South Africa's colder months are summer dialled down a notch, so forget tablets and TV and get outdoors, write Marchelle Abrahams and Sacha van Niekerk.
Timing is everything in winter. Some days are chillier than others but, overall, we have one of the best winters in the world. This makes it possible to spend a day at a dam or go fishing or zip-lining. In fact, the lower levels of humidity might make it the ideal time of year for some outdoor activities.
We’re also in such close proximity to nature that when you spot a quiet, sunny afternoon you can get into the car and make an outing of it.
This winter holiday think beyond the couch and keep your family active.
What lies below
Are you a fan of ancient architecture or an avid history buff? Figure of 8 tunnel tours takes you out of your comfort zone and beneath the Mother City’s streets. In the same vein as Discovery Channel’s popular Strip the City series, the Below the Surface tour explores underground tunnels with historical significance and offers interesting information on the city’s ancient water sources.
More info: 021 439 3329
To infinity and beyond
There’s no better feeling than the wind in your hair as you fly like a bird over some of Cape Town’s most famous landmarks. Signal Hill is the perfect spot for thrill-seekers. With majestic views that provide Instagram fodder for extreme selfies, it’s also the take-off spot for paragliding flights. Para Taxi offers tandem flights from Lion’s Head as well as Sir Lowry’s Pass.
More info: www.para-taxi.com
Acrobranch is a treetop experience dedicated to offering children and adults a different sort of adventure. With an adventure park in Constantia Nek, it boasts panoramic views of Constantia Valley and the surrounding mountains. Obstacle courses consist of treetop-high ropes and tricky crossings with ladders, tunnels, walkways and bridges.
More info: http://acrobranch.co.za/outdoor-activity-parks/cape-town-constantia/
Coasteering is the new adventure sport that is similar to mountaineering, but without the mountain. Just be prepared to don a wet suit and a personal flotation device, and dive into the Cape’s oceans to view the sea life up close and personal.
Gravity Adventures are the pioneers of coasteering in Cape Town. Its expeditions will have you exploring hidden coves and gullies near Boulders, swimming through kelp forests and, if you dare, tackle adrenaline-charged rock jumps.
Feeling a bit timid? Don’t worry, experienced guides and safety boats form part of the trip.
More info: 021 683 3698
Fun for the whole family
Tobogganing is a great activity for the entire family. Cool-Runnings’s 1.25km toboggan track in Tyger Valley is where speed freaks can reach 40km/* on a downhill steel half-pipe. It’s not for the faint-hearted, but it does bring out everyone’s competitive spirit - young and old.
All you do is steer and regulate your speed with the pulley system, but we guarantee after your first trip down, you’ll be testing your limits around those hairpin bends.
More info: 021 949 4439
A campaign called Welcome Outside is aimed at getting Joburg’s residents outside in the winter. Here are some ideas from them:
Do your exercise outside
Whether it’s a walk or a jog, as long as you wear layers of clothing and protect your skin, you can exercise outside.
Looking for a great location? Visit the James and Ethel Gray Park on Atholl Oaklands Road. The park is home to an assortment of feathered residents.
The Sandspruit River flows through 36 hectares, creating an attractive, tranquil atmosphere. Alternatively, visit Golden Harvest Park. Located on First Avenue, Northgate, this park is immaculate and features rolling walks around a dam and indigenous bushveld. The scenic park is a secret treasure about which many are unaware.
You might have heard it before, but there is no better time to enjoy animal life than in winter. The bushes thin out and lose colour, improving visibility considerably. Visit the Rietfontein Nature Reserve with your partner or family. It is the home of FreeMe Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, boasts a circular walking trail that is well maintained and is the perfect spot to sight the myriad birds there.
If you’re based in Roodepoort, Kloofendal, a cultural heritage and eco-tourism facility, is one of the first nature reserves in Joburg and offers a great escape from city life. The reserve has remains of early gold mining activities and is recognised as the first gold mine in Johannesburg. It is home to a number of small mammals such as reebok and dassie.
South Africa provides an exquisite habitat for a variety of colourful birds. Spectacular bird watching can be experienced almost anywhere in the country. One such place is the Cumberland Bird Sanctuary in Bryanston.
It boasts an incredible bird life, more than 80 different species, particularly well known for the pair of black Sparrow-Hawks that breed in the sanctuary. In the middle of Cumberland Bird Sanctuary is a small dam. There is also a picnic spot with tables and benches. Take your hot chocolate or coffee along with you.
Something for curious kids
Children are naturally curious and creative. By encouraging more outdoor play you will also be encouraging more physical activity.
Delta Park, between the suburbs of Blairgowrie and Victory Park, is the home of Delta Environmental Centre where a wide range of fascinating wildlife-related courses are offered to adults and children. There are also holiday programmes for children between the ages of six and 13. The courses are facilitated by professional staff. Alternatively, take the kids to Hyundai Sky Park in Sandton. This park is great for kids because it is well equipped with an interactive children’s play area.
If your kids prefer to run or kick a ball around, consider taking them to Innesfree Park, also in busy Sandton. It boasts lush green lawns, lots of trees, two dams and plenty of open space for picnics.
Due to its size, Innesfree Park often hosts large-scale events.
Take a bicycle ride
Take family or friends out on a bicycle ride at Zoo Lake, a favourite for many of Joburg’s residents. It also boasts the Coronation Fountain and is a popular spot for walking your dog and enjoying a meal at one of the restaurants or pubs.
Get in touch with nature
Despite a busy life, slow down and take the time to enjoy and appreciate the outdoors this winter. Visit Sandton Central Park. This park is small, intimate and in the heart of Sandton. It occasionally hosts live concerts and other events. The park has a grass amphitheatre, sculptured garden beds, indigenous trees, solar-powered lights, seating and a magnificent garden.
Sandton Central Park is the ideal spot to enjoy a quick coffee and lunch.
Visit Joburg Zoo
The zoo is one of the most popular family attractions in Joburg, with animals from around the world including those from the Amazon Basin, the Big Five, white lions and the aquarium.
Do a brewery tour
If you enjoy celebrating the end of a long day with an icy beer, a brewery tour might be the adventure you’ve been looking for. KwaZulu-Natal has an incredible beer route that offers a selection of beer brands, each with its own distinctive flavour.
Here are some of the spots to consider on your tour:
- Nottingham Road Brewing Company, the oldest surviving microbrewery in KwaZulu-Natal, just off the R103 on the outskirts of Nottingham Road village.
- Situated at 4 Wootton Ave in Botha’s Hill, Porcupine Quill Brewing Company has some of the finest craft beer in the country.
- Shongweni Brewery offers a range of locally brewed and globally inspired beer. Find it at Robsons, Shongweni Brewery Estate, Gillitts, B1 Shongweni Valley.
What’s more relaxing than reclining on camping chairs, beverage in hand and bonding over the serenity of waiting patiently for that first catch? KwaZulu-Natal has a variety of recreational fishing spots stretching from Kosi Bay in the north to Durban in the south. Make a day of it by braaiing and picnicking with the family.
Spend the day venturing over rolling hills, across natural and unpredictable terrain. Quad-biking tours are fun and are sure to hold lots of memories to last a lifetime. All levels of riders - from beginners to pros - are catered for. For contact details and more information visit the Dirty Boots webpage.
Horse riding at sunset
Rides along Zimbali Beach are a popular excursion for the novice or experienced rider alike. The unforgettable one-hour journey starts at the stables on the hill, through the indigenous forest and then on to the beach.
Contact Zimbali Horse Ride for bookings at 032 538 1007
The walk leads through 127m of the indigenous forest canopy of the Dlinza Forest (Eshowe). The 20m-high viewing platform offers incredible views from forest valleys to the hills beyond. Birds, insects and wildlife can be seen at close range.
Walk or run the two forest trails, passing towering trees supporting gnarled, twisted vines and indigenous orchids, where the rare Spotted Ground Thrush, Blue Duiker and some of the 80 species of butterfly can be seen.
For more info call 035 474 4029.
Something for adrenaline-seekers: microlight flights, leaving from Ballito Microlight School, are generally either 15 or 30 minutes long.
From above, you can the rolling fields of KwaZulu-Natal, the stunning coastline and, if you are really lucky, you might even spot dolphins, turtles or whales as you fly over the Indian Ocean and back again.
Bookings are essential so make sure to book at 082 659 5550.
Fly over the Sampoya River while taking in the breathtaking scenery of Esembe, Dolphin Coast. Clubventure’s 1.5km zipline tour is the adventure you’ve been waiting for.
Zipping from platform to platform, you’ll find that one of the the best was saved as one of the last items. After a leisurely nature walk to the top of a cliff, the first in the world, “Parazip” awaits you. Attached to a parachute, this zipline offers the illusion of parachuting down a mountain (with the safety of a harness).
Prices range from R200 to R500 a person. Make your booking by calling 032 942 8014 or 082 414 2448.
Geared up in goggles, get up close and personal with some of the most exciting creatures found off the KwaZulu-Natal coastline with uShaka’s Snorkel Lagoon. Float above the splendour of colour beneath you, as corals shine and fish gleam.
For more information or to make a booking, contact 031 328 8097.
Please note: All bookings must be confirmed via telephone the day before the activity.
Get on a bike
Bicycle Hire at Xpression on the Beach: Addington Beach, Durban
A stretch of beach, lined with palm trees and golden sand is aptly named The Golden Mile. Ride along the 6km of esplanade from uShaka Marine World to the Umgeni River at Blue Lagoon. The wide pavement that runs along the ocean is a cyclists dream.
For more, visit xpressiononthebeach.com