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Beaverlac in Winter

Ratel River
Beaverlac Campsite

My last entry on Beaverlac was a tad critical, but for very good reason. As I said, the setting, the site’s subsequent popularity and the no-booking policy have resulted in a campsite that is uncomfortably full over holidays and long weekends, especially in summer (a friend of mine having said that his visit over a long weekend this year was his first and will be his last). It’s a pity because it is possibly the most tranquil and splendid farm I have encountered, especially now- ‘out of season’.

Proudly displaying a hand axe
Empty Farm









We visited Beaverlac the other day- in a season where most people tend to hibernate and become better acquainted with their couches. Besides a few people in the cottages that are available, we only saw one other group of campers. We basically had the whole enormous campsite to ourselves, hot water in the ablutions was ample, the weather was perfect (good enough for a mid-winter dip in the river), and the only sounds we heard we the hundreds of birds at the campsite or the sound of the river when we strolled across the farm for sundowners.

Empty Campsite
Brilliant view bar the caravan









I think people are missing something, but I’m not complaining. I quite like my favourite farm almost all to myself.


Beaverlac, Grootfontein Farm/ Beaverlac Nature Reserve, Western Cape

Place: Beaverlac Nature Reserve, Grootfontein Farm, Olifants River Mountains
Closest Town: Porterville (24km)
Facilities: Basic, scattered ablutions with about 2 showers worth of hot water per day on a busy weekend, super-stocked shop
Water: A spectacular river (Olifants), and the Ratel river with many waterfalls and exquisite rock pools
Surroundings: Rugged rocks and mountains typical of the Western Cape
Turf: Relatively flat, attempted grass in places, sandy patches, increasingly shady (they keep planting trees)
Distance from CT: Roughly 170km
Privacy: Average. 1st come 1st serve. None over long weekends
Highlight: Scrambling up the Ratel River and its rock pools, and Olifants River Valley
Cost: R35 pppn and R10 vehicle fee, no bookings except for cottages
Contact: 022 931 2945 www.beaverlac.co.za
GPS Coordinates: –32.907262,19.067287

Olifants River
Ratel River rock pool

Ratel River

Main Pool

Campsite

“Secret Pool”

Olifants River Valley

Ratel River rock pool

Olifants River

The Campsite

Besides the fact that I have voted Beaverlac my favourite farm in the Western Cape so far, and the fact that the setting is undeniably on par with my preference, this is objectively a true gem- its increasing popularity indicative of this.
What works: It is conveniently close to Cape Town- an easy 2 hour drive, except for the last farm road part (in a normal car). I like that you don’t have to book, a true compliment to spontaneity. I like that the farm and camping site are huge and that it has no defined borders between campsites. I appreciate that a large percentage of the folk who go there are lazy, preferring to lounge in their camping chairs or wallow in the Waterslangetjie-inhabited Main Pool, leaving the rest of the farm and rock pools relatively people-sparse. I love it in winter when nobody but a few cabin dwellers exist, and I love the fact that it is rock art rich, most of which likely remains undiscovered and hidden. The rivers and rock pools speak for themselves.
What is working against it: The no booking policy means that there isn’t necessarily a limit on the number of people who may decide to visit on a particular weekend and because the farmer seems to have cleared some new land for camping, it has opened up his farm even more to the long-weekend masses, totalling around 4000 people (excluding dogs). Spontaneous long weekends or holidays are no longer an option if you wish to truly appreciate everything the farm has to offer and if you find hearing your neighbour’s every move, snore or child-slap a little disturbing.
It’s a catch 22. Get rid of a great no-booking system or give up certain weekends and holidays in favour of other spots that are often more commercial and organised?
That aside, I love it- it’s a great default and certainly a camping destination of choice.