09 November 2012 by Julienne du Toit

Affordable getaways – Haaspoort Private Nature Reserve

If you’re looking for an affordable, semi-luxury bush experience, a place where you can walk or mountain bike among blesbok and hartebeest, there’s a secret getaway not far from Port Elizabeth.

The sweetest little porcupine babies at Haaspoort. Photo Chris Marais

Wolwefontein is a tiny little village on the southern rim of the Karoo, less than 2 hours’ drive from Port Elizabeth. There’s not much there apart from a general store, a hotel and bar, an old railway siding and a few houses.

We saw a porcupine mother scuttling through the bush with her two babies, making churring noises like clockwork toys.

The Watson family have been farming in this district for decades – since the 1820 Settlers arrived in South Africa from Britain, more or less.

When Victor Watson grew up, nearby Haaspoort farm was always his favourite place, a wild place where every turn revealed something interesting. 

'You got the feeling you could see anything here, that anything could happen. I loved coming here with my dad,' he says.

Victor Watson has loved this piece of land since he was a child. Photo Chris Marais

Now he and his wife, Lindsay, have turned the old family farm into a beautiful private nature reserve, the Haaspoort Bushcamp and Private Nature Reserve, with 4-star accommodation.

Victor says it’s been incredible watching the vegetation come back, and the spekboom trees spread their skirts again – relaxing into life without goats.

But when the decision was made to turn the farm to nature, not every domesticated creature was removed. One small group of Damara sheep held out, evading capture. They latched onto a herd of blesbok. You can only imagine the bucks’ dismay when they realised these were going to bleat incessantly, attracting unwanted predator attention.

Lindsay and Victor have created a beautiful bush lodge. Photo Chris Marais

This is not a Big 5 reserve. But there is so much life to be seen. The Watsons are very proud that there are 21 klipspringer pairs living on the 2 000ha reserve.

Victor took us on a walk along a stream that eventually led to a deep and limpid green pool backed up against stunning folded rock formations – sandstone shot through with white quartzite.

Kudu prints patterned the river banks. We could also see from the tracks that baboons had been there, as had some red hartebeest, and a lynx.

Little knots of water boatmen whirred in the limpid water.

You can walk or bring your mountain bike and revel in the restored wildness of Haaspoort. Photo Chris Marais

On a late afternoon drive back to camp, we saw a porcupine mother scuttling through the bush with her 2 babies, making churring noises like clockwork toys. They could only have been a few days old.

There are also black eagles on the reserve.

Unlike most bush camps, you can choose whether you want to self-cater and self-drive (a much cheaper option), or whether you want the whole full-service game-lodge option, with 3 sumptuous catered meals, and 2 game drives or guided walks. Even fully catered, staying at Haaspoort would cost just over a third of what you’d pay at an upmarket game lodge.

Even if you’re self-catering, you can also opt to be spoilt with a game drive and catered meal.

Haaspoort has glorious views of the Cockscomb mountains. Photo Chris Marais

Category: Wildlife

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