Camping next to a river is one of the most tranquil experience you can get.
Adding to that if you are able to combine such a trip with Africa, then you’ll be able to experience the most beautiful nature the world can provide to you.
In this blog post, I will show you some of the most amazing places you can visit in South Africa to camp next to a river or book your favourite tent camp along with your lovely another half. There are so many places you can travel to as a couple for river camping.
Let’s look into the river topography of South Africa. South Africa is home to some of the most beautiful and longest rivers on the African continent. These rivers are important part of the country’s ecosystem. Most of the farms and industries depend on rivers as a source of water for irrigation and industrial processes. The rivers are also rich sources of nutrients for most of the farms along the river banks and the coastal zones. Rivers also promote transportation and sports including canoeing and rafting. Some of the longest rivers in South Africa are looked at below.
I have selected the top 5 most interesting rivers and then handpicked the top 3 river camps for that specific river and area.
Starting off with the mighty Orange River
The Orange River is South Africa’s longest river. It originates from the Drakensberg in neighbouring Lesotho where it is also known as the Senqu River and flows into the Atlantic Ocean through South Africa. Orange River forms part of the international boundary line between Namibia and South Africa and between Lesotho and South Africa. The river covers 1,365 miles from its source to the Atlantic Ocean. The earliest inhabitants called the river Gariep while the Dutch-named it Groote River.
However, in 1779 it was named Orange River by Colonel Robert Gordon in honour of William V of Orange. The Orange River supports agriculture, mining, and industry through the creation of the Orange River Project. The first diamond in South Africa was discovered in the alluvial deposit on the river. Orange is also famous for canoeing and rafting, and a major source of hydroelectric power at the Gariep and Vanderkloof Dams.
Abiqua River Camp, now known as Amanzi River Camp, is located on the northern Orange Riverbanks, 16 kilometres downstream from the Nooroewer/Vioolsdrif border post (halfway between Cape Town and Windhoek). This campsite offers guests big tree-covered lawn areas on which to pitch your tents, giving you spectacular views of the River, as well as the incredible Geelkrans Cliffs on the opposite bank. Caravans and trailers are welcome here, and clean ablutions and hot showers are always available.
There is also a well-stocked bar on the campgrounds, and wood, soft drinks, ice, and meat can also be purchased here. Popular activities include bird watching, fishing, and of course, canoeing. A drive to Fish River Canyon is also a fantastic way to spend your day, whilst a 20-minute walk from the campsite leads you to multiple San rock engravings.
The Bundi Base Camp is located on the banks of the majestic Orange River, situated in the old River Rafters base camp that was used during the days of pioneering in order to explore the Orange River Rafting and Canoeing route that is now used through the Richtersveldt section of the river.
The Base Camp offers various types of accommodation that include five campsites, as well as ablution blocks, a communal kitchen, a lounge, a large recreational hall, and sprawling lawns on which the kids can play. Sleeping beneath a blanket of African stars with the gentle sounds of the river flowing by is an incredible and unforgettable camping experience.
Orange River Tented Camp is located just one kilometre below the Gariep Dam, and just ten kilometres from the main N1 highway.
It is perfectly situated between Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Port Elizabeth. The accommodation here is slightly more luxurious, with privately arranged tent houses constructed on wooden decks, with en-suite bathrooms and all modern necessities such as electricity, and electric blankets for colder evenings, as well as a fridge, kettle, and hot showers.
Each tent comes with self-catering facilities that include a braai area with wood, a gas plate, and cutlery. Braai packs with Karoo lamb are even available here. Here, guests can partake in activities such as fly fishing, canoe safaris, horse rides, hunting, bird watching, and hiking.
The Limpopo River is approximately 1,087 miles long and rises in the central regions of southern Africa, and from there flows eastward towards the Indian Ocean. It has a drainage basin of 415,000 square kilometres and a mean discharge of 170 square meters per second at its mouth. The river is the second-largest in Africa draining into the Indian Ocean after Zambezi River. Limpopo River serves as a borderline separating South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe.
The river begins from the point where its two tributaries, Crocodile and Marico Rivers, join while Notwane River is its major tributary in Botswana. The Limpopo River supports the estimated 14 million people that live in its basin. There are also a lot of mining activities going on in the Limpopo Basin with over 1,500 mines and 1,700 abandoned mines. However, flooding has caused damages and loss of life.
Limpopo River Lodge Limpopo River Lodge is situated on the banks of the Limpopo River in the Tuli Block providing the perfect retreat for nature lovers. Conveniently located only 12 kilometres from the friendly and infrequently used Platjan border post. And a quick 5-hour drive from Johannesburg or Gaborone.
