Local Getaways and Outings we Love
Just as we were all getting excited about the prospect of being able to travel more freely this festive season, Omicron came to spoil our fun.
Just because other countries have red-listed South African travellers (let’s not even dwell on the blatant discrimination against African countries) and we’ve been advised to avoid gathering in large groups, doesn’t mean we can’t still make the most of this wonderful time of year.
The good news is that South Africa has plenty to offer when it comes to escapes, so desperately needed after the year that's been.
To help get your creative/adventurous juices flowing, we’ve compiled a list of ten outings and escape ideas to try these holidays.
Visit West Coast Fossil Park
If you’ve always been fascinated by the prehistoric world of dinosaurs, mammoths and Neanderthals, West Coast Fossil Park is sure to pique your interest. Located near Langebaan (approximately 150km from Cape Town), the site is renowned for its exceptionally well-preserved fossil faunal remains that date back as far as 5.2 million years.
It’s almost uncanny to think that, at this time, animals such as saber-toothed cats, short-necked giraffes, hunting hyenas and African bears roamed the West Coast, which then had a subtropical climate with lush, riverine forests and open grasslands.
When visiting the West Coast Fossil Park, you’ll be able to visit an open dig site and feel the thrill of palaeontological discovery for a few moments. It is also home to a world-class Visitor Centre with an exhibition hall, restaurant and shop.
Cost: We highly recommend taking a guided tour, which costs from R100 Adult / R50 Children U18. You can also just visit the museum for R50 Adult/R30 Children U18. Also ask them about their kids' programmes that include digging for treasures and lots more.
Visit the West Coast Fossil Park website for more details. We recommend staying somewhere nearby and enjoying the renowned West Coast hospitality.
Go Cherry and Berry Picking
What could be more festive than a Christmas table groaning under the weight of beautiful, fresh, handpicked berries?
Fortunately, here in South Africa, it’s the perfect time of year to gather a harvest of your own!
When it comes to cherry picking, Klondyke Farm in Ceres goes the extra mile to offer guests a fun and memorable experience. They charge an entry fee of R30/adult, R15/child under 10 and under fives get in free. You can pick cherries to your heart’s content and only pay R70/kg!
If you’re in Gauteng, be sure to diarise 16 December 2021 (next Thursday) when the Field Berry Farm will be opening its gates for a day of Raspberry picking, frozen berry sale and a Christmas market. From January to April 2022, they will be open every weekend for berry picking.
If you’re visiting the Garden Route or based in Cape Town, why not take a little day drive out to the picturesque Overberg town of Swellendam and harvest your own blackberries and youngberries from Wildebraam? Entrance is R15pp and your pickings will only cost you R28/kg for blackberries and R38/kg for youngberries respectively.
Visit a botanical garden
Did you know: South Africa is home to no less than ten National Botanical Gardens? With an 11th on the way! There are currently three in the Western Cape (Kirstenbosch, Harold Porter and Karoo Desert) and two in Gauteng (Walter Sisulu and Pretoria) while the Northern Cape (Hantam), Free State (Free State), KwaZulu-Natal (KwaZulu-Natal), Mpumalanga (Lowveld) and the Eastern Cape (Kwelera) each have one. Limpopo’s Thohoyandou will be opening soon.
Each of these gardens has been designed to preserve and display local flora and, by default, have also become havens for birds and smaller mammals. If you’re looking for a break from all the festive season bustle and just want to centre yourself in nature for a few hours, visiting one of these botanical gardens will soothe your soul!
Plus, they’re great settings for impromptu photo shoots.
Take a scenic drive
Sure, the petrol price is nauseating at the moment, but if you’re starting to feel the cabin fever set in, rather splash out on a scenic drive than fall into a pit of despair.
Once again, we’re blessed with an array of incredible scenic routes and roads right across South Africa – no matter which province you find yourself in! So get started on the perfect road trip soundtrack, pack some padkos, a few friends and hit the road.
