Whether you are a hiker, cyclist, a surfer or just want to escape into Nature for a night, the Smitswinkel Tented Camp across the road from the entrance to Cape Point provides a luxury launch for your activities. Smitswinkel Tented Camp is the 4th camp offering luxury `tented’ accommodation in the Table Mountain National Park. I use the word tented in apostrophes because while you are accommodated in two-person canvas tents, that is where the similarity with tents stops. These tents come with a wooden floor, lights, their own bathroom with shower and a kitchenette.
The other three tented camps are located at Slangkop, on the edge of Kommetjie, in the Silvermine Mountains above the dam and at Orange Kloof above Houtbay. These three camps also offer luxurious tented accommodation, but campers share beautifully designed ablution facilities and communal indoor and outdoor dining areas. The four camps are positioned so that fit hikers can walk the 75km Hoerikwagga Hiking Trail from Cape Point along the full length of the TMNP to the Cable Way. However, it is not essential to do the entire trail in one go. You can choose options depending on your level of fitness. I have walked sections with family and friends, most recently, from Simon’s Town to Kommetjie, overnighting at Slangkop and then along the beach to Noordhoek. A real escape into Nature on the doorstep of Capetonians.
At the recent opening of Smitswinkel Tented Camp, Paddy Gordon, the manager of TMNP explained how the Hoerikwagga Trail and associated camps was the product of many people’s work and acknowledged the vision and legacy of previous TMNP managers. He explained how David Deitz had been responsible for the consolidation of the land ownership, how Howard Langley had created the culture of touching the earth lightly and how Brett Myrdal dreamed the impossible dream that became the Hoerikwagga Trail.
The camps are self catering and all have hot water and fireplaces. Each has a unique aesthetic character and made use of natural building materials that were locally available, including timber felled and milled in the TMNP. All the camps are located on previously disturbed areas which at times was a challenge. Mokena Makeka the co-ordinating architect of the Smitswinkel camp explained how the exposed site on a windy ridge in a grove of gums was a harsh environment in which to create a sense place. But his team did. The camp has expansive views down into Smitswinkel Bay or looking west to Scarborough. The stone and wood building materials used in a contemporary style create a wonderful mix of organic textures with a fresh modern feel.
What captivated me at all the camps was the incredible attention to detail that went beyond planners and architects having creative ideas. The construction team under Lionel Meyer clearly had fun translating the designs into buildings and fittings. Raised boardwalks connect the tents to the ablution units and to the communal dining areas. The way they loop around natural features and incorporate mature trees gives one the feeling of being part of Nature. From the whale vertebra light fittings at Slangkop to the solid wooden hand basins carved from massive trunks at Silvermine, these camps are an experience themselves.
Smitswinkel Tented Camp between Boulders and Cape Point offers proximity to TMNP’s most popular destinations.
Slangkop Tented Camp within 100m of the sea offers magnificent sunsets and the reassuring sweep of the lighthouse beam at night.
Silvermine Tented Camp is located in pristine fynbos in the heart of the Silvermine mountains.
Orange Kloof Tented Camp set in an ancient Afromontane forest offers an unspoilt forest experience.
For info or to book contact SANParks, Cape town 021 422 2816 / 4271 from 7:30 – 16:00 or go to www.tmnp.co.za