This vast rolling unspoiled land boasts over 80 exquisite Baobab trees in and amongst scattered koppies, thick Mopane bush and a variety of indigenous trees. The ideal setting to lose yourself in nature’s peace and tranquillity. We offer Chalets and Rondavels in our Lodge, six campsites and a rustic Bush Camp.
Koro River Camp a very luxury tented camp positioned on the mighty Limpopo River. Located in the Kwa Tuli Private Game Reserve, an exclusive area in excess of 6000 hectares available to make game drives and spectacular bush walks. Encounter elephant, hyena or leopard on foot or wander through the undisturbed riverine forests with its abundant birdlife and flora. And if one is fortunate you may even see wild dogs or spot the elusive Pel’s Fishing Owl.
Or just admire the wild orchids. The luxury tents are positioned in such a way that they provide ultimate privacy for guests and optimum views of its surrounding. Sit in your personal private plunge pool and watch the river meandering in front of you. If you prefer a day of relaxation instead of going out into spectacular bush and landscape then just stay on your deck and lounge in your hammock whilst the game visits you…
Ximongwe River Camp Nestled on the banks of the mighty Olifants River you will find a piece of heaven where the elephant is but one of the regular visitors to its grassy planes. A haven for both human and animals alike where the tranquillity and the magic of the African bush will embrace you. The main unit comprises of five bedrooms, two bathrooms with shower and bath. A spacious kitchen fully equipped with gas/electric combination stove fridge/freezer and deep freeze. The large communal area consists of a dining room and lounge. The unit is serviced daily. The large viewing deck, overlooking the Olifants River offers a variety of sightings daily from the fish eagle catching its daily food to the gentle giants of the bush grazing quietly on the banks of the river. A welcome relief from the summer heat can be enjoyed in the splash pool while gripping sounds can be heard around the boma at night when the wood owl is calling its mate. For the adventurous spirits, game drive and bush walks are offered daily
The Vaal River is the Orange River’s largest tributary and the third longest river in South Africa. Its source is at Breyten in Mpumalanga Province. The 696-mile long river joins the Orange River at the Northern Cape. Its tributaries include Mooi River, Vet River, Vals River, and Vet River.
The name of the river translates to “dull” in Dutch because it carries a lot of silt during the flooding season. Vaal River is an important source of water for industrial use in the Free State and the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Area. It is also a major source of water for irrigation in the Vaal-Hartz Scheme.
Zeekoe Lodge, you will get a true African experience, situated on a bend of unexpected beauty on the Vaal River, approximately 20 km from Vanderbijlpark and 70 km from Johannesburg South. The perfect place for nature lovers because you can hear the sounds of the frogs, birds, and rapids of water flowing over the stones.
The cosy River cottage contains 2 bedrooms, 1 bathroom and an open-plan living and kitchen area. The bedrooms are fitted with a double bed and the bathroom has a shower, toilet and basin. The open-plan kitchen is well equipped. The cottage also has an indoor fireplace to get cosy in the winter and a hot tub/ Jacuzzi. Outside there is a boma fireplace, and a deck on the water with a wooden swing bench, to enjoy your sundowners or morning coffee. The house also has direct access to the riverfront, where guests can enjoy canoeing or just relax in the water.
Liquid Lounge Prive Houseboat If you are looking for luxurious Vaal River accommodation, then the Prive’ Houseboat will exceed your expectations! Enjoy spectacular river views and a relaxing stay aboard this luxurious and modern houseboat, suitable for up to four adults (two couples).
The houseboat is permanently moored at the Emerald Resort and Casino and you can spend the day at the resort and enjoy some fun activities, or simply stay aboard and relax. The houseboat is a fully furnished accommodation establishment, equipped with everything you will need for a comfortable stay including full DSTV and luxuriously comfortable Queen size beds. Wake up to the tranquil sounds of the Vaal River, and watch the sunset whilst relaxing on the wooden deck – a unique and memorable experience for anyone who is seeking a river accommodation establishment.
Free State Tented Camps perfect for a Glamping Weekend – the first one will blow you away! ~ One doesn’t anticipate Free State tented camps in a province known as the heartland of the Afrikaner, and famous for its grain farms and rich pasture land. But it makes sense that the province’s wide skies and expansive flat grassy plains, broken only by the odd kopje, would inspire bushveld experiences and that its fertile soils and excellent farming conditions could double as safari farm stays.
The Free State lies in the middle of the country, sharing a border in the east of the province with the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho – the Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains rising to over 2 000 metres. But it is the flatlands to the south that provide the ideal conditions for herds of plains game – wildebeest, springbok, zebra, eland, white rhinos and even wild dogs and African wildcats, depending on where you venture for your Free State tented camps’ experience. The fundamentally continental climate to makes the province a good one for weekend and holiday downtime.