Some of our favourites include:
Chapman’s Peak in Cape Town (Western Cape)
Clarence Drive between Gordon’s Bay and Rooiels (Western Cape)
The Panorama Route (Mpumalanga)
The Genesis Route (Mpumalanga)
The Ribola Art Route (Limpopo)
The Midlands Meander (KwaZulu-Natal)
The Magalies Meander (Gauteng)
Port Elizabeth to Colesberg via Graaff Reinet (Eastern Cape)
The Quiver Tree Route (Northern Cape)
Golden Gate Highlands National Park (Free State)
Pilanesberg Nature Reserve (North-West)
If you find yourself driving along one of these scenic routes, you will most likely come across one of the many quaint dorpies (small towns) so typical of rural South Africa. Nothing beats small town hospitality and you are sure to find a good local padstal (food stall) or small locally run restaurant that will make for a feast to remember.
The pandemic has dealt a heavy blow to the local tourism industry and your support of small local tourism businesses will not only help save the industry, but will guarantee you a memorable experience far from the Covid-crowds.
Ten Dorpies we love:
Barrydale (Western Cape)
Pringle Bay (Western Cape)
Stanford (Western Cape)
Clarens (Free State)
Hogsback (Eastern Cape)
Kakamas (Northern Cape)
Nieu-Bethesda (Eastern Cape)
Nieuwoudtville (Northern Cape)
Nottingham Road (Kwazulu-Natal)
Explore the winelands by bicycle or on foot
If you’re in the Western Cape, you should know that no holiday is complete without a visit to the winelands.
This year, we suggest you keep things fresh and fit by opting for a walking or cycling tour.
Bites and Sites offers a range of guided walking experiences that connect you to the heart and soul of Stellenbosch’s food culture. Not only will they fill your belly with delicious treats, but you’ll also get to connect with locals, hear some fascinating stories and enjoy a day out in one of South Africa’s oldest and most beautiful towns.
Perhaps you’re more one for exploring on two wheels than your own two feet? Well, good news! Bikes ‘n Wines offers a range of guided cycling tours (including an Ebike option for those who really want to take it easy) in locations like Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Constantia, Cape Town and the Elgin Valley.
Treat yourself to high tea
It’s been a really tough two years for all of us and you know what? You deserve to kick back and indulge a little. And what could be more indulging than an afternoon high tea?
Gather your loved ones and forget just for a while that we are living through a global pandemic whilst enjoying delicate and dainty treats, sipping on a cup of tea or – even better – a glass of bubbly.
Some of our favourite high tea options include:
High Tea by the Sea at Twelve Apostles, Cape Town
Manor House Bistro at the Fairlawns Boutique Hotel & Spa, Johannesburg
High Tea in the Palm Court at Oysterbox, Umhlanga
High Tea at Hacklewood, Gqeberha
Traditional High Tea at La Motte, Franschhoek - Cape Winelands
Forage your own feast
Closely related to our idea of berry-picking mentioned earlier on, you can bring a bit of extra originality to your Christmas feast by offering a few freshly-foraged options.
If you’ll be spending your holiday by the Atlantic Ocean this year, we highly recommend signing up for a Coastal Foraging workshop with Veld and Sea.
Located at Good Hope Gardens Nursery in Cape Point, this course will introduce you to some of our local edible seaweed and allow you to explore the magical world of rock pools, meet like-minded people, learn how to sustainably harvest and prepare your macro-algae and shellfish as well as make various recipes together that will end in a feast.
Visit the Veld and Sea website for more details.
Luxury close to home
A large part of the world might have closed its doors to South African travellers, but you can have a once in a lifetime holiday experience not too far from home.
If you want to splash out and treat yourself to a little luxury then we can recommend any of these great local luxury escapes.
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve (Gansbaai, Western Cape)
Located just a couple of kilometres outside the whale-watching hotspot of Hermanus, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is a luxury eco retreat tucked between mountains and sea. It’s home to a melting pot of biodiversity, culture and natural wonder. During your stay, be sure to indulge in a nature-inspired spa treatment, get right up close to the fynbos during a horseback ride, and definitely don’t miss out on a marine safari.
Visit the Grootbos website for more details.
Schoone Oordt Country House (Swellendam, Western Cape)
This family-run (and family-friendly) property consists of 11 luxury bedrooms set separately from the picturesque Victorian-era Manor House.
It boasts an intimate Conservatory restaurant, lush gardens and a sparkling saltwater pool - perfect for keeping cool on those mid-summer days! Owner Alison Walker and her family’s passion for people, food, wine and the environment can be detected immediately upon arrival and completes this gorgeous Swellendam accommodation.
