We’ve all had those moments on the road, when you’re caught short, everywhere is booked out and you can’t find anywhere to stay. Next up in our Resfeber Chance-taker series, our friend Natalie, tells us about her unique experience of a first time booking… AT A NUDIST CAMP.
Who: I’m Natalie, a New York City native who has travelled the world with her husband, Jackson, a kiwi and musician. I am an exploration-loving writer for A Pair Of Travel Pants, which is where I write about tips and adventures from the road. You can also follow our adventures on Instagram.
Sun’s out; buns out, baby!
I’ll make this clear before we begin: we are not nudists…
Look. Do we like FKK (naturist) beaches in small, private coves on the Adriatic? Yes. Because how else are you going to get the best tan of your life? Sun’s out; buns out, baby!
So, there we were in South Africa trying to find a place to camp for a few days before heading back into Pretoria. We were looking last-minute and everywhere we were checking was either full or too far away.
Jackson looks up from his computer, hesitates, and says: “What if we stayed at a nudist resort for a few days?” I was taken aback. We have no experience with naturism! We’d been to nude spas in Germany, sure, but to be fully bare-backed in the wilds of South Africa while camping? I don’t know.
Nowhere To Stay
Jackson shrugged. “We’ve been looking for 20 minutes and I can’t find anywhere else to go! We could book one night and if we don’t like it we can get out of there? It might be a good blog post!”
It was at that moment that the proprietor of the camp we were currently staying in came to see how we were finding the WiFi signal. This old grandpa really took us under his wing and made sure we were comfortable while spending two days on his property.
His sun creased face and smile lines were very comforting and fatherly. I didn’t want him to know what we were discussing, feeling as if my parents had walked into my room while on the phone with my friend talking about sex.
Assuring Mr. Grandpa we were quite comfortable, I turned back to Jackson: “Okay.” (He was right, we couldn’t find anywhere else!) “But, let’s only commit to one night to see how we find it.” I felt suddenly full of shame and eagerness, I doubt Mr. Grandpa would approve of this. This is REALLY going off the beaten track for us! A splash into the unknown!
Off the Beaten Track
Several hours later we bumped over the corrugated roads toward the gated, barbed, monitored entrance to our Naturist Resort. The female voice I had spoken to on the phone a few hours ago to check for vacancies greeted us on the intercom and opened the gate. In large letters near the entrance it stated: “DO NOT ENTER UNLESS YOU’VE SEEN THE GATE CLOSE BEHIND YOU.”
All was quiet as we drove up the winding driveway until suddenly: butts. Butts, boobs, johnsons and a whole lot of tan greeted us at the reception. Oh, we were in it, friends.
The woman at reception welcomed us by standing up in her chair and shaking hands. I wanted to be cool so I
desperately tried not to look at her massive, naked breasts as she shook my hand.
“Welcome to our Naturist haven!” She crooned. “My friend will show you around.” She gestured to another naked woman who had just walked in.
I didn’t know where to rest my eyes. I felt like an idiot: on the one hand very aware of how clothed I was and also how unclothed the women around us were.
But, wait, were those pearls? Woman #2 (let’s call her Miss Pearls) was wearing pearls and nothing else! I felt like complimenting them because that’s what you do in clothed society, but I didn’t. Just be cool, Nat!
We were led around the compound by Miss Pearls: here’s the pool, here’s the bar, that’s where you can buy food, blah blah blah. We were greeted by smiles as other naked adults sauntered around the grounds. I felt very conspicuous because of my clothing. Miss Pearls showed us to the camp site and told us where the bathrooms were. After we pulled the car around she politely reminded us that this was not a clothing optional camp and that you indeed needed to be naked at all times unless you get chilly.
We nodded like the new kids at a grade school being told that they had to be in their classrooms when the bell rang. Miss Pearls assured us that we could ask her any questions we had and then walked back toward her home (she lives there full time!).
When do we take our clothes off?
