Camdeboo National Park is about as close to the centre of South Africa as it’s possible to be. Its chic safari tents are the perfect stop for those making the Great Trek north, south, east or west. But, as Nick Dall found out, one night in the park is never enough…

I reach Camdeboo National Park at about 15:00 after a leisurely drive from Cape Town. As soon as I unzip the vast front door of my tent I congratulate myself for having chosen to sleep here, not in a B&B in nearby Graaff-Reinet. The tent has everything I need – comfortable bed, bar fridge, fan/heater – but it’s the location which gets me really excited.

Sitting on the deck, with a cold beer in one hand and a copy of The Plains of Camdeboo in the other, all of the stresses of city life wash away. A speckled mousebird flits in and out of the acacias and the smoke from a neighbour’s braai wafts enticingly through the campsite. If I crane my neck to one side I can just make out the shimmering waters of Nqweba Dam.

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Pictures by Romi Boom

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Lovely though my deck may be, I feel the need to stretch my legs. Only a few minutes into my stroll I discover a pair of mating locusts; their dramatic reds, yellows and blacks a photographer’s dream. Later I make the pilgrimage to the Valley of Desolation, the park’s stellar attraction. But I take the scenic route, through the park’s forested, lakeside game viewing area where buffalo, hartebeest and springbok roam.

My only regret as I drive on northwards is that I didn’t stay longer.

– Nick Dall

Sunset at the Valley of Desolation is one of the greatest shows in Africa. The haphazard scattering of gargantuan boulders glows ochre; and graceful hawks float on the thermals, supping on flying ants as they frolic. When I finally tear myself away from the spectacle, the sun has long gone and the stars are starting to put on a show of their own.

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That night I sleep better than I have in years. This may have something to do with being away from my very young daughters, but the gentle rustle of canvas and the far-off hooting of an owl also play their part. Next morning I start my day with a piping hot shower in a rustic bamboo cubicle and follow it up with coffee and rusks in the camp’s extremely well-equipped al fresco kitchen.

My only regret as I drive on northwards is that I didn’t stay longer.

Bookings

Contact the park on +27 (0)49 892 3453, SANParks Central Reservations on +27 (0)12 428 9111, or send an email to [email protected].