It is interesting, but not surprising to note that adventure travel is the fastest growing travel segment worldwide. But, it was indeed surprising to learn that Virtuoso had ranked South Africa as the world’s number one adventure destination. Most of our pristine wilderness areas are fortunately not available to formal accommodation establishments, and this results in limited and short visitor stays. The advent of the ‘pop-up’ or seasonal tented camps has made it possible to establish hospitality infrastructure in sensitive areas due to their low environmental impact, and this phenomenon is benefiting from the growth in adventure / experiential travel.
The Eastern Cape province is called the adventure province for good reason, and perhaps the jewel in the crown is the Baviaanskloof Mega Reserve. The reserve is generally not well known nor visited, with a small group of enthusiasts being the exception, and consequently little by way of hospitality exists around the reserve, and nothing to speak of in the reserve. Whilst passing through the reserve is a little daunting at times, it is generally within the capabilities of most drivers in a high clearance vehicle. This is perhaps a good thing, and adds an element of adventure to the experience. Why it is that Baviaanskloof is not more widely known, both locally and internationally, puzzles me, and I have pondered this at length, and have some theories.
Is it that this world heritage site is too close to another well-worn tourist path, the garden route. Is it that this reserve, home to; over 1000 plant species, 50 mammal species, and 300 bird species has suffered from poor public and private marketing efforts. Is it that an area which is home to 7 of South Africa’s 8 biomes has very little hospitality infrastructure. Is it that this, the largest wilderness area in South Africa, has poor road infrastructure, and is this altogether a bad thing.
I am of the opinion that there is no single reason, and there are likely to be many more, all equally plausible. And perhaps if the Baviaanskloof was in any other country, not as well endowed with iconic tourist destinations as South Africa, it would be a very popular destination.
Having said this all, it is perhaps just right as it is. And maybe more is not always better, and perhaps it will always be one of South Africa’s not so little gems. A place where visitors find themselves repeating an endless list of emotive clichés describing the serenity, peace, beauty etc.
Being in the business of adventure travel and luxury mobile tented camps, we have launched the Baviaanskloof Tented Camp, which will be operational for just a month between the 15th of December 2016 and the 15th of January 2017. The camp will accommodate 26 guests in 13 tents and will include all meals. The camp is intended to be a base from which to explore this wilderness, when not simply immersing oneself in the crystal clear Groot Rivier. There is a profile of the camp here.