Camping Near Johannesburg | Mountain Sanctuary Park

Looking for your next outdoor adventure? If you’re in the Johannesburg area, it can sometimes feel like immersing yourself in nature is out of reach. At least, that’s how I had been feeling. Little did I know that a gem was sitting less than two hours outside of the city. Mountain Sanctuary Park is a nature reserve embraced by the Magaliesberg Mountains. You can glamp in the cabins or go camping, which is what I did. Either way, it is definitely worth a visit, and here’s why…

Camping is closer than you think.

I really love camping and being out in nature. It’s part of the reason that I chose to study in Cape Town. When I came back to Johannesburg, it felt like I couldn’t do those things anymore because…well…it’s not as visible. If you’re in Cape Town and waking up to the sight of a mountain and the ocean a few minutes away, it’s pretty damn obvious that you have access to amazing camping and outdoor activities. 

girl sitting mountain sanctuary park pools

Contrast that with Jozi and its concrete jungle. Nature can feel pretty far away. 

However, this is deceptive. There are plenty of options just outside of the city if you look for them. Mountain Sanctuary Park is just one of those many options but I must say, I am glad we went with Mountain Sanctuary over the others. It was glorious. If you don’t care about the facilities and just want to get to the juicy bits of my trip, you can skip to The Water.

waterfall mountain sanctuary park camp

The Deets

Mountain Sanctuary Park is a little under two hours outside of Johannesburg, in the North West. Honestly, the drive went really quickly and it was actually quite beautiful.

The campsite and its facilities are great. I was personally really comfortable but I guess we all have our own definitions of comfortable. Nonetheless, here are a couple of things you should know about the facilities and the park in general:

  • There is signal.
  • Ablution facilities were clean and did provide toilet paper.
  • Hot water was available for showers.
  • Some campsites provide plug points but this needs to be requested.
  • The website is a bit outdated so the prices may be slightly different.
  • The shop sells basics like firewood and water but really not much more than that so you should definitely come prepared. It’s pretty much the opposite to Beaverlac.
  • No noise allowed.
  • There is a restaurant but it does not operate every day.
  • There is a swimming pool.

The Water

It wouldn’t be an epic camping trip without waterfalls or some pools, am I right? Thankfully, Mountain Sanctuary Park has both! With just a little bit of hiking, you’ll get to the slide pools. As the name suggests, you’re supposed to be able to slide on them but it was a little bit too dry for us when we went. Although that was kinda bleak, how can you be upset with a view like this?

mountain sanctuary park pools for camping

If that wasn’t enough, they also have the West Pools and the small waterfall by the Grotto. The West Pools are stunning and perfect for lounging around or going for a quick dip every now and again.

mountain sanctuary camping west pools

When the animals come out to play.

So obviously everyone knows that when you’re going camping or hiking or generally just spending time outdoors in South Africa, you need to be mindful of the dangers. Most of the time everything is perfectly fine and you don’t even see the dangerous snakes and spiders etc.

But you know, 2020 just hadn’t been spicy enough yet so it decided to add a little extra for our camping trip. Let’s start with the mildest and work our way up, shall we?

Our camp was frequented by monkeys and baboons throughout the trip and while they were mostly fine, it was definitely a little bit of a struggle. Turn your back for a second and your dinner will be snatched. This isn’t even a joke, it actually happened to some people. We saw some baboons running off with a chunk of meat after hearing some pretty upset shouts from a few camps over. Also, our neighbours had their Tupperware of rusks stolen on their first day. Basically a South African’s worst nightmare…

Thankfully, all we lost was an avocado to a cheeky monkey.

rock landscape camping

So we survived the monkey and then I had a little run-in with a sac spider. I say run-in as if it was casual but honestly, I was kak scared. I’m usually pretty good with spiders since we have so many in our garden but this thing was different hey. Firstly, it looks sinister as all hell, it is highly venomous and it was inside our tent. I don’t know how it got inside. The only way I can think of is that it must’ve been on me when I crawled into the tent. Which didn’t exactly soothe my nerves. So after a lot of tossing clothes and things outside the tent, I finally managed to scoop it out with a pot, and luckily, that was the end of it. 

mountain sanctuary landscape camping

But wait…there’s more. The irony of this situation is brilliant. We had spent our whole first day walking off the trail and just cutting through the wild bush…somehow unscathed. After spending some time at the West Pools, we headed back to camp on the path. Mind you, one of the most walked paths. We heard a little rustle about 2 meters away from us and turned to see a snake slithering past. As you can imagine, we didn’t exactly linger on that one. That’s my polite way of saying that we power-walked the hell out of there REAL quick.

You may also like: Beaverlac Campsite Review

mountain sanctuary camping sunset

We had only seen the tail of it but we were curious about what snake it had been, so we stopped by the office to ask about it. We gave our description to the woman there and without a moment’s hesitation, in the most casual voice, she says: “Oh yeah, that was a Mozambican spitting cobra.”. Oh, how grand. Another f***ing spitting cobra. For context, that was the third cobra I had seen in the space of eight months. But in those eight months, it’s not like I had gone on a lot of camping trips or anything. It had been three cobras in just two trips. WTF 2020! At least the first two had been spotted from the safety of a car.

Honestly, this year is so wreckedy wrecked that I’m just glad I wasn’t bitten by anything. Gotta take the wins when you can.

The Verdict

All in all, it was an incredible trip and I would highly recommend Mountain Sanctuary Park. However intimidating they were at the time, I think our little nature run-ins only made the trip more memorable. Definitely the best way I could’ve celebrated turning 23. 

girl walking by camping pools
camping fire
man on rocks while camping


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