Cape Vidal campsite
St Lucia, KwaZulu Natal
The blurb from the website:
Cape Vidal offers the best of two worlds – it is situated on the exquisite Zululand coast with all its amazingly rich marine life, and it provides direct access to the Eastern Shores Nature Reserve with its populations of elephant, rhino, buffalo, crocodile, hippo and reedbuck to name but a few.
The beach and off-shore areas at Cape Vidal fall within the St Lucia Marine Reserve which is visited seasonally by humpback whales during their migrations, as well as loggerhead and leatherback sea-turtles that come to the beaches north of Cape Vidal from November to February to nest. Other marine “big game” includes the huge whale shark, marlin, sailfish and dolphin.
Even in the dry months, this area is incredibly beautiful. We visited in October, and had we not looked in at the water-holes in the iSimangaliso park (in which Cape Vidal is situated) we wouldn’t have known that the area was actually dry; the vegetation is just so lush.
So, we have a beautiful location. Unfortunately, as we will see, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows at this particular campsite, but first let’s chat about the good stuff.
As mentioned, the scenery is fantastic. Being situated within the reserve means that you really are right in nature, with peace and tranquility reigning. The facilities within the reserve itself are also great, with modern, clean toilets, an immaculately-tarred main road and well-maintained tourist stops (like the Aerial Boardwalk). I wouldn’t say there’s an abundance of wildlife, but there is certainly a variety. We even glimpsed a leopard walking across the main road, but had no time to snap any pics…
The campsite itself does not have cellphone reception, which is great for those people who want to escape technology for a while, but bad if you’re one of those people like me who needs to run a business… Campsite sizes vary quite widely, with some being just big enough for a caravan and car, to those that have enough space for a caravan, two reasonably-sized tents, three cars, and room to move around. Naturally, we chose one of these, but it came at a cost (not monetary), as we will see later.
Speaking of money, you’re looking at somewhere around R500-R600 per night, so this will pay off if you’ve accommodating multiple people on a site (maximum 6). On the plus side, all sites are electrified. On the downside, no braai stand. Beware of the monkeys too, they’re brazen when it comes to stealing your food!
Also good news, there are some free things to do that are easily accessible, like game drives around the park (in your own car) as well as easy access to a good swimming beach, albeit with no life guards.
THE BAD: Yes, as we mentioned before, there were things we were pretty unimpressed with, and about 90% of these complaints center around the campsite bathrooms.
Firstly, they really need some maintenance. They are kept clean, but the outside plaster is crumbling, the inside needs a paint (or complete revamp) and the hand soap dispensers didn’t work. Your hand soap comes out of a bottle, which is frequently empty.
In addition to this, the shower drains were clogged outside of the ablution block. This meant that when we were trying to do our dishes at the scullery area, we had dirty shower water running past our feet, which we had to dodge.
The ablutions run on a septic tank system, which means that the tanks need to be pumped daily. We’re okay with this, after all we can’t expect fancy plumbing everywhere we go. However, pumping the tanks is a noisy, smelly business, and the pumping points (2 of them) happened to be on either side of our campsite. We can understand this, and that there is limited space, but the truck comes in to pump at 7am. We felt this is particularly tactless, considering most people are either still sleeping at that time, or having breakfast if you’re an early-riser.
On a non-bathroom-related note, the booking guys have decided that they no longer book individual campsites, but haven’t told anyone this. This was inconvenient, as we booked our spot a year in advance, only to arrive and find out that it’s a free-for-all.
We also spent 5 days trying to find the elephants that they advertise, to no avail. We then asked at the gate, and they told us that there are no elephants on the Cape Vidal side of the estuary, but they are on the other side (if you enter through the Dukuduku gate). And, although it is the same reserve, you need to pay another fee in order to enter that side of the park. With much grumbling we shelled out the extra money and spent the day doing game drives on the other side of the park, but never found our elephants.
All vehicle access
Fresh water in camp (not recommended for drinking)
Hot water ablutions
Small shop with firewood, snacks, drinks, etc.
Easy access to swimming beach
Things to note
- The closest “civilisation” is St Lucia town, which is a 35km / 45-minute drive, if you do the maximum speed limit in the park, so bring as much of your food etc. as possible to avoid unnecessary travel.
- St Lucia has all the necessary shops that you may need, as well as tour operators. We went on a Hippo and Croc tour in the estuary with the Elephant Lake Hotel tour group, which was reasonably priced and good fun.
- As mentioned before, beware the monkeys!
As a holiday, this is a good place to be in nature with the family. The park and surrounding area are beautiful, and we would like to give it more stars, but there are definitely a few things that need to be attended to…