Over the Easter holidays my husband, our two young boys and I went camping with a large crew of families, including 13 kids between us. This was a pretty big thing for us, considering that we are most definitely not campers, have very little camping equipment or know-how, and in fact don’t even own a tent! (although my dad’s tent has somehow managed to find permanent residence in our garage.)

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We’ve had some interesting camping experiences, and all seasoned campers would relate  to the camping trip cliches we’ve fallen victim to including encounters with monkeys, toilet disasters or even the ultimate rookie error of leaving the tent poles behind.

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After considering all of the above, I find myself asking the question – why would anyone do this? Leave a perfectly solid and waterproof home in exchange for a flimsy tent, where making a cup of coffee or a bowl of cereal can be an exercise of logistics? Or trade in a dry, comfortable and cosy bed for a wafer thin rubber mat or blow up mattress? I don’t profess to have all the answers but for us, it is 100% for our kids.

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Many experienced campers will tell you that they camp because they grew up camping and the memories, special moments and family bonding time are what they’d like to give their families too. My boys still speak of a trip when we unknowingly camped next to train tracks and had a  train thundering past at 11pm and 4am daily, shaking the very ground we slept on. They loved it. And as adults, the excitement and thrill of such a trip is what they will remember. To this day, they still ask when we can go back.

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On our most recent camping foray, it rained torrentially – 18mm of every kind of rain in a single day and whilst you may not find 18mm cause for concern in a comfy brick home, man do you feel it in a tent. It didn’t bother our kids one bit – they played in the rain and the mud while the adults sipped coffee, dunked Ouma’s rusks and tried to look on the bright side of things.

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When it wasn’t raining, we barely saw our kids. They were too busy surfing, rowing boats, riding bikes, ramping wagons on speed bumps, jumping on trampolines, swimming, chasing ducks, making sandcastles and collecting crabs by torchlight. And THAT’S what they will remember, as well as the friendships made.

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Camping has always been a hugely popular past -time for people visiting the Dolphin Coast. In Ballito, tourists have enjoyed the Ballito Caravan Park and the Salt Rock Caravan Park for the better part of 40 years and the latter is situated quite literally on the beach, overlooking the Salt Rock tidal pool, offering campers the most breath-taking veiws of North Coast sunrises. Over the years, countless families have enjoyed these magic destinations, not to mention the lasting memories and lifelong friendships made.

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For unseasoned campers like us  (and I have no doubt that there are many families out there just like us), the idea of camping, although somewhat daunting at first, should be an opportunity to step outside one’s comfort zone and relish every bit of our beautiful North Coast.

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As locals, we’ve now set our sights on the likes of Zinkwazi and Mtunizini both less than an hour from Ballito and by all accounts, unbelievable camping destinations. We’ve taken every opportunity to learn from past experiences and make sure that the next time around, our camping diary will be filled with many more special memories, enough tent poles and fewer rookie errors than before.

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Editors Note: If this tale has inspired in you a camping wanderlust of sorts, we have a variety of options you can try right here on the North Coast. For the faint-hearted among us, there are always cabin or chalet alternatives so you can ease into your new-found hobby with the grace and poise of one well-versed in the outdoor arts.  
The Ballito Holiday Resort (Caravan Park) offers campsites, as well as log cabins, chalets and rondavels. You can get more info here – http://dolphinholidayresort.co.za/accommodation

Salt Rock Caravan Park As mentioned above, a great location with a beautiful view overlooking the Salt Rock tidal pool! Self-catering chalets are also available and you can go here to view your options and rates – http://www.saltrockbeach.co.za/caravan%20park.html

And for those looking to venture further a field

Mtunzini Get in touch with nature at the unspoilt paradise that is Umlalazi Nature Reserve. The Reserve) offers accommodation in self-catering chalets and camp sites as well as picnic sites and a network of trails where visitors can view a wide range of wildlife. You can find more information here – http://www.mtunzini.co.za/umlalazi.htm

Zinkwazi Zinkwazi Lagoon Lodge is a beautiful coastal location approximately 30km from Ballito with a lodge, chalets and a forest camp site available. You can get more info here – http://www.zinkwazilagoonlodge.co.za/