Travel

TAKE A LOOK | This luxury tent lodge travels around the Western Cape – with fine-dining restaurant

Business Insider SA
Canvas Collective Africa in the Overberg (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)
Canvas Collective Africa in the Overberg (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Review

  • South Africa's newest luxury field glamping experience was recently launched in the Western Cape.
  • The lodge features 10 tents, a fine-dining restaurant, and a wood-fired hot tub.
  • Inside, the tents resemble a hotel suite, with a king-sized bed, electric blanket, mini-bar, shower, and flushing toilet.
  • The Field Kitchen fine-dining restaurant serves three-course meals prepared by renowned chefs.
  • And all this only stays in the same place for up to three months at a time.
  • The travelling lodge's first stop is in the Overberg region, then it moves onto Biedouw in the Cederberg and then to Witzenberg near Tulbagh.
  • "I like to call us a village on wheels," says Canvas Collective Africa cofounder Samara Stern.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

South Africa's latest luxury field glamping experience was recently launched in the Western Cape's Overberg region. But it won't stay here for long, as lavish tents, a fine-dining restaurant, and a wood-fired hot tub all travel to some of the province's most scenic spots.

Glamping – a hybrid of "glamorous" and "camping" – offers travellers a taste of the great outdoors with a sense of style. The term was only introduced to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2016 but has been a staple of South Africa's tourism offering for far longer, particularly among the country's many diverse and expansive private nature reserves.

The dirt road heading inland from Botriver winds comfortably around the base of the Hottentots Holland Mountain range. Roughly halfway to Theewaterskloof Dam along Van Der Stel Pass, a path traversing the valley and hillsides points to a narrow plume of smoke in the distance. This route beyond the entrance to Porcupine Hills Guest Farm, with its narrow dips and rises, isn't as comfortable.

Glamping South Africa Canvas Collective
Canvas Collective Africa in the Overberg (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

But any apprehension melts away rounding the foot of an unsuspecting hill. Ten tall grey canvas tents curve in a horseshoe at the base of the valley. Smoke rises from a log fire in the centre of the camp, a stone's throw away from an elevated structure offering the glow of warm lights through full-sized glass windows. There's a hot tub.

None of this was here two months ago. And in two months' time, visitors will find an empty field.

"I like to call us a village on wheels," says Samara Stern. "We come, we're there, and we're gone again."

"The only thing that you're going to see that [will tell you] we were here is the grass that grew underneath the tents," adds Dez Lundy.

Glamping South Africa Canvas Collective
Canvas Collective Africa tent (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Canvas Collective Africa, founded by Stern and Lundy during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, which decimated the tourism industry, only stays in one location for between two and three months. After the Overberg, the entire camp is loaded onto 10-ton trucks and moved, first to Biedouw in the Cederberg for the spring flower season and then to Witzenberg near Tulbagh.

"We pick everything up, and we move it. Logistically it is a nightmare… but we're doing something that everybody else is not doing," says Lundy, who has more than a decade's worth of experience in setting up and tearing down event-specific tented camps in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana.

Glamping South Africa Canvas Collective
View from the bathroom (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Canvas Collective Africa's tents, roughly the size of a studio apartment, are unassuming on the outside. Inside, guests are greeted by hotel suite opulence.

A king-sized bed, fit with an electric blanket, doesn't overwhelm the interior. Bed-side tables support designer lamps, a bar fridge holds a selection of snacks and drinks, and a Nespresso machine pumps out a piping hot cup. All of this is powered by a generator which supplies the camp with electricity between 07:30 and 22:30. Outside of those hours, it's left to oil lamps, solar-powered lights, and thick blankets.

Glamping South Africa Canvas Collective
Basins and shower (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

An ensuite bathroom, with added privacy coming from a pulldown canvas screen, has basins with hot and cold running water, a rain shower, and a flushing toilet.

It's easy to forget you're in a tent, in the middle of a field, surrounded by rolling hills and winding valleys under a wide, piercing blue sky. The view through the mottled canvas stretching across the bathroom area is a good reminder.

Glamping South Africa Canvas Collective
The Field Kitchen fine-dining restaurant (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

The luxury extends to the Field Kitchen fine-dining restaurant, which serves a menu influenced by the surroundings. What's plated in the Overberg will be different to what's prepared in the Cederberg. The mobile glass, steel, and canvas cabin, with floor to ceiling glass walls, can accommodate all 20 guests at once.

Three-course meals are prepared by renowned chefs, like Mechell Spann, Greg Henderson, and Peter Goffe-Wood, when most tents are occupied. At other times, Stern and Lundy – supported by their dedicated kitchen staff – are behind the plates.

Glamping South Africa Canvas Collective
Chef Mechell Spann in the Field Kitchen (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

And while the tents and restaurant draw people in, a wood-fired hot tub blanketed under a cloud of steam piques the most interest, especially on a cold autumn evening. The tub's water is circulated by a carefully concealed and silent pump through pipes spiralled around a fire. Its steamy allure entices bathers as the sun dips behind auburn hills, giving way to the unadulterated night sky.

Glamping South Africa Canvas Collective
Breakfast at the Field Kitchen (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

The entire experience is priced at R6,500 per tent per night that accommodates two adults.

Finding scenic locations for this tented lodge isn't the hard part, says Lundy, who's well-travelled and has a bucket list of prime spots, but getting landowners to agree to Canvas Collective Africa setting up camp can be tricky.

Glamping South Africa Canvas Collective
Canvas Collective Africa founders Dez Lundy and Samara Stern (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

"I literally go and scout. I go to the farmer and ask if they're open to something," says Lundy, adding that use of the land is done according to a simple lease agreement with the owner.

"It's been a bit challenging. We thought it was going to be a bit easier. One thing we've struggled with is finding land because everybody, in this area, especially, says if there's [open] land, they're planting grapes."

Glamping South Africa Canvas Collective
Guests gathered around the firepit (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)
Glamping South Africa Canvas Collective
Canvas Collective Africa firepit (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Despite these challenges, Canvas Collective Africa has secured three locations – Overberg, Cederberg, and Tulbagh – on rotation for the next five years.

This continual movement allows new guests to experience different locations, learning more about the area's history and culture through interactive storytelling sessions led by knowledgeable locals. It also empowers communities, with Canvas Collective Africa hiring some camp staff from nearby rural towns.

"For me, everything runs around the experience. I want people to leave and think, 'gosh, that was incredible'," says Lundy.

"That's why me and Sam do this, we want to look after people. We want families to be happy, and grow, and learn."

Glamping South Africa Canvas Collective
Wood fired hot tub (Photo: Luke Daniel / Business Insider South Africa)

Canvas Collective Africa will be in the Overberg until the end of June, after which it will move to the Cederberg until the end of September, and lastly, to Tulbagh until mid-December.

Luke Daniel was a guest of Canvas Collective Africa.

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