Think deserts are barren and boring? With rich birdlife, breathtaking vistas and peace and tranquillity, these arid parks are anything but. If you long to fully disconnect, these stays provide the escape you have always dreamed of. By Gaynor Siljeur

Kieliekrankie Wilderness Camp, Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park

The arid lands some two hours north of the Orange River is where you’ll find the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. Get the true Kalahari experience when you visit the Kgalagadi, nestled in South Africa’s northern corner between Namibia and Botswana. This vast park of red dunes and camelthorn trees provides an idyllic desert getaway.

Kieliekrankie Wilderness Camp is located 50km from Twee Rivieren on the Southern Dune Road. The unfenced camp rests on top of one of the highest dunes in the park. With just four cabins, Kieliekrankie promises a perfect sense of peace. Each cabin has two single beds, a bathroom with a shower and an equipped kitchen with a gas fridge and freezer. The cabins use solar power for lights, gas for hot water and there are braai facilities on deck. One cabin is adapted for guests with impaired mobility.

Relish the magnificent views of the Kalahari sunset as you sit on the deck of your cabin after a long day of spotting gemsbok, black-maned lion, meerkat and sociable weaver. If you’re lucky, you might get to see a brown hyena – the camp is considered a hotspot for this threatened scavenger.

Good to know: This self-catering camp is considered accessible by passenger vehicles. The closest shop and fuel supply is at Twee Rivieren, where guests who have booked at Kieliekrankie also check in. Guests have to provide their own drinking water and firewood.

Rates: R1,862 for 2 people.

Contact: SANParks Central Reservation office at +27 (0)12 428 9111 or book online at www.sanparks.org.

Also read: Walking in the Kgalagadi’s dunes

Picture by Scott Ramsay

Tatasberg Wilderness Camp, |Ai-|Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park

Take your loved one and escape to the arid mountain desert in the |Ai-|Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. This is just the place to get away from it all and let nature work her magic. Picture sitting on your stoep and looking out over the life-giving waters of the Orange River with rugged peaks as backdrop.

Tatasberg Wilderness Camp was constructed out of natural materials to make it blend into the surrounds. There are four 2-bed rustic chalets with hot shower, fridge, double gas hotplate and a large deck with braai, perfect for watching the sunset skies. Solar panels provide light and gas geysers ensure a supply of hot water.

Experience the floral springtime splendour of the park when you visit the Richtersveld between June and October. With more than 200 bird species, keen twitchers will be spoilt with enviable birding opportunities.

Good to know: The water at Tatasberg is not suitable for drinking and it is recommended that guests provide their own drinking water.

Rates: R924 for 2 people

Contact: SANParks Central Reservation office at +27 (0)12 428 9111 or book online at www.sanparks.org.

Picture courtesy of SANParks

Elandsberg, Tankwa Karoo National Park

Merely four hours from Cape Town, Tankwa Karoo National Park offers a state of tranquillity that is worlds removed from the big city’s hustle and bustle. The stark landscape stretches in all directions, cottonwool clouds drift across an enormous blue sky. Come here to enjoy the sense of isolation and fully unplug from modern life.

The Elandsberg cottages are built from locally made clay-and-straw bricks and stone – perfectly complimenting the beautiful landscape. Choose between 1- or 2-bedroom cottages, each with an open-plan kitchen, living room with fireplace and bathroom. The kitchen has a gas stove and solar-powered fridge, and paraffin lamps and candles are provided.

The cottages aren’t situated too close to each other, giving you enough privacy to soak up the beauty in peace and to enjoy the evening sunset over the Roggeveld escarpment.

Be on the lookout for rare endemic plants, a variety of birdlife and spectacular stars.

Good to know: The cottages are situated 18km from park reception at Roodewerf.

Rates: R1,312 for 4 people

Contact: SANParks Central Reservation office at +27 (0)12 428 9111 or book online at www.sanparks.org.

Also read: Campsites for people who value privacy