Jackson and I stood looking at each other for a while. When do we take our clothes off? Right here on the grass? Do we, I don’t know, go into the bathroom to change? What’s the protocol here? I went to the car to pull out our tent and unload our sleeping options. Jackson started pulling off his clothing.
“Wait. Should we be doing that before or after we erect the tent?” I asked, holding the nylon and panicking.
“Everyone else is naked; it feels like we should be too.” He said, glancing around and hesitantly stepping out of his pants.
I dropped the tent and tentatively pulled off my clothing, trying to look cooler than I felt. Naked, I looked at the unpopped tent and freaked. I’m going to erect a tent butt-naked!
The receptionist ambled over to us after we’d made camp. She was a massive amount of flesh holding a walkie-talkie.
“Hey! I wanted to see how you all were doing?”
“Fine!” I chirped, totally sans-clothing. I tried to seem nonchalant, but I felt pretty badass that I had figured out how to take my clothes off on a lawn in broad daylight and had not died of shame.
“Great!” She exclaimed. “Dinner will be served at 6pm at the bar if you’d like to eat. Feel free to enjoy the pool but bring lots of sunscreen.” She said smiling, clearly noting our snow-white, pasty areas.
Ok, so it’s one thing to be naked in a spot you’ve been naked before, but to then walk across a campground naked, through the reception center and then to the pool totally naked is an entirely new experience for me.
I wanted to pull the towel around myself, but I also didn’t want to look like the noob I was, so I casually draped it over a shoulder. I thought being without clothes would be easier! In fact, if you aren’t used to it, anything other than your skin becomes burdensome. You have no pockets. You have no buffer between your skin and your bag! I was suddenly aware of my hair like I had never been before.
Ah, now this was more like it! I could jump into the pool, cool off, then sunbathe without any annoying bathing suit sticking to me! The other people at the pool were really nice, smiling and waving as we came in. A couple of people came over to introduce themselves. We ordered a beer each and relaxed in the sunshine.
By the time we were done poolside I was getting used to this whole naked thing. We walked back to our tent to…what? Change for dinner? Old habits die-hard.
Don’t Forget Your Towel!
At a nudist camp, you MUST carry a towel with you at all times to sit on when you take a seat. This is to avoid any unnecessary grossness. Walking into the bar naked holding nothing but our wallets and a towel each felt super weird. We sat in our bar chairs and watched the Formula 1 on TV while eating goat curry. Didn’t have to worry about staining any clothing!
Not too long after we’d eaten, a boisterous group of South Africans walked in. The quiet bar suddenly turned raucous. Jackson and I kept to ourselves, watching the group interact as they bought themselves round after round of beers and shots. One of them noticed us.
“Hey! What you guys drinking?” A sweet looking blonde asked.
“Hard cider!” I replied.
A quick note about South Africans: they can DRINK. They’ll guzzle beer like it’s water and shoot shots like the world is on fire. If you get caught up with them, they’ll make sure you drink just as much. Having gotten hammered with a group of South Africans only a few days prior to this while in Botswana, we knew what was coming.
We moved to a larger table with the group, away from the bar, whilst chugging beers and getting to know each other. The guy on my right was wearing a red baseball cap. Across from me was the sweet blonde who sat next to a very beautiful, young-looking curly-haired woman. After asking about who we were I began questioning the new-comers and providers of our drinks.
The Blonde introduced herself as a long-time member of the nudist camp. “That’s my son.” She said, pointing to the red-hatted guy on my right. I almost choked.
“Your… son!?” I asked. “You guys come here together naked!?”
Red Hat looked amused. He’d clearly gotten this reaction before. “I grew up coming here.” He stated. Silly me: I should have known that it’s totally normal to go out drinking while naked with my parents…
“I have 3 kids and they all grew up here.” The Blonde followed up. She looked really proud of this. I nodded, totally agog. “I have to be honest,” I stammered. “I would never go out naked with my parents.” Red Hat smiled and shrugged. “I don’t even think of it.” He said, getting up for another round of drinks.
