisingly well-equipped luxury tents.
Camdeboo Manor boasts a swimming pool and a magnificent garden, teaming with butterflies and birds.
Tucked behind the garden is the Peppertree Cottage, a perfect honeymoon escape lying in the cool shadow of its namesake.
The Hillside Manor is slightly more contemporary, also featuring a swimming pool, but trading the garden for panoramic views of the Sneeuberg Mountains.
All of the homesteads are immaculately furnished, and smouldering fireplaces and thick, ancient walls will ensure that you’re not nipped by the cold Karoo bite.
For glamping enthusiasts, the luxury safari tents will seem just as homely as an actual room, with the added extravagance of an outdoor bathtub overlooking a trickling stream – serene and isolated, a perfect escape.
What would a luxury escape be without fine dining? Despite its remote location, Mount Camdeboo still manages to serve up some of the best cuisine the Eastern Cape has to offer.
Its chefs are inspired by hundreds of years of Karoo history, refreshed with modern innovations.
If conditions are right, meals can be enjoyed among the greenery of the gardens, or even under the world-famous Karoo starlight. It’s not just about the food – it’s about the experience. After all, there’s nowhere better to enjoy Karoo lamb than the Camdeboo.
Impressively, the chefs can cater to most dietary requirements, including halaal, kosher, vegetarian and vegan. Everyone’s welcome at Mount Camdeboo, and everyone can indulge!
It’s not a Big Five experience, and there aren’t adrenaline rushes around every corner, but there may be few better ways to experience absolute tranquillity in South Africa. Surrounded by steep mountains and steeped in centuries of history, Mount Camdeboo offers something special and memorable. No, it’s not the quintessential African experience, but it’s one that highlights the lesser-celebrated wonders of our country.
The Karoo is a paradise. Arid and sparsely-populated, yes, but a land of wonder nonetheless. Mount Camdeboo captures that wonder immaculately, and it’s worth a visit. You’ll probably find yourself pining to go back again and again – it’s that good.