It was a camping weekend again! I’d love to say that we mostly camp because we absolutely love to camp. I’d love to say we are ‘serious campers,’ geared with army canvas tents, trailers, camp fridges and fancy blow up mattresses. But we are not. We are the family with the cheap tents….that are not waterproof, the mattresses that are the thickness of a carpet and 2 cooler boxes that stay relatively cold for 3 days thanks to the trusty old frozen 2 litre coke bottles we’ve stashed in there with the meat and veg. Chicken is a no, no when planning for a trip like this. For us, it’s more to do with what meat is less likely to give you food poisoning on day 3 with little refrigeration. Thinking about it, I’ve sunk pretty low since being a chef many, many years ago! My goal is to cook as little as possible and my standard is ‘survival,’ basically steak and fire-baked potatoes every night with salad for as long as our cooler box will keep that iceberg lettuce green. We rely heavily on our camping companions who are usually carefully selected…serious camping gear is a must…friends with a fridge will crack an invite every time!
For our kids ‘Midterm break,’ we went to Mabibi campsite on the South African Elephant coast. We were accompanied by 2 of our old Zimbabwean friends who we know are of the same calibre…friends who can rough it and maintain a good level of happiness despite the challenges! (Though they do own a camping fridge and a canvas tent)
We arrived at nightfall….mostly because we left late and had no idea it would take us 7 hours to get there. We also took the sandy back road which runs along Lake Sibhayi through thick coastal forest. It’s really beautiful and I’d highly recommend taking this road ….but as long as your vehicle is not new and you don’t mind a little damage to your vehicles paintwork – though nothing a good polish can’t sort out. Our friends had a shiny new Fortuner! I’d say it was christened on this road with 10 inch thorns brushing along the side of it and a road that at times looks like it’s part of an 18th century maze. The good news is that this is the back road and there is the more popular, less scenic road that goes straight to Mabibi which we used on the way home. But you’ll miss this forest which for the most part is quite enjoyable!
Mabibi GPS Co-Ordinates: S27 19.869 E32 44.727
Mabibi is a campsite managed by the local community. It’s situated in a forest on top of a sand dune. To get to the beach, you must walk up and down about 138 wooden stairs. So people with a recent hip or knee replacement (!) or anyone adverse to a bit of cardio vascular exercise via wooden steps, then this is not the campsite for you. For you, you need to book into the luxury Thonga Beach Lodge at the bottom of the dune that is situated right on the beach! And looks very, very nice from a distance…but sadly not in our budget! The closest we came to it was on our full moon walk along the beach, in search of egg laying turtles. We passed a ‘honey-mooning couple’ as they sat at their private dinner table with a view of the rising moon and us and our wild kids running amok, catching crabs and cancelling out any chance of spotting a turtle!
*** Hot tip #1 *** Campsite No. 5 and 6 are the best sites! We stayed in No. 6!
Campsite No. 5 and 6 are secluded in that you can’t see your neighbours and they are big enough for a large group. They are also central – close to the beach path and the ablutions. There is a tap, a fire place and a rubbish bin. You should bring your own grid, lighting and water. (The water is high in iron and not suitable for drinking.)
The campsites are really quite beautiful in that you are completely surrounded by a forest. We had a number of visitors too, including squirrels, red duiker and a troop of Semango monkeys that circled our camp daily. You have the option of hiring a local lady to clean and watch your campsite while you are at the beach. (I’d highly recommend this service!) The Semango monkey’s were kept at bay and I didn’t wash one dish on this trip! Our beds were made and importantly, the sand in our tent was removed daily. A ‘must’ for your sanity if you are camping at the beach!
A safe swimming area for kids at low tide
*** Hot tip #2 *** There is no shade at the beach, take a beach umbrella with you so you can get out of the full sun!
We stayed at Mabibi for 3 nights. Everyday we’d pack a cooler box and our snorkeling gear and head on down to the beach until about 1. It was spring tide at the time and so it was a kids paradise during low tide. I’m somewhat of a paranoid freak when it comes to the ocean and I’m on high alert when it comes to my kids swimming! Mamma bear at her best! And so Mabibi for me, was a Mamma Bear’s idea of paradise too! No rip tides to worry about, just plenty of protected rock pools to paddle around in! That is at low tide of course – for high tide we headed to higher ground, up the stairs and back to camp for an afternoon snooze.
All was going superbly well until our last night. Thunder and lightning was happening around us and in the distance. Our Zimbabwe friends who had moved into this region assured us that the weather around here is a tease, a lot of thunder and lightning then it mostly seems to blow off somewhere into the ocean……..hhhhmmmm.
We didn’t get much sleep. In fact the thunder and lightning became torrential rain, all 40mm in the space of about 45 minutes and a small raging river that went straight through our tent. Did I mention that our tent is not waterproof? We sat in the car while the storm did it’s thing, lightning bolts striking in every direction and us thinking of Thonga Beach Lodge! Once the storm had gone on it’s way out to the ocean, we investigated the damage. My husband’s stretcher was the only dry bed, absolutely everything else was soaked! It would be a long night in the car for the rest of us!
We woke up to glorious weather, beautiful blue skies and a crystal clear sea. The only visible sign of the storm was the path of the river that tore through our tent! We went for a final dip in the sea before packing up and heading home. We have promised ourselves that during the rainy summer months and for any future beach getaway, there will be a roof over our heads and four walls! Though I’m sure I’ve said this before….
The good news is that Mabibi Campsite also have 2 self catering units, though I do not know what they are like.
Mabibi Beach Camp Info:
Tel – 035 474 1504 (08:00am to 14:30pm Monday to Friday) www.mabibibeachcamp.co.za