The Western Cape’s most navigable wide river (Breede is Afrikaans for ‘wide’) has its source in the Skurweberg Mountains around Ceres before flowing over Mitchells pass, and on through the Breede River Valley, meeting the Indian Ocean at Witsand, one of the best whales watching coastal towns of the Overberg. Because of its position – the bulk of the Breede River flows through wine and fruit farm country – it forms a major playground for Capetonians and visitors who swell its banks over weekends and holidays.
Luxury tents at Kam’Bati River Resort AfriCamps at Kam’Bati River Resort is situated on an Overberg farm about 20km west of Swellendam. The Sonderend River and Breede River meet on the property and our 5 luxury Boutique Camping tents are located in a beautiful and quiet patch of forest close to the river.
AfriCamps at Kam’Bati River Resort is a nature lovers’ paradise and the perfect getaway for the adventurous family. There are canoeing, mountain biking and fishing facilities and there is a shared swimming pool for the children, while the picturesque town of Swellendam is only a short drive away.
Breede bush camp Situated on the banks of the Breede River, just outside Swellendam, Breede Bush Camp offers a wealth of activities for outdoor and wildlife enthusiasts. Although 25 kilometres of the continuous private riverbank is available, the foot of the camp boasts a sheltered “beach” that allows for easy access to the river. The water is ideal for swimming, canoeing and fishing, while the surrounding area provides ample walking and bird watching opportunities. But people just wanting to be close to nature or spend a few quiet, relaxing days away from the bustle of the city will feel equally welcome. During your stay at our luxury bush camp, you can partake in some of the activities for which Swellendam is well known.
Walking There are no trails but, since the camp is surrounded by 1000 hectares of private farmland, there is an almost limitless area for walking.
During summer the river is relatively calm near the camp, making it safe for swimming, while the shaded “beach” is ideal for relaxing. During winter, however, the river is not suited for casual swimming.
Canoeing and Water Activities
The calm water near the camp allows beginners to enjoy canoeing, while the rapids up- and downstream will appeal to more adventurous canoeists or tube riders. In winter, the flooding Breede River limits canoeing to experienced canoeists.
For serious canoeists, the camp is an ideal stopover or destination where you can meet your family. It is two comfortable days’ rowing from Swellendam, situated on the river’s eastern bank just downstream from the farm “Ouwerf” and upstream of the Felix Unite “Up the Creek” camp. “Round the Bend” is slightly further upstream.
When staying at Breede Bush Camp, you can bring your own canoes and equipment. The river is not suitable for motor- or powerboats.
The Breede River offers ample fishing opportunities. Fly fishermen can catch smallmouth bass, while carp, catfish, bluegill sunfish and eel can be caught with baited lines.
With more than 60 bird species, Breede Bush Camp allows for ample bird watching opportunities. Amongst the more common birds you can expect to see are Egyptian geese, Fish eagles, Blue crane and Karoo korhaan.
Moreson – River Cottages and Campsites (previously known as River House Cottages and Campsite) is surrounded by the beautiful Slanghoek and Witzenberg Mountains in the Breedekloof wine district. The Breedekloof wine district is situated between Worcester and Paarl under the Breede River Valley Municipality and includes the Rawsonville, Slanghoek, Goudini and Breerivier areas.
The Moreson – River Cottages and Campsites are located at the Northern most point of the Moreson vineyards, and are therefore perfectly situated on the banks of the Breede River to maximise the soothing effect of the river, flowing within a few metres.
Whether it is the sun rising over Breedekloof Valley, or the sunset over Bainskloof Mountains, whether the weather is sunny, misty or rainy, this accommodation location has beautiful views in all directions and is picturesque all day and all year round.
This peaceful accommodation is ideal for a weekend getaway. Kids will have a fabulous time swimming in the river, hiking the mountain or mountain biking around the vineyards – there are loads of local activities to keep everyone busy. Goudini Spa is also close enough to pop in to enjoy the resorts’ hot springs
There are two Crocodile Rivers in South Africa, which can get confusing. One lies in Limpopo and is a tributary of the Limpopo River. The other drains through Mpumalanga and is a tributary of the Komati River. Mpumalanga’s Crocodile River (or the Crocodile River East) has its source in the Steenkampsberg Mountains north of Dullstroom, whereafter it wends its way through Schoemanskloof before flowing east through the Lowveld National Botanical Garden in Nelspruit. It joins the Komati River at Komatipoort.
