However, with my recent (very) challenging trekking adventures to Everest Base Camp in Nepal and Machu Picchu in Peru, I didn’t really have a leg to stand on when it came to not joining my extended family on camping trips. And so, I vowed that the very next time a family camping trip was mentioned, I would agree to go along with it and embrace the experience in its entirety.
Fast forward to March 2018, when my father-in-law nearly fell over in shock when he casually mentioned camping in Sondela and I said, “Great, let’s do it!” I then proceeded to find a date that suited the whole family and make the booking myself. I vowed not to overthink the whole thing, and to just go with the flow – it’s not that I CAN’T rough it; it’s just that I don’t want to!
Let me be the first to say that camping at Sondela is not roughing it. Far from it! The entire venue has been structured around ensuring that everybody – from grandparents to parents to children – have absolutely everything they need to make sure they have the best possible stay. It’s all there at your disposal – you choose what suits you and your family.
My parents-in-law arrived a while before we did – and were blown away by the offers to help set up the tent and caravan as soon as they had parked the car. We had opted for private ablution facilities (such a win) and really enjoyed the private toilet, shower and outdoor sink with hot and cold running water. An onsite braai was ready and waiting for us (which was cleaned daily by the support staff), and firewood, firelighters and charcoal were readily available at the café-style shop near Reception.
The facilities are SPECTACULAR – both cold and heated pools, a farmyard where children can feed the goats, free roaming sheep, horse riding, quad bikes, zip lines, game drives, daily entertainment and games, jungle gyms, and so much more. The BEST part for us was the freedom the children had to cycle, rollerblade, skateboard and play. My 12-year old and her friend only spent time with us when they needed food (or money) – and collapsed into their sleeping bags at 8pm having spent the entire day cycling and swimming. They had one of the best holidays ever – because of that freedom and the variety of activities on offer.
My 5-year old was equally happy with an abundance of aunts and uncles to play with. She fed goats, went on game drives, swam for hours, played on the playground – and even had her very first horse riding experience (and now wants lessons!) The very patient stable manager, Challenge, was so patient with her and helped her overcome her fear of horses. We went from excitement to floods of tears (when she was on the horse and wanted to get off) to a stunning outride where she chatted happily to Challenge, and now firmly maintains it was the highlight of her trip.
For me – having reviewed countless venues over the years – the standout feature of Sondela is the staff. I couldn’t fault them! The venue had NO idea that I was writing a review, so I was treated no differently from anyone else. Whether going on a game drive or horse ride, quad biking or ordering a cappuccino, the levels of service were spectacular.
And so is the pricing. We paid around R600 per night for the stand, the various activities are surprisingly inexpensive, with many free offerings like the pool, entertainment and game drive.
Some of the more active members of the family also went for a 22km off-road cycle and came back filled with stories of how they rode through a herd of giraffe! My sister-in-law also went for a 7.5km trail run and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I also love the fact that there is an onsite restaurant and pizzeria (perfect for those not wanting to face dirty dishes), and great for when lazing by the pool and needing a snack or drink.
There are also chalets – for those not wanting to camp – comfortable, fully kitted out, and with the added bonus of buck arriving at your froth door demanding to be fed.
The bottom line is that we will be back – and soon. My sister has now booked for the coming weekend, friends will be going in winter, and we are already looking forward to our next visit.
Thank you, Sondela – for giving our family memories we won’t forget in a hurry!
*This review was not sponsored, we paid for the trip in its entirety and all views are my own.*
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