“I Went To A Nudist Camp For The Weekend — This Is What It Was Like”

It's totally NOT what you think...


Susan Barrett |

Trust me, when you casually tell people you’re going to a nudist camp, the reactions are hilarious. But, saucer eyes and sniggers aside, they also all have one thing in common: major misconceptions. Here’s what people think happens at a naturist weekend away – and what actually goes down…

Naturists Are Old, Fat And German

Oddly, I got this reaction the most – and, because of that, I’ll admit to extreme clammy-handed curiosity as we rounded the corner to our campsite. Though I was also catching a ride with a naturist, who, in his early forties, was ruggedly good-looking, well-built and very much an SA boytjie, so the theory was already on shaky ground…

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And what did I see when I finally peeped through my hand – well, besides a bunch of nudie campers, obvs. A mishmash of pretty ordinary people, same as you’d find at the mall. They were not all fat. They were not all old. They were just very, very naked – and, while I was confronted with what felt like 100 penises, I didn’t spot one weiner…

You’ll Never Be Able To NOT Stare

I did, however, scramble for the sunnies. Because I was gawping. I really was. But I’ve never seen a crowd of naked people before. I generally only see one naked person at a time – in a bedroom, made soft-focus by hormones.

Yup, I’m the girl plastered to the wall in the gym change room, switching tops with precision engineering and lightning speed. This, despite a colleague’s toilet-break Desensitisation Intervention: which, in the weeks leading up to camp, involved flashing her boobs at me and bouncing with all her might as she forced me to hold eye and a conversation. I failed every damn time. So, yes, in those first critical minutes, shades…

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But get this: By the time I’d set up my tent, my surrounds had started to feel eerily normal. I kinda felt like the creepy one. First step: I took off the sunglasses.

Nudist Camps Are For Pervs

I spent hours playing Uno under a tree with a bunch of nude men, and can safely say I’ve encountered more pervs at funerals and junior school concerts. Fact is, naturism has zero to do with sex, and guys tend to act far more leery when you’re DRESSED in a revealing way.

So what happens if you are genuinely attracted to someone? I mean, we’re all human. What I can tell you is that erections are not accepted. The guy won’t be lynched for it (because: shame), but he is expected to subtly remove himself from the situation. Plus: Small towels are standard expected kit (in case you want to swipe someone’s seat), so there’s that…

And, if you want to know, I did get hit on, but it was gentler. More careful and conscious. Because these guys are looking at your face. How’s that for a nice change?

There’ll Be An Orgy Happening In That Big Tent On The Corner…

Literally every person I spoke with pre-camp harboured this suspicion. I suppose I also wondered. Because how can you possibly have a group of naked people in one space without a nip of naughty. And if you add a nip of alcohol to that, I mean, come on!? Plus: This was a seriously private spot. Secluded. Ah, the things you could get away with…

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But no. The most debaucherous it got was a “dress-up” dance at the lapa after dark – and I felt so innocent, like I’d been transported back to my Standard Seven disco, slow-dancing at arm’s length from a boy I knew I liked a lot, but didn’t realise it had anything to do with my vagina.

And this after a morning yoga sesh and an afternoon’s gentle game of boulle. So ja, no time or inclination for orgies…

Nudies Are Mostly (Dirty Old) Men

Wrong again. While there were fewer women (probably because we’re not as good at self-lovin’ as guys), they were definitely there. And families. And pets. And what I found through quietly observing them: These gals are a giant step ahead of some of us. Because no matter their shape, size, no matter their age, whether they had stretch marks or saggy boobs or pimply bums or any of a gazillion small things we over-fret about, they weren’t hiding it. They were freakin’ rocking it. And the moment you do that, it somehow becomes less glaring. It’s a nothing. By exposing it, people are more likely to see past it. Sounds weird, but that’s what it felt like.

You’ll Never Actually Go Proper Nude

I did. Now I’m not saying I wasn’t terrified by the prospect, or that it was an easy thing to do, or that I didn’t have to build up to it over the course of an entire morning. But when the moment came, I was ready. I was also lucky to have another newbie with me – a girl chasing self-love and body-acceptance too.

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There I was, a 39-year-old with the butt of an old man. There she was, a 35-year-old with small baby-battered boobs. In a pool. Staring at each other. About to take it all off. And when we did… Wow. No words. Suffice it to say, that hysterical with happiness and drunk on liberation, stepping out of that water utterly naked is a moment that will stay with me forever. I was bursting with love for every single part of myself. I was proud of myself, and I’m defs going to tell my grandkids.

You’d Better Shave IT ALL

They called me fire bush. Because bar a superbug-type pubic lice outbreak that gets in your pants via handholding, nothing will get this lazy girl to shave off her hair. Besides, I like it. I’m small, so I feel like a kid without it. It’s not hot – for me. But I did worry in the days leading up – would I be the only one?

I needn’t have sweated. Nobody cared. But, so you know, yes, there were more fully shaved women – and men – than not. From trimmed to waxed within an inch of the day they were born, shaving IS a vibe at a nudist camp. Though I suppose it’s a vibe in general anyway.

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But I was so glad I stuck to MY vibe, because later on, I had a cool conversation. Me to my new liberation struggle partner: “I like your boobs.” Her to me: “I like your bush.” Lounging in our camp chairs, those simple sentences trumped years of “should I go to therapy?” thoughts. I think we both learnt to like our “bad” bits and odd preferences – and all it had taken was a Grand Naked Pool Exit and a mutual salute over a glass of cheap wine.

You’re Crazy…

Nah, I  don’t think going to a nudist camp is crazy. I think it’s crazy to be so intimidated by naked people and shamed by your own body that you can’t do it – at least once. It’s legit the most liberating thing I’ve ever done, and what I gained in those three days somehow counteracted almost everything I’d lost in my teenage years, a wholly unfounded embarrassment that was perpetuated through my twenties and reinforced in my thirties. Fancy falling in love with your body for the first time at 40… Seriously? It happened to me.

Keen to try it, or just want to know more? Check out the for a list of cool nudie activities (even naked bike riding!) and upcoming camps. For Gauteng and other provinces, visit the and click on your area.

Watch ON: Body Positivity Life Life Advice Real Women