I have mentioned in my other blog posts, this is where I grew up and my absolute favourite river. Yes, the name is very much like the real deal. This river is infested with crocodiles. And you can also catch amazing tiger fish in this river. Another great sport fish. Just the name of this river gives me chills up my spine with amazing memories.
Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp is in the heart of the Lowveld, situated in the Southern Kruger National Park. It is home to an abundance of wildlife,and sits comfortably on the northern banks of the famous Crocodile River. One of the claims to fame that this camp can boast about is the rhino populations. Crocodile Bridge is home to one of the largest numbers of rhinos in the Kruger and remains one of the best places to see these endangered animals.
Elephant Walk Retreat Situated on the banks of the Crocodile River, at the most southern entrance to the Kruger National Park lies Elephant Walk Retreat, just a stone throw from the Crocodile Bridge Gate. Offering unrivalled views of the Kruger National Park and the magnificent Crocodile River, Elephant Walk Retreat is your home away from home.
We cater to all travellers by offering a variety of accommodation from basic to luxurious self-catering, and all nine of our units boast superb views of the Crocodile River.
Delight in the peace and tranquillity of the African bush in a small and intimate setting, ideal for families, and friends, Elephant Walk is also the perfect spot for a romantic getaway for couples.
Enjoy fantastic wildlife sightings from the comfort of your patio or deck. The big 5 as well as an array of other wildlife, and birdlife frequent the area.
Elephant Walk Retreat lives up to its namesake with the huge herds of elephant that visit on a regular basis. It’s a wonderful and exhilarating experience to be able to safely view these magnificent giants, as they stroll along the fence line.
Enjoy a refreshing dip in the swimming pool, read a book under the shady Lapa area, take a drive in the Kruger National Park, or simply unwind, while taking in nature and gorgeous views.
Elephant Walk retreat boasts some of the most spectacular sunsets, sip on a glass of crisp wine, as the last rays of sunlight disappear behind the horizon and listen to the bushveld choir come alive at night, with lions roaring, hyenas giggling and hippo’s groaning.
Buckler’s Africa Buckler’s Africa lodge offers luxury self-catering accommodation on the banks of the Crocodile River, overlooking the Kruger National Park. The spectacular lawns create a feeling of space and tranquillity before one even gets to see the true beauty we have to offer.
Each unit has stunning high sealings and beautiful finishes. The units all have their own kitchenette, spacious bathroom and aircon. Kruger National Park, being less than a stone’s throw away offers nighttime acoustics of Lion, Hippo and Hyaena for that authentic African bush experience.
Sit on the deck watching the world awaken around you, or sleep late and enjoy our delicious breakfast which we are always happy to arrange.
Relax at the pool with a pair of binoculars and watch as the animals come to drink at the river below, or drive into Kruger 6km away to go looking for animals. The Beach and spectacular scenery make wonderful day trips with the Mozambique coast and mountains of Swaziland each being a little more than an hour’s drive away.
The Levubu or Levuvhu (depending on whether you are speaking Tsonga or Venda) lies in the far north of Limpopo. It flows for 200 km before joining the Limpopo River in the midst of the Fever-Tree Forest of the Pafuri section of the Kruger National Park. Along its course are many dams, seven in all, that include the Albasini and Vondo dams.
Pafuri river campThis unique camp accommodates a maximum of 22 people. Sites are arranged to suit groups from 2 to 8 people, in total privacy. Linen and towels are supplied. Each site has a fully equipped kitchen, toilet, shower, braai area and access to the Mutale river.
There is no electricity, we use paraffin lamps for light, open fires and gas for cooking and gas-powered fridges. A few other things we don’t have are; crime, concrete, noise and pollution. Your cell phone won’t work here either.
What we do offer is; wide-open skies, peace, quiet, the freedom to explore and good service in a friendly and informal atmosphere. There is a central Lapa where delicious bushcamp meals are served (please book in advance) and a small pub next to the pool selling ice-cold drinks. Unwind; come live in the bush for a while!
Luvuvhu River Camp is a one of a kind, an exclusive haven on the banks of the Luvuvhu River near the legendary Crooks’ Corner in the north of the Kruger National Park.
Overlooking the Luvuvhu River, in an area that is prolific in wildlife, this camp is a sanctuary in the heart of Pafuri. A private game vehicle and guide are available to take guests on game drives in an area known for its biodiversity.
The lodge consists of a main area and five tents sleeping 10 people, so it is perfect for group or family bookings.
The main area has a large and beautifully decorated lounge and dining area and a large wooden deck, and there is also a plunge pool.
The camp is serviced daily, has a private open game viewing vehicle and guide and a cook to assist at mealtimes.