Simbavati Trails Camp is where simplicity meets luxury in the heart of the Timbavati wilderness. Expect an authentic, back-to-basics-in-luxury experience that allows you to disconnect from modern complications and immerse yourself in the untamed beauty of the bush. Differing from the typical safari lodge experience, Trails Camp focuses on guided walking safaris and provides an enchanting, off-the-grid stay. The ambience in camp offers an “Out of Africa” feel that’s both nostalgic and unforgettable.
Approximately an hour’s drive from Simbavati Hilltop Lodge, the journey to camp is an adventure in itself, with a guided safari drive taking guests there. Our host Russel excitedly welcomed us to camp and our senses were captivated instantly as we surrendered to the tranquility of the setting.
The heart of the camp is a large canvas tent that houses an open-plan dining area and lounge. The pool, slightly elevated, overlooks a Mopani forest, providing a serene backdrop for relaxation. Adjacent to the pool is a sunken lounge with plush cushions beneath an umbrella, the perfect spot to enjoy an afternoon cocktail and a good book.
Tents in the wilderness
Simbavati Trails Camp features four Meru-style tents, accommodating a maximum of eight guests. Inside, you’ll find two single beds pushed together under a hanging mosquito net, a vanity area with a sink and bucket for washing, and an invigorating outdoor shower. While there’s no running water or electricity, the bucket-style showers are filled with warm water before each use and there is a flushable toilet for your convenience. The strategically placed tents in the bush provide privacy and an authentic, wild feel. The canvas side walls are left open with netting, allowing refreshing air to flow through and granting you uninterrupted views of the wilderness from your bed.
Morning Walk: A bushveld awakening
Each morning, the adventure begins as your friendly guide awakens you at sunrise, and the harmonious chorus of birds greets you naturally. Hot coffee and freshly baked muffins and rusks are served at the main guest area, setting the tone for the day. Our trails guide Martin, shared exciting insights about the morning walk and was equipped for any situation. In single file, behind the guide, guests embark through the bush, searching for tell-tale spores and taking in the wonderment of being in nature. We encountered elephants on foot and revelled in the thrill. We learnt the art of tracking, spotted zebras and waterbucks and heard the distant roar of lions. Martin shared insights into the region’s diverse trees, rocks and soils, explaining how they shape the ecosystem and how the ground determines which plants flourish, attracting specific wildlife and their predators.
Morning walks are typically 2.5 hours long to avoid the midday heat.
Return to camp: A warm welcome
As we returned to camp, our smiling butler, Donald, awaited with chilled orange juice and refreshing damp cloths, providing a warm and comforting welcome.
Shower time beckons before breakfast, which is wonderfully rejuvenating.
Breakfast: A feast to savour
Breakfast is a feast and differs slightly each day, featuring trays of scones, cinnamon flapjacks, seeded toasts, cheeses, cold meats, and fruits, muesli and yoghurt, all served on the center server table.
Today’s breakfast highlight is a bacon-stacked eggs benedict on a toasted English muffin, a renowned favourite at Simbavati Trails Camp
After breakfast, the pool becomes the preferred spot to unwind until lunchtime. With panoramic views of the Mopani forest and the bush, it often attracts elephants, who consider it their personal watering hole. Eight towel-laden loungers overlook the pool, providing a perfect setting to bask in the sun, birdwatch and savour the view.
A delectable lunch is then served and ours featured a South African favourite of bunny chow made with fire-baked bread and chicken curry. Guests then choose to rest, read or play board games in the communal tent before a sumptuous high tea is enjoyed, satisfying those sweet cravings.
Afternoon walk: Tracking Secrets
Every afternoon walk begins with a debriefing, where the guide discusses expectations and plans for the walk.
Our journey took us through dense bush, and a dry river bed, leading to a waterhole. The scenery is awe-inspiring, with ancient Jackalberry trees gracing the horizon and gold orb spider webs glistening in the sunlight.
Martin delved into the intriguing and unusual facts about the bush. From the life cycle of termite mounds to discovering an elephant’s favorite sleeping spot, we learnt about dung and the fascinating relationship between honeyguides and humans.
We spotted aardvark prints and porcupine signs before learning about the lion prides of the Greater Kruger and following their tracks. It was immersion in the wilderness at its best.
Sundowner surprise: An enchanting end to the day
As the sun set, we found ourselves walking along a dirt road, and the sky painted itself in shades of red and purple.
Martin signaled, hinting at a surprise just around the corner.
A delightful sundowner table awaited, stocked with snacks, wine, gin, cooldrinks, ice-cold beer, and Amarula.
It was the perfect way to conclude a thrilling day of adventure before driving back to camp in the dark, where we were lucky to see hyena, elephants and other creatures along the way.
With no electricity at camp, paraffin and solar lanterns illuminate the pathways. Simbavati Trails Camp is unfenced, so walking around with a torch is essential, and a guide or your butler will escort you to and from your tent.
Guests take time for a soothing shower under the stars before dinner and the tents and camp are lit up, creating a tranquil setting
Dinner: a boma feast
At dinner, tables were arranged in a half-moon shape around an open fire, reminiscent of a traditional South African boma night, where fireside tales are shared. Chef Raphael or Thompson, will tantalize your taste buds with options like succulent pork ribs, spicy chakalaka, hearty lamb stew and traditional pap, flavourful veggies, beef rump with chimichurri and more, allowing international guests to savour local cuisine, often with a twist. Dessert that night was a decadent chocolate cake, and the staff’s traditional African songs filled the air.
Nighttime serenade: Nature’s chorus
As we retired to our tent with full bellies and hearts, the sounds of the African bush serenaded us. Hyenas made whooping sounds in the dark around us. Scops owls called in the trees above us. The African bush is alive at night with choruses of frogs and nocturnal creatures, ending the perfect day at Simbavati Trails Camp.
Discover more at www.simbavati.com/lodges/trails-camp/