From 23 to 27 July, we launched the #myMpumalanga domestic tourism campaign month with an exciting road trip. Six influencers made their way from Johannesburg through Mpumalanga for an unforgettable five-day journey.
The campaign shines the spotlight on a number of unique experiences along Mpumalanga’s seven incredible visitor routes with plenty adventure and opportunities to connect with locals, dance to the rhythm of traditional drums, feast on delicious local cuisine and snap a few Instagram worthy views. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be reliving the journey in a series of blog posts.
After a busy day of tobogganing and beer tasting, the #myMpumalanga road trip crew were ready for an evening of serious chilling.
And where better to do this than on the banks of the Sabie River, in a comfy and luxurious canvas tent.
Now, under normal circumstances ‘comfy and luxurious’ won’t necessarily be used in the same context as ‘canvas tent’. However, with the wonderous rise of glamping over the past few years, it’s become a far more common occurrence. And the crew got to experience it first-hand during an overnight stay at the newly-opened AfriCamps at Mackers.
Shortly after arrival, we all gathered at the swimming pool to enjoy some sundowners – a couple of beers we bought at Sabie Brewing Company and a bottle of Diemersdal flown in specially from the Western Cape for the occasion.
As we settled into the poolside recliners, we were joined by another group of guests… or so we thought. In actual fact, good fortune had seen to it that our visit coincided with a site visit by AfriCamps franchise owners, Manou Bleumink and Jeroen van Rootselaar.
AfriCamps at Mackers is the sixth campsite they’ve opened since starting their business in 2013, and also happens to be the first located outside of the Western Cape.
It was great to hear a bit of their story and how these two Dutch nationals had taken a seriously hands-on approach to their glamping dream from the start.
“We had both been living in South Africa and conducting tourism-related businesses for some time. When we noticed glamping becoming a trend in Europe, we realised there was a gap in the market for this kind of experience here and decided to grab the opportunity to do something new and exciting,” Van Rootselaar explained.
They soon discovered, however, that importing canvas tents from abroad would be far too costly, but that there wasn’t a suitable manufacturer in South Africa. So, they started designing and sewing the tents themselves!
“Even though neither of us had ever even touched a sewing machine before this, we bought two industrial machines and started working the pattern pieces we’d cut out together. It took us a whole six months to make the first tent.”
Realising that they couldn’t afford to continue at this pace if they wanted to get something off the ground, they set up a factory in Atlantis and started offering jobs to unemployed youth.
Exactly two years after purchasing their first sewing machine, they opened their first camp: AfriCamps Klein Karoo in Oudtshoorn.
Over the past two-and-a-half years, their business has grown immensely, providing work to more people every year. Apart from learning new skills and earning money, this job also affords many of them the opportunity to travel and see new places every time a new camp has to be set up.
As far as the location of the camps are concerned, Van Rootselaar and Bleumink enter have entered into joint ventures with the farmers/landowners of all the properties their camps are located on. AfriCamps financially invests extensively in the development of glamping sites on your property by providing owners with the fully-furnished and installed en-suite AfriCamps tents. They also supply bathroom fittings, mattresses, bed linen, towel packages and kitchen utensils; handle all the bookings centrally and do most of the marketing. The property owners, then, take charge of the daily maintenance and smooth-running of their camp.
After sundowners, we quickly freshened up and then enjoyed a braai with AfriCamps at Mackers property owners, Ryan and Michelle McCain, as well as some of their friends from Hazyview and its surrounding farms.
They pulled out all the stops, spoiling us with a table straining under the weight of meat, salads and puddings.
We ended the evening off with a classic marshmallow braai, before snuggling into our cosy beds for the evening, with the Sabie River singing us to sleep.
AfriCamps at Mackers boasts 10 glamping tents, which can each sleep six people (two double beds and one overhead bunker). They come standard with a fully-equipped kitchenette, a lounge area and even a wood-burning fireplace! All tents overlook the river. Check out the AfriCamps website to find out more and make a booking.