What's it like to stay in an intimate, authentic bush camp surrounded by the African Wilderness? We unpack the guest experience at Bundox Explorer Camp and find out what makes it so special...
Darkness takes on new meaning in the African bush. It’s somehow thicker and more tangible and filled with a cacophony of sounds that seem to imbue it with a life of its own. It waits, just beyond the flickering of Bundox Explorer Camp’s paraffin lanterns and the soft light cast by the crackling log fire in the boma, black and velvety, like a blanket ready to be pulled up from the bottom of a welcoming bed.
That welcoming (and supremely comfortable) bed beckons in its beautifully and practically appointed safari tent, one of four that together make Bundox Explorer Camp a veritable tiny wonder. The old saying about great things coming in small packages applies, and in the case of this camp, the packaging is also worth mentioning because it goes to the heart of what sets it apart.
It’s best described as “natural luxury” – a pared-back elegance that makes the most of the wilderness around it to blend in perfectly with its surroundings, doing away with unnecessary (and expensive) frills to create a clean, modern take on the traditional safari experience. The luxury is in the organic flow of the design and the materials used to create it – light, unvarnished woods, wooden decking, unfussy concrete flooring and counters in the interactive kitchen-dining area, neutrally coloured canvas…
Bundox Explorer Camp is a lesson in simplicity and how rustic doesn’t mean surrendering high levels of comfort and exceptional standards of hospitality. It also emphasises how a great safari experience does not depend on the bells and whistles that so many safari camps and lodges fill space with. Décor, such that it is, should never overshadow the experience of being in the wilderness, surrounded by nature in all its wild and magnificent glory. Africa is the luxury that drives the modern safari experience – its vast landscapes and fauna and flora are all the decoration required.
Sleeping under canvas is how a safari should be experienced. Being able to hear distant lions calling and the wailing, whooping howl of hyenas on the prowl in the early hours of the morning is what it’s all about. That canvas needs to provide shelter, comfort and practical facilities – things that Bundox Explorer Camp provides in abundance. From the fabulously sprung mattresses on the steel-framed beds, decked in cool cotton and soft duvets, to the en-suite bathrooms with bucket showers and flushing loos, the tents hit the mark without overcooking it.
Hot water is available on demand to fill the bucket showers, and while the water pressure may be lacking, the impact on the environment is minimal in what is, after all, a water-scarce region. Solar energy ensures the bedside lights are on even when South Africa is experiencing load shedding and that the very welcome standing fan is always on standby to keep the tent aired and cool. Floors are covered in soft rugs and packing space is fit for purpose.
A Bundox Explorer Camp safari is not about spending time in your tent, no matter how comfortable. It’s about getting out there and exploring the wilderness of the Olifants West section of the Balule Private Nature Reserve, which you do twice a day, morning and late afternoon, for three or more hours at a time. Part of the Greater Kruger National Park, the landscapes are breathtaking, featuring rolling hills and valleys that make game drives akin to being on a natural switchback where the scenery changes constantly.
Located atop a hill with views out over the surrounding reserve and beyond to the distant northern Drakensberg Escarpment, which dominates the western horizon, the camp is in an ideal position. It enjoys direct access to the perennial Olifants River – a favourite spot for morning coffee, bush breakfasts and picnic lunches as well as the obligatory sundowners – and to the predator-rich drainage lines and koppies that surround it, forming a wildlife super-highway with the river at its epicentre.
Lion, leopard, painted wolves (African wild dogs) and hyena are sighted regularly here and it’s extremely unusual if you don’t see elephant because the area is filled with them! The small, pumped waterhole in front of the camp’s multi-level viewing deck is frequented by elephants virtually every single day, as well as a variety of other local game. This makes it the place to be in between game drives.
On the main deck, a small, farm-style reservoir serves as a quaint plunge pool and fits perfectly in its environment, respecting the precious resource that is water. No oversized, unnecessary rim-flow pool here, thank goodness. Just something that’s attractive, practical, innovative and fit for purpose in that it cools you off. Loungers under shady pergolas offer respite from the African sun, and a covered lounge area with an honesty bar and small library is great for relaxation, good conversation and siestas!
The “mess” area is the heart of the camp and a gathering point. It’s an open-plan kitchen and dining area where guests can sit at a long table and chat to the chef as meals are prepared. This is where breakfast is served after the morning game drive and where you can enjoy a light lunch before heading out on your afternoon/evening exploration. Dinner is either taken under the stars in the boma or here, with guests eating together around the communal table.
With its small and passionate team of staff and ethos of providing exceptional service and a place where guests can truly relax and be themselves, Bundox Explorer Camp has definitely figured out all of the ingredients of a great safari and has combined them flawlessly into something to truly be savoured.
Get in touch to find out more about Bundox Explorer Camp and to make a reservation!