Behind the Blonde and Curly-Haired women, two naked dudes were playing pool. The Blonde pointed to the massive, bearded guy taking a shot a the 8-ball. “That’s my husband.” She said. “A real family event, huh?” I stated. “And you are the sister?” I directed toward the curly-haired woman. She giggled. “No. Just a friend of Red Hat.”
“She’s 17!” The Blonde blurted.
Curly-Hair took another shot and then lit a cigarette like she’d been boozing and bar-hopping since she was 10. I was, again, totally dumb-struck. “You’re seventeen?” I asked.
…Isn’t the legal drinking and smoking age 18 in South Africa? I didn’t ask. I doubt anyone would have cared.
Curly-Hair nodded, looking proud. “Man. I would never have come to a nudist camp at 17.” I said. Trying to think of something to say. “I would have been way too embarrassed!”
Curly-Hair giggled. “I was pretty scared when I first came.” She said, taking a swig of beer and then stubbing out her cigarette. “I walked around topless, but with my underwear on. Everyone kept trying to take my panties off! Haha. It’s my second time here and now I don’t care anymore.”
I glanced at Jackson who seemed as shocked as I was.
“You guys nudists?” The Blonde asked.
“Actually, it’s our first time at a nudist resort.” Jackson explained.
“We’re just trying it out.” I followed up.
The night got weirder before it (finally) ended because the bar was closing and the naked lady behind the counter wanted to go to bed.
While imbibing, our crowd got rowdier and rowdier. Mr. Pool Player kept coming over to fondle his wife (The Blonde) in front of Red Hat (their son). The 17-year-old kept getting up for another round of drinks for the table as another couple joined us (they seemed completely unperturbed by anything happening).
Eventually, Mr. Pool Player got so drunk he started to hit on the 17-year-old in front of the Blonde causing Red Hat to get up and start hitting him in the back of the head, admonishing him in Afrikaans.
Jackson and I sat and watched this all unfold like it was some weird dream we had walked in to. Is this what life is inside a nudist camp: naked people getting drunk and hitting (literally and figuratively) on each other?
I went to bed (after pulling on my clean underwear and PJ’s because: old habits) that night feeling really strange and assuring myself that, no, I was not a part of this world, I was just a tourist like in any other foreign location. …Right?
This was us taking a dip at the end of the “Strip Tease Trail” in South Africa. We do enjoy a good skinny dip, but maybe not being naked all day every day.
I can assure you that the next day (and the next night we decided to stay) turned out to be far tamer and way more laid back than that first evening at the bar. The family left the next morning and Jackson and I were left with a near empty camp full of people interested only in improving their tan by the pool before drinking a bottle of wine for lunch.
The only weirdness was trying to buy meat for the BBQ we wanted and standing in the little market stark naked while deciding what cut of meat to thaw for dinner (that’s a strange feeling!).
Jackson and I got asked a lot if this was something we did often and we would politely reply with “no”.
Are You Converted?
Like joining a church, we were told about all the wonderful benefits of being naked, where in the world we could go to get naked again, and how long the people we were talking to had been naturist enthusiasts themselves. Some couples would tell us that they would plan their vacations around places they could get naked in, spending weeks on end not wearing a shred of clothing.
We’d nod politely, listening to their stories. I mentioned that the next destination on our itinerary was Morocco and would get a chuckle “Oh, don’t get naked there! They’d throw you in jail for that! Haha.” Yeah. Don’t worry about us. I think we’re done with this for a while.
Would we go back to a nudist camp again? The short answer: No.
After hours of wearing nothing but my birthday suit I longed for the feel of cotton underwear at the end of the day. I like pulling on different clothes to bookend the different stages of my day! I was glad for not creating a lot of laundry, but ultimately: I think I’d rather wear my clothing when travelling.
You can read all about Nat & Jackson’s (often hilarious) adventuring over on their blog, A Pair of Travel Pants. It’s well worth a following.