Fran (British) and Steph (Valaisan) met in 2008 in Chad. In 2018 – ten years, three more humanitarian missions, two kids and a chocolate labrador later – we decided to leave the aid sector and return to Switzerland. We opted for Valais – nearer Steph’s family and, we hoped, with a better work/life balance in the amazing nature the Canton has to offer.
Every weekend we were up in the mountains – mostly the Val d’Hérens, from where Steph’s family comes. And every weekend we said to ourselves, there is so much to do here! We spent a while exploring different possibilities, mostly in the tourism sector, but we quickly realised the fastest way we could do something a bit creative and actually hope to make a living was to take on a full-size campsite… So that’s what we did!
Camping Grand-Paradis to Alp Safari
So we started looking for a campsite. Searches showed up only one site – the Camping Grand Paradis at Nax in the very centre of Valais. Luck, fortune, coincidence, fate meant it was situated at the very edge of the Val d’Hérens, halfway between Sion, our home, and Saint-Martin, Steph’s ‘commune d’origine’. Best of all, it is (we think) the best campsite in the entire Canton, sat at over 1,000m altitude with spectacular, sun drenched terrasses facing south-west down the Rhône valley and across to Bernese Alps.
It was built in its entirety over 40 years ago by the Mayor Family, from Bramois, who ran the Camping Grand-Paradis until February 2021. When we purchased the site, almost all the pitches had been taken over by long-term tenants and the restaurant and swimming pool management was outsourced.
The younger Mayors told us of the summers during the Grand-Paradis’ heydays when Dutch, German, Belgian families rubbed up alongside the Swiss campers throughout the site, and they helped their grandparents in the restaurant. We are hoping to recreate a similar sense of outdoor freedom, where kids can roam barefoot morning to night and language is irrelevant to communicating!
As of February 2021, we began a renovation programme that will likely take some years to complete – so far, we have focused on setting up our fabulous safari tents, updating the restaurant, renewing the swimming pool, replacing the playground, and expanding toilet and shower facilities.
Longer-term, we aim to ‘rewild’ the site with indigenous plants and trees, revisit the restaurant structure, and explore options that allow us to offer glamping and van camping services all year round – because just above us at Mont-Noble, Nax has some fabulous ski pistes…
Alp Safari Camping & Glamping
Today Alp Safari is home to a dozen glamping safari tents and around 30 camping pitches for tents, vans, car-tents, caravans and camper-vans. Laid out over almost 30,000m2 of Southwest-facing “terrasses”, it’s perfect for spectacular alpine sunsets down the Rhone valley (and no one has to watch the neighbours).
Alp Safari is deliberately encouraging the vegetation to return to a more natural state – in just two summers, we are seeing more wild flowers, more birds and more bees! Just below the heights of the alpine forests, we have a mix of birch, ash and wild cherry trees that ensure natural shade for almost all the camping pitches, and are surrounded by farmland or fallow fields and trees. You might get woken up by the birds, and over summer months you will definitely hear the the cow-bells of the young cows in the fields below.
In low season when it’s quieter, you might spot the odd deer or fox. And at any time of year, it’s a great place for stargazing.