The emphasis at Schoone Oordt is on unpretentious unaffected luxury, elegance, quality, love and attention to detail. We aspire to make this evident in every aspect of your stay with us.
Lanzerac Hotel & Spa (Stellenbosch, Western Cape)
Steeped in history dating back to 1692, Lanzerac Wine Estate is a historic landmark and Stellenbosch icon. The grande dame is synonymous with old-world charm and rich Cape heritage. Positioned in the idyllic Jonkershoek Valley on the outskirts of the historical town of Stellenbosch, the Estate boasts views of dramatic mountain ranges, endless rows of lush vineyards and hectares of gardens shaded by giant Oak trees.
The recently-refurbished hotel offers individually styled rooms and suites that provide a perfect blend old grandeur and modern amenities. Treat yourself to a luxurious Lanzerac spa experience, indulge your senses at one of their superb dining outlets and don’t forget to enjoy some of their award-winning wines.
Visit the Lanzerac website for more details.
Great Fish River Lodge, Kwandwe Private Game Reserve (Eastern Cape)
Perched along the lush green banks of its namesake, Great Fish River Lodge has been designed to showcase the endless landscape in which it is set. Large viewing decks allow for a fully immersive experience in nature and are the perfect spot to watch majestic kudu meander down to the river for a drink, or enjoy an African sunset.
Visit the Kwandwe website for more details.
Tswalu (Kalahari, Northern Cape)
As South Africa’s biggest privately owned game reserve, Tswalu has an extremely low ratio of guests to space. This low-impact approach to ecotourism means that you’ll be one of no more than 28 guests with exclusive access to one of southern Africa’s last great wildernesses.
They have two luxury camps - Motse or Tarkuni. Motse is a luxury camp with nine private guest legae (Tswana for ‘home’); three are specifically for families, with two bedrooms. Tarkuni, located in a secluded valley below the Korannaberg mountains, is a private homestead with five bedrooms for the exclusive use of a multigenerational family or a party of friends.
Restaurant Klein JAN is a relatively recent addition to the Tswalu guest dining experience. Created by local Michelin-star chef, Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen and run by Tswalu’s executive chef, Marnus Scholly, it celebrates the culinary traditions, ingredients and regional produce of the Northern Cape with its seasonal menu.
Visit the Tswalu website for more details.
Leshiba Mountain Retreat (Soutpansberg Mountain, Limpopo)
Located on top of the Soutpansberg Mountains, 36km west of Louis Trichardt, Leshiba Mountain Retreat is a luxury private wildlife and eco tourism destination. When booking accommodation, you can choose between four diverse, but equally lush offerings: the Venda Art Lodge, The Farm House, Hamasha bush camp and Luvhondo bush camp.
Leshiba is Malaria free, part of the UNESCO Vhembe Biosphere Reserve and certified by Fair Trade in Tourism in South Africa.
Visit the Leshiba Mountain Retreat website for more details.
Jaci's Sabi House (Sabi Sands, Mpumalanga)
Jaci's Sabi House is an exclusive-use safari villa in the world-renowned Sabi Sand Reserve, Mpumalanga, South Africa. Accommodating only 6 guests at a time on a sole use basis, each stay is a bespoke safari experience, tailored to guests' every desire.
During your stay, you will be treated like royalty with your own private chef, private butler and private game drives. The idea is to be the architect of your day, design how you wish to spend your time. This is your house, revel in it.
Visit the Jaci’s Sabi House website for more details.
If you love the great outdoors, but not enough to sleep on the floor, go glamping! South Africa boasts some of the best glamping spots in the world set against the most spectacular natural backdrops you can imagine.
Africamps has a number of sites to choose from ranging from beautiful working farms, wine estates, and reserves. Their custom-designed boutique glamping tents are fully furnished with everything you need for a comfortable self catering stay – from the kitted kitchens, to the spacious showers and down duvets.
We love Africamps at Mackers in the lowveld between Hazyview and Sabie. It is the perfect base to explore the Panorama Route (God’s Window, 3 Rondavels, Bourke’s Luck potholes and the Blyde River Canyon are all spectacular sights worth a visit) and the Kruger National Park is just 30km away.
Now you can camp with a touch of glam without breaking the bank!
Have a happy and safe festive season and enjoy exploring our own beautiful country.