Many Wild Card destinations offer unforgettable excursions for those preferring to explore with a 4×4. Spending the night at these three spots – accessible only by 4×4 – will be the cherry on your wilderness cake. By Arnold Ras
Luiperdskloof Guest Cottage
Rolling hills of succulents, dramatic quiver trees and starry nights. The arid Namaqua landscape, famous for its impressive wildflower display in spring, has something on offer for every season. To explore the true vastness of this national park, a 4×4 is essential. As you leave the beaten track behind, you’ll discover areas that will be forever etched in your memories. One of these is the exclusive and secluded Luiperdskloof, a restored farmstead with various short hiking trails and picnic sites just for guests. The cottage has three bedrooms, one bathroom with shower, toilet and washbasin, a fireplace and an outside braai area. Although the kitchen is fully equipped, there’s no electricity, so don’t expect a fridge, freezer or electrical stove. It takes three hours to reach the cottage from Skilpad Rest Camp, so make sure to check in no later than 14:00.
There’s peace and space. There are stunning vistas of mountains and rocky koppies basking red in the late afternoon sun. – Roxanne Reid
Good to know: Bookings can only be made directly with the park on +27 (0)27 672 1948.
Umthombo and Bakana mountain cottages
Only a few kilometres from Cradock, Mountain Zebra National Park’s natural canvas includes the stately presence of Bakenkop Peak, several hidden valleys and scattered San cave paintings. While spending time in this underrated part of the Eastern Cape, why not explore along the park’s three exhilarating 4×4 trails? Even better, stay in one of the two mountain cottages accessible only to 4×4 drivers. Umthombo Cottage is situated near Weltevrede Picnic Site, while Bakana Cottage is located in the Berghofkloof area. The cottages each have two bedrooms with linen and towels. For 4×4 groups: each cottage also boasts a hiker’s bedroom with six bunk beds. Expect no electricity, but hot showers and an equipped kitchen with gas stove and solar-powered fridge and freezer. When night falls, you are spoiled for choice: enjoy long chats next to a fire at the outside or indoor braai area.
The best scenery is in the east, where cloud often billows over the high dolerite ridges of Bakenkop Peak. A spectacular road, the Kranskop Loop, takes in the best of this landscape. – Scott Ramsay
Ou Kraal Huts
Mention the words Klein Karoo to any avid 4×4 traveller and they’re in heaven. The solitude and isolation of Gamkaberg – a World Heritage Site – beg to be explored. Home to four vegetation biomes (Fynbos, Succulent Karoo, Subtropical Thicket and Evergreen Forest), the reserve’s 4×4 routes take in mesmerising landscapes. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife wonders from honey badger and red hartebeest to black-backed jackal and caracal. After discovering this incredible setting, settle down at one of Ou Kraal’s four herders huts, each big enough to sleep two guests. Get ready for a rugged and rustic stay: there’s no electricity and an enviro waterless loo will take you back in time. That said, Gamkaberg’s pinch-me-beauty will trap your soul. Make sure to bring your own lighting, wood, drinking water, cutlery, bedding and towels.
Gamkaberg wows with immense vistas, plant and animal life. All you need is enough time to take it all in. – Kate Collins