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South Africa: Addo TiPi Bush Camp

Tipi Bush Camp, is on a private reserve adjoining Addo Elephant National Park. There are three large 6.3 metre diameter TiPi’s, based on the American Indian style can each accommodate 4 people on a self catering, un-serviced basis.

We would have loved to spend an extra day relaxing in Knysna, but it was not to be as there was no space left at our bed and breakfast for the second night. So, after a quick bite to eat, we packed up and headed out to our next destination, a tipi camp close to Addo Elephant National Park.

It was going to be quite a long drive, around 330km, and as we were self-catering, we’d also have to pick up some provisions along the way.

We had thought about stopping at Plettenberg Bay, but when we arrived it didn’t seem so attractive, so we carried on. The scenery along the way was stunning, with forests, deep gorges and occasional glimpses of the sea and long bays with crashing waves. After a couple of hours of driving, we pulled into the small village of Storm River, where we sat out on their veranda and had bowls of tasty soup.

Mid-afternoon we arrived in Gqeberha which was formerly known as Port Elizabeth, a large industrial city about halfway along the southern cape coast of South Africa. We had already pulled off earlier to find a supermarket in Humansdorp, only to find huge queues at the supermarket as it was the Saturday after the last Friday of the month – payday, so the thought of finding a supermarket in Gqeberha was not too exciting. It was also time to top up with petrol, so we detoured into a large service station on the highway. Luckily, it had great mini-markets, and even better a farm store bakery, where we picked up some baked goods and a great crusty loaf. We were finally set for the next couple of nights of camping in a tipi.

We were staying in Tipi Bush Camp, on a private reserve adjoining Addo Elephant National Park. The road took us to the small town of Paterson (which is a very depressing place) and then along a small road, which was undergoing a lot of roadworks. Eventually, we came to some rather impressive lodge gates, which were unmanned so we had to unhook the padlock and chain (which had been left to look locked) and open the gates ourselves.

The road took us about a kilometre to the tipi themselves where we met the owner, Rob Tapson, who was there to greet us. He was a middle-aged white man, who was very welcoming, but it was soon evident that he was a white South African of the old school – not somebody we’d ever see eye to eye with – and a conspiracy theorist of the highest order. He introduced us to his two Rhodesian ridgeback dogs, who were gorgeous, but apparently don’t like ‘black people’. Anyway, there was no point getting into a political debate with Rob!

The tipi was advertised as ‘luxury’ but didn’t really fit that bill. It was spacious with a bed (that was too firm) and a headboard that fell off, a not-too-comfortable sofa bed and a kitchen and dining table. It was more rustic than luxury. Outside we had a braai / BBQ area, a small dipping pool and the ablutions.

The nice thing was that it was very private and there was no one else staying in the adjoining tipis.
So, we began settling in.

One the tipis at the bush camp - Tipi Bush Camp, Addo, South Africa
One the tipis at the bush camp
The inside of the tipi was spacious - Tipi Bush Camp, Addo, South Africa
The ablutions block - Tipi Bush Camp, Addo, South Africa
The ablutions block
Watch out for creepy crawlies -Tipi Bush Camp, Addo, South Africa
Watch out for creepy crawlies

After an hour or so, Karen went to the bathroom, and seconds later let out a huge scream. I rushed to the ablutions. Inside she had found a large spider – whiteish with thick legs. It did look scary! Rather than sacrifice the toilet to the spider I decided to get it out. My chosen weapons were a long stick and the metal dustpan from our tipi. I used the stick to shoo the spider out, it clambered out onto the roof, looking just like, and as scary, as Aragon out of the Harry Potter movies, then dropped to the floor just behind Karen and then underneath the ablution shack.

After this fright, we decided not to use the dipping pool, but instead to drive around the property in search of the wildlife Rob had told us was there.

The property was many, many hectares covered in thick bush (with a lot of prickly acacia bushes). On one side it was bordered by a road and on the other a railway track. Not a likely place for wildlife. Anyway, we set out on the bumpy ‘roads’ in our two-wheel drive VW Polo, which we knew already had low clearance. As we drove, we could hear the taller grass and plants on the track rubbing the underside. There was also the occasional loud bang as a rock was thrown up under the car. After a little way, I spotted a tortoise. Not a little one, but a large leopard tortoise, that must have been two-thirds of a metre in diameter. By far the biggest tortoise we had seen for a while. We got out of the car to get a closer look and it gave out a ‘spitty’ noise as Karen got too close (she was so excited to find the tortoise). We left the tortoise and carried on, seeing Kudu and Nyala antelope along the way, plus some ostrich eggs. It was all very exciting.

When we arrived back at the tipis, I noticed some zebra on the other side of the road, which was a private wildlife concession and then I noticed an elephant browsing in the bushes close by the zebra. So much wildlife on our doorstep. A short while later Rob said that the giraffes (we thought he was joking earlier about the giraffes being on the property) were down on the other side of the reserve close by the road. So, off we headed and soon found four giraffes, including a juvenile. We stayed for a time just watching the giraffes.

By now it was getting dark, and we still had dinner to make. It was a warm evening and very humid, and the thought of cooking inside the tipi was not tempting, so we decided to cook out on the open fire with the cast-iron pots we had. I set the fire and it was soon roaring away, with a pot of veggies on top of the grill. As we prepped dinner, we started to watch a powerful thunderstorm a short distance away. The lightning was very impressive! It was clear it was coming our way. Luckily, we managed to get the cooking done and sat eating whilst the storm rolled towards us. I went inside when the rain came, leaving Karen outside to continue watching. This situation didn’t last long as there was a huge bolt of lightning that hit the other side of the road followed immediately by an almighty clap of thunder that rattled our bones. Karen hurried inside and together we waited out the storm.

We found this large leopard tortoise - Tipi Bush Camp, Addo, South Africa
We found this large leopard tortoise
Karen makes friends with the tortoise - Tipi Bush Camp, Addo, South Africa
Karen makes friends with the tortoise
We loved these giraffes and they didn't seem to mind us - Tipi Bush Camp, Addo, South Africa
We loved these giraffes and they didn't seem to mind us


Three large 6.3 metre diameter TiPi’s, based on the American Indian style can each accommodate 4 people on a self catering, un-serviced basis. All you need to bring is your food, toiletries and clothing. Don’t forget your drinks, cameras and binoculars.

Included are bedding, towelling, crockery, cutlery, sink, cleaning equipment, twin gas cooker, gas fridge, double bed and double “sleeper couch” per TiPi. The “sleeper couch” separates to two single beds if required. You will need to light the gas fridge on arrival. Neat ablutions in close proximity to the TiPi’s provide glass showers with hot & cold water, wash hand basin, flushing toilets and communal sink. All hot water and lighting is by solar.There is no electricity on the site.

Each TiPi is secluded and offers beautiful panoramic views over a valley teeming with game. For the energetic, there are numerous walks within Addo Afrique, where you may roam un-escorted through a wide variety of non predatory game like Ostrich, Giraffe, Kudu, Eland, Bushbuck, Nyala, Impala etc. Fuel and shopping facilities are found at Paterson 8 km to the east and Addo village 28 km to the west.

The main gate to the Addo Elephant National Park is 15 km to the west. All roads are tarmac surfaces. By either of two routes, Port Elizabeth city centre and airport is 80 km to the South-South-West.

Online Booking:
Type:Basic accommodation in a beautiful setting
Prices:Around R1500 per night

Best time to visit Addo Elephant Park

The dry season winter months of May to September is the best time to visit the Addo Elephant National Park. The wildlife will gather around waterholes as water becomes a scarce resource, in turn, producing excellent game viewing opportunities.

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