Imagine a time when pitching a tent was the usual way to experience being on safari. When your camp was lit by gas-light and your dinner was cooked over an open hole in the ground. When game drives were determined by the animals’ behaviour rather than what time dinner and cocktails were served, imagine staying in Quartermain’s 1920’s Safari Camp and you can re-live this experience and so much more.
The camp is located at the end of the Garden Route in the non-malarial Eastern Cape of South Africa on the Amakhala Game Reserve. Run by a wonderful South African/English couple and their two young sons this is a charming and inviting place to stay.
Two daily game drives are offered, early morning and mid-afternoon which take you into the bush. You won’t be able to contain your emotions when you make eye contact with your first giraffe or hear the roar of a lion; I know I couldn’t. To see wild animals in their natural habitat releases emotions so strong that it changes you in a way I can’t explain.
Being in a non-malarial area was the reason I chose to go on safari in South Africa. I didn’t want to give malarial tablets to my family, and so this was the perfect solution. I then set about searching for a safari experience that didn’t include swimming pools, butler service or overcrowded game drives. Quartermain’s offered non of those but did provide an authentic 1920’s tented camp experience. I was sold on the idea and booked straight away!
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Communal Camp Area at Quartermain’s
Arriving into the camp after being met at the perimeter of Amakala Reserve is like stepping onto a film set. True to the description on the website, it feels very African and very colonial. The mix of styling has been sympathetically chosen and does not feel “gimmicky” in any way.
A small bookshelf by a wooden chair offers a quiet place to read and a welcome reprise from the afternoon sun. The tea and coffee area offers basics, no Tassimo or Nespresso makers here, just metal mugs and a kettle, perfect.
A large communal dining table indicates that the camp is all about getting to know one another and sharing stories rather than dining alone. Finding out that Quartermain’s owners, Rhian and Julie, built the camp themselves makes it an even more impressive space.
Tented Accommodation at Quartermain’s
Stop what you are thinking! You are not going to be staying in a tent reminiscent of your old scouting days, far from it! Your secluded tented accommodation is cosy and comes with a rustic ensuite, open bathroom with modern facilities.
Nothing is more exhilarating than showering to the sound of animal calls or having a bird watching you wash. It’s a beautiful experience, but you may also see a few insects, after all, you are in the bush. Don’t be alarmed, nothing dangerous has access to the camp, and the creatures are more scared of you.
On cold nights the staff will put a hot water bottle in your bed and light the oil heater. Once under the thick blankets, you will be as snug as a bug in a rug (please note this is not a reference to your bed companions) If you wake in the night and need the bathroom, then the moonlight will guide you but don’t fear a torch is also at your disposal.
Tents are spread well apart and give you privacy with a natural pathway leading from the main camp. Rest assured no-one will accidentally walk past and get a glimpse of you in your finery. Well, maybe a tortoise, of which there are quite a few in camp and who always seem happy to help.
Food and Drink
Forget silver service, and Michelin starred restaurants and be humbled at the creativity of the local ladies that cook for the camp. Breakfast is taken after your morning game drive and is a welcome reward after your early wake-up call. Hot drinks and a biscuit called a rusk, which can be plain or fruity would be given during the drive. Be sure to dunk it in your coffee; it’s delicious.
Candle-lit dining in the communal area will be waiting for you at the end of your afternoon game drive all prepared in the fire pit or small kitchen. Expect mouthwatering stews, tender meats and perfectly cooked vegetables.
All meals are included in your visit, and alcohol is available at an additional cost should you require it. Your host or guide will eat with you and then sit around the open fire and share some stories of the bush while enjoying the local tipple called “Amarula” similar to Baileys and very addictive (like Baileys!)
As your evening concludes, take a gas-lamp and retire back along your private pathway to your tent. Listen out for the jackals calling to one another or the hoot of the barn owl. Be secure knowing that there are no predators near the camp and so any hidden glistening eyes will be harmless, just curious animals trying to figure out what you are and where you are heading.
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Game Drives on Amakhala Reserve
Twice a day you will be transported by safari jeep into a scene not dissimilar to a David Attenborough documentary (who also happens to be my son’s idol) Wear layers, as the mornings are chilly however blankets are provided to keep fingers and toes warm. Body temperature will be the last thing on your mind once you get a glimpse of the animals.
We had the pleasure of being taken around by Craig, a character in his own right who made every drive exciting by giving us so much information about the animals and the area.
There is only one jeep at Quartermain’s, which makes you feel as though you have a private viewing. We were the only guests there when we travelled, and even when full, there will only be a few others.
Final Thoughts About Quartermain’s
Imagine an experience and a place that will touch your heart in a way that you will never forget. Where the hosts have not just set up a business, they have created something unique to share with their guests, to allow them a brief glimpse into life in the bush. A place where the team are like a big family and welcome you in with open arms. A place where you arrive as a guest and leave as a friend. That’s Quartermain’s!
What month did I travel? April – South Africa’s autumn/fall.
How was the weather? It was sunny and pleasantly warm.
How long should I visit? According to my son “forever” was the correct answer, but in reality, three nights/4 days will allow you to have five-game drives and flora and fauna walk through the bush.
Is it a safe environment for children? It is safe and the best environment they could be in – My son was so inspired by his visit to South Africa that he wanted to pursue a career as a ranger. Please note the camp only accommodates children over the age of 12.
What is the nearest airport? Port Elizabeth
If I drive where do I leave my car? You will leave it at the main lodge as you enter Amakhala and be picked up and taken to Quartermain’s camp by jeep.
How did I book my stay? Book your tented stay at Quartermain’s here.