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Big South African trips to add to your bucket list

GARDEN Route. Picture: Supplied.

GARDEN Route. Picture: Supplied.

Published Mar 2, 2022

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When compared to the pre-pandemic period, searches for domestic flights increased by 294%, according to Cheapflights, a travel search service that compares flights, hotels, and rental vehicles.

Even while the Omicron variant may have hindered or restricted overseas travel, locals have not been stopped from travelling domestically, according to lodging establishments around the country.

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“While we were initially worried about bookings towards the end of last year, we were soon put at ease when we saw how many locals were interested in staying with us,” says Clinton Thom, General Manager of Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront.

“Our restaurant also reached maximum capacity most nights over these last few weeks and rooms have been fully booked.”

South Africans are more willing to spend their money in their own country. And, if you’re looking for your next big South African vacation, we have a few suggestions that you should consider.

The Kruger National Park

A trip to South Africa’s biggest game reserve is probably on many South Africans’ travel list. It is one of our most popular safari destinations.

The Kruger National Park is home to some of the most diverse wildlife and life forms on the continent. It is also home to many historical and archaeological sites.

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Visitors to the Kruger Park can opt to stay within the Park at SANparks accommodation. If you are looking to spoil yourself a bit though, you can try the highly rated Kruger Shalati: The Train on the Bridge.

Suspended over the Sabie River in the heart of the Kruger National Park, Kruger Shalati Train on the Bridge is truly a unique hotel offering. Accommodation is housed inside a restored and re-imagined train permanently located on top of the historical Selati Bridge.

Interestingly, Cheapflights reports that Hoedspruit in Limpopo and Nelspruit in Mpumalanga, the two areas from where you would access the Park, are two of the top trending destinations on their site.

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Franschhoek

Majestic mountains, rolling hills and crisp countryside air with a charming European atmosphere, the quaint town is hailed for being one of the oldest in the country. About 75km from Cape Town, it is the perfect distance for a day trip or spur of the moment weekend away.

The province is home to over 300 vineyards but in the Franschhoek region, there are 45 alone, spanning from stately and grand to rugged, homely and boutique. Regardless, each has its own personality, natural beauty and exceptional wines. The best time to visit is between January and May as the weather is pleasant and warm. However, accommodation prices vary during holidays and the festive season.

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Sun City

Sun City is one of South Africa’s most popular and well-known holiday resorts. Many of us have seen advertisements for it, and we’ve all fantasised of living our finest lives at the Valley of the Waves. This is the vacation for you if you prefer resort-style vacations with an exotic island feel.

There are numerous activities available. The entire family will be entertained all day, every day, with water rides, pools, a big maze, nightlife attractions, casinos, adventure activities, kids’ entertainment, and more. Within Sun City, there are a number of different lodging alternatives. Alternatively, you can plan lodging outside the resort and then take a day excursion or two into Sun City.

The Rovos Rail

Many of us have seen stunning train trips in the movies or on a travel programme. But did you know that you can do an internationally renowned train trip right here in South Africa?

The Rovos Rail is a luxury train service with a few journeys on offer. There is a four-day trip between Cape Town and Pretoria; a three-day journey between Durban and Pretoria that includes game drives; a stunning Victoria Falls trip that takes four to five days; a Namibia Safari; and so many more. This is a truly magical experience and is perfect for couples wanting a holiday with a difference.

The Orange River

For those who want thrill-seeking adventures, an Orange River rafting trip is for you. As the longest river in South Africa, all South Africans know about it and learnt about it in school.

There are a number of companies that offer this river rafting experience. For the most part, the trip includes river rafting, camping, fireside meals, drinks to keep you hydrated, and more. There are various trips available for all skill levels. So, even if you have no prior river rafting experience, you will be able to book an Orange River adventure. Ensure that you do your research and find the service provider that suits you best.

Afriski

Afriski is located in Lesotho, so it’s not quite a South African escape, but it’s definitely somewhere that South Africans should consider visiting. We have very little snow in our nation, and certainly not enough to ski on. And while some communities have attempted to manage ski lodges in the past, they have struggled to stay afloat.

Afriski, on the other hand, has been around for a long time and is accessible to South Africans. It is one of only two ski resorts in Southern Africa, and it is situated at a height of 3 050m above sea level. It’s also a breathtakingly gorgeous setting, with the Maluti Mountains as a backdrop. Afriski is a great option for anyone who wants to go skiing but can’t afford to go abroad.

The Garden Route

The 300 km stretch of pristine coastal road winds along South Africa’s southern coast, beginning in Storms River in the Eastern Cape and ending in Mossel Bay in the Western Cape. The route gets its name from the Garden Route National Park it runs through, which is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, as well as a plethora of wetlands, lakes, peaks, forests, and cliff-side beaches.

It takes in the towns of Mossel Bay, George, Wilderness, Knysna and Plettenberg Bay. This is a fantastic location to explore by car, and renting a car in these towns is simple. Indeed, it appears that many travellers are electing to drive and take more road trips. According to Cheