Of all the countries we have been to, I would have to say that South Africa offers some of the best examples of backpacking accommodation that we’ve stayed in. Many of them are more like resort properties than they are hostels. The locations range from large rural properties to city buildings, but they all seemed to provide everything a backpacker needs. The common amenities are self catering kitchens or optional cheap meals, internet rooms, or full wireless, a bar, laundry services, game and movie rooms, dorm and private accommodation and tour and activity options. Many of the ones we stayed at went above and beyond these basics, some had indoor or outdoor pools, BBQ’s, and gardens. We stayed at a few places where we were welcome to use fresh herbs to cook with. Some of the hostel locations have amazing views that are worthy of a five star resort setting.
Big Blue Backpackers, Capetown
Big Blue Backpackers is in a restored historical building within walking distance of Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. It has a bar, pool tables, an outside patio, a kitchen for self catering, an internet cafe and even a swimming pool. We had many nice evenings sitting around the bar talking to fellow travelers. The entire hostel including the dorm rooms were immaculately kept. Our private double room and ensuite was nicer than many hotels we have stayed in.
Capetown Backpackers, Capetown
We came back to Capetown again after exploring nearby areas. We stayed at a hostel with a different location called Capetown Backpackers. It is closer to the shopping and restaurants of Long Street. Capetown Backpackers has the best of both worlds. There are two separate buildings, one with dorm rooms and another building with private rooms, which we stayed in. Both buildings have self catering kitchens and bars. Our building had a large open concept room to hang out in. There are comfy couches and a bar area with stools to sit and chat over a drink or watch a sports game on t.v.
The building with the dorm rooms has more of a party atmosphere. If we wanted a more upbeat evening we would head over there. A young Xhosa girl that worked there went by the name Mame Fefe. One evening we had the option to join in a traditionally cooked Xhosa dinner that she was preparing. For a few dollars each we got to try some homemade Xhosa bread and a rice and bean dish that was delicious. Mama Fefe is one of those unforgettable people with a vibrant personality and positive outlook on life. You couldn’t help but have some of her energy rub off on you.
Sondzela Backpackers, Mlilwane, Swaziland
Many people end up going to Swaziland as part of their travels in South Africa, so we felt it was appropriate to include this place in the list. Sondzela Backpackers is one of our favourite places that we have stayed at, and certainly the most unique. It has been referred to as the Rolls Royce of backpackers, it sits in the Sondzela Wildlife Reserve. The main building has a self catering kitchen and a large sitting room. There are dorm rooms available and private rondavels. Our accommodation was in one of the rondavel huts that sat further down on the property. We had views overlooking a vast part of the nature reserve. In the morning we would wake up to different kinds of deer, bucks and warthogs grazing outside of our room. You can walk or drive around the huge piece of property and view all kinds of game, including zebra and even crocodile in and along the water.
Inkosana, Winterton In The Central Drakensberg
This was another favorite backpackers. Inkosana Backpackers has a great laid back atmosphere and is situated on a large piece of property. There were gardens full of colourful flowers. Our accommodation was in a private rondavel. Dorm rooms are also available in the main building. Inkonsana has all the usual amenities that we had become accustomed to in a South Africa backpackers. There was a large common area, and one of the best kitchens provided for self catering. We enjoyed sitting outside and taking in the beautiful mountain views and sunsets.
Away With The Fairies, Hogsback
Away With The Fairies is a backpackers right out of a story, almost literally. It is said that J.R. Tolkein had visited this area during his youth and that it might be part of the inspiration for the Lord Of The Ring trilogy.
The common areas of the backpackers as well as the dorm and individual rooms are all painted with elves, gnomes and other fairytale like characters. It sits a large piece of property that you can walk around while enjoying all the trees and native plants. The backpackers is perfectly situated to to be the starting point for a number of hikes in the area.
At the time of our stay the hostel had employed a recently graduated chef. For a reasonable price you could choose from a select number of entrees that he would prepare for the evening meal. I have never had such gourmet food at a hostel before. We ordered a vegetarian stack that had layers of eggplant, mashed potatoes, portobello mushroom and several other vegetables. It was mouthwatering. The most impressive feat was the chef prepared these 5 star meals in the most basic kitchen. It had a minimal amount of space, and a very limited amount of cookware and utensils.
We really enjoyed eating our meals and having an evening drink with the other travelers. The common area was set up with several long picnic tables. It made for a cozy and intimate atmosphere for getting to know everyone.
Bomvu Paradise Backpackers, Coffee Bay
Sometimes a place is special because of nothing to do with the actually accommodation or property itself. Bomvu Paradise Backpackers gave us one of the most insightful experiences into the local culture. We had an evening with traditional African drumming and Xhosa dancing. The atmosphere was so much fun at this hostel that travelers from another place down the road were coming to spend their evening here.
Have you stayed at another exceptional or unique backpackers in South Africa that you want to share?