Camping at Maphelane

Maphelane is a beach camp on the far north coast of Kwazulu-Natal.  It is part of the St Lucia wetlands and coastal forest area, and the dune forests and beaches are so beautiful.  It is however, very wild and remote.

This area is a popular holiday destination, especially with fishermen, but it certainly isn’t luxurious, actually, the word ‘rustic’ is complimentary!

The first time we went there we stayed in one of the slightly ramshackle wooden cabins, which was comfortable, but the camp caretakers were fighting a losing battle against the cabins being re-claimed by the forest – everything living, plant and animal, was trying to move in. There’s a LOT of life in an African tropical coastal forest.

We went for a walk to the campsite one day, and I fell in love with camp number 33.  The campsite is situated on a long sandy corridor, stretching back into the forest from the beach. The very last site, number 33,  is tucked into the dune forest, and is so beautiful, that I started planning to camp there.

I had to wait until we had a 4×4, though – the road through the forest over the dune (read ‘mountain’) is impossible for a caravan without a 4×4 vehicle – sandy, hairpin bends, steep inclines, it’s quite a road.

We finally got to camp there last January.  The campsite was as beautiful as I remembered, the ablutions were spotlessly clean and well-maintained, the beach magnificent – the biggest drawback is the camp water.

We knew there was no electricity, this is after all a very remote area, and with a gas fridge and freezer we were fine.  The camp runs a generator (far from the campsite) from 6 am to 10 pm to provide some power, so we hired a plug point at the workshops, and took along a small electric fridge.  This, of course, was for the beers……

But – Maphelane does not have drinking water.  There are rainwater tanks, and the water can be drunk (after treatment), but we brought along our own fresh water.  Trouble is, the water for washing in the kitchen and ablutions is all ground water, and it was brown – literally brown, and slightly sticky, as it was brackish water. High salt and soil content – and this is all that is available for washing dishes and yourself.  By the end of the week, we were all longing for clean, fresh water showers!

Camping in the forest was wonderful, the bush is alive with creatures.  Bird life is prolific – some good sightings were a woodland kingfisher, and the rare palm-nut vulture. Masses of butterflies, and regular visits from the local troupe of vervet monkeys by day and bushbabies by night entertained us.  Vervet monkeys are very cunning thieves, always on the look-out for a meal.  They can do a lot of damage, so one needs to be on the watch when they come around.  Everything needs to be strapped and locked down when one leaves camp.

The bushbabies were so cute, I didn’t know they could get so tame. One little chap made a pest of himself, wondering around between our feet in the evenings like a little cat.  We were careful not to try pet it – after all, it was a wild creature.  Bushbabies have a loud cry which can be really alarming, they sound for the world like a baby lost and in distress!  And they are loud!

It was a wonderful camp, but we won’t be in a hurry to go back – the road took our caravan apart and Andre is having to re-build bits of it.  I’ll put some photos up to show how beautiful this place is tomorrow!

Til next time….


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