Somabula campsite report – wonderful bush camping
February 10, 2019
If you are looking for a campsite with hot water pools, super tubes and a lot of luxuries then I’ll save you some time, Somabula is not the place for you. If on the other hand you are looking for a true bush experience where you are surrounded by nature and no other caravans, are woken up in the morning by the birds singing instead of your neighbour snoring and peace and quiet sits next to you while you enjoy a cold one, then read on!
Where is Somabula
Somabula is located in Gauteng, South Africa and is about an hour’s drive from Johannesburg and East Rand. It is less than 40 minutes from Pretoria and the closest town to Somabula is Cullinan.
Roads in Somabula reserve
From the main road to the entrance gate of Somabula the road is a paved jeep track. A road caravan should have no problems although it would be advisable to drive slowly. This paved jeep track continues into the reserve itself and most of the roads (to the reception, the ox wagons and chalets) are paved. The last piece of the road to the camp site is not paved but is in very good condition.
Within the reserve are numerous roads that can by driven using your private vehicle. There are also a couple of “4×4 only” roads but in my experience these could easily be driven using a two wheel drive vehicle with high enough ground clearance. However, even if this is possible it does not mean that it is a good idea. There are one or two places that are steep and not using 4×4 could result in unnecessary wheel spin damaging the road.
There are a total of six campsites. The sites are all spread out with the result that you are typically at least 30 metres from you closest neighbour. Sites do not have electricity but do have running water. I did see taps at some site but did not check for taps at all of the site. All sites have access to bathroom facilities with flush toilets and hot water. Except for one of the site, the hot water at the sites are supplied using gas heaters. All the bathrooms also have electric lights thanks to solar power.
The sites are typically large with a large fire place. A dustbin, braai grid and spade is supplied.
It was interesting that the map of the camping area that can be collected from reception indicates for each of the camp site things such as “small caravan”, “tents only” and “large caravan”. It was not always clear to me why this is the case. I assumed that it was based on the amount of available shade. Unfortunately this map is not available on the Somabula website <add link>.
On the map it is stipulates “small caravan”. This might be because the trees that supplies shade, while quite dense, will not allow a large caravan to comfortably fit in between them. If however you are not too worried about being under trees, then there is more than enough space on the site for even a very large caravan with a full rally tent.
This site shares ablutions with its neighbour (Barbet) but only in physical location. While there is a single structure with a single wash-up basin for the dishes, in reality there are two separate bathrooms, each with its own entrance and key. You can therefore leave you towels, soap, etc. in the bathroom.
For some reason, on the map, this site is indicates as “tents only”. The reason for this is not clear to me because it is a lovely site with ample space and a number of large shade trees. Ablutions are shared with Loerie but by virtue of having a key for your own bathroom, in reality you have access to private bathrooms. Because the bathroom building is between Loerie and Barbet, and you are approximately 25 meters from the bathroom building, you are quite some distance for Loerie campsite and will not see your neighbours except when visiting the bathrooms at the same time.
Bulbul & Hornbill
These two sites a “close” together and are about 30 meters apart. Because there are no bushes between the two sites, you neighbour is clearly visible. I would recommend this site for two families in separate caravans that are going to camp together.
The two sites also share bathroom facilities. The same facilities are also share with the Kingfisher campsite.
The bathroom facilities are rustic but adequate. There are two flush toilets. These do not have any doors but do have a chain with a little board indicating that it is occupied. The two shower facilities have hot and cold water supplied by a gas heater. They do have separate entrances and each have a wash basin and a mirror. They do however not have a roof. We actually made use of these even though we had our own private bathroom at Egret campsite and not having a roof and seeing the black sky and start above you while having a nice hot shower added to that “bush experience”. Behind the showers is a single wash basin for dishes. Lighting is supplied by solar power.
This site is truly private. If you want to try out your bush rig to check if you could survive without any power or water, then this is the site for you. The site is totally surrounded by bush and other than a single tree for shade and the braai area, there is nothing else on the site. I noticed that on the supplied map of the campsites it did indicate “small caravan”. I can only surmise that this is because of the single shade tree. There is however space for a very large caravan with a full rally tent on the site.
You do have access to the same bathrooms facilities that the Bulbul and Hornbill campsites use via a clear cut walk path of about 3 meters cut through the bush.
While this is a perfect campsite in many respects, the one thing to consider is that it is relatively close to the Fish Eagle Lapa. While is separated from the lapa area by bush, I’m confident that if things get a bit festive at the lapa you will hear every word, even if you cannot see the lapa.
In my opinion this is the best campsite. It is large with ample shade and a private bathroom. However, the best feature of the Egret campsite is that it is totally surrounded by push and the closest neighbours (Bulbul and Hornbill) is approximately a 100 meters from you as the crow flies.
A note of caution, I found it slightly tricky to get my Jurgens Explorer manoeuvred under the trees. This is not because I struggle in reversing with the Explore (if the Explorer can fit I can reverse it in without much effort), it is simple because of the location of the trees in the front of the site. Also, the level area is limited with the result that I had to lift the one side of the caravan quite a bit off the ground to get it level. All that being said, we did sleep level and the rally tent floor was level.
The bathroom has a flush toilet, basin and shower. Outside is a double wash-up basin for dishes. It is supplied with hot water from a solar geyser. Unfortunately it was overcast for most of the weekend that we visited Somabula so at most we had luke warm water. Fortunately we could make use of Bulbul and Barbet’s showers because I was just too lazy to set up the Explorers bathroom.
As mentioned before, this site will cost an additional fee per night for the privilege to have a private bathroom that you do not have to share. This is not the reason we booked the site, but rather the fact that this privacy also guarantee that you are at least a 100m from you closest neighbour. Anyway, it turned out that we did actually share out bathroom. On the Sunday afternoon, after packing up and going to wash my hands for a last time, I noticed from the corner of my eye a movement in the bathroom. It turned out to be a Brown House snake (Lamprophis Fuliginosis) (about 60 cm in length) that most probably shared the bathroom with us all weekend.
Fish Eagle Lapa
The Fish Eagle Lapa is worth a visit. Be sure to check out the wooden bench next to the fire place. It is stunning. The lapa itself has a beautiful view of the dam.
It’s not clear to me who is allowed to make use of the lapa. Day visitors are allowed on the reserve and it is not uncommon to find hikers on the various hiking trails. I would think the people staying in the chalets and day visitors might make use of the lapa. I’m hopeful that because of the nature of Somabula, that those people that go to Somabula are nature lovers who respect nature and their fellow man.
Things to do at Somabula
There is not much to do at Somabula. In my opinion one of its main attractions. You can do all the typical “nature activities” such as bird watching, hiking and game viewing. Not much else. Perfect.
There are a number of jeep tracks that can be driven with your private vehicle to go and do some game viewing. These are in good condition, at least when we were there. These same tracks are also used for the three hiking trails. The trails are about 3km, 7km and 12km respectively.
There are also the two “4×4 only” tracks that were mentioned earlier. We saw most of the game on the 4×4 track on the Northern side of the Somabula reserve. We saw Tsetsebe, Gnu, Impala, Giraffe, Ostrich, Zebra and Eland.
You can also visit the historical town of Cullinan which is worthwhile a visit, especially if you’ve not been yet.
My wife was very concerned that posting a video report and writing this article of Somabula might cause it to become so popular that it would be busy all the time. I do not believe that this will be an issue. Even if all of the Somabula campsites are booked, the layout is such that you will not be stepping on anyone else’s toes, you will have peace and quiet and still feel like you are camping in the bush, right on the backdoor of two of the major cities in Gauteng.
Somabula home page: http://www.somabula.co.za
The below video report can be found on the Camp Savvy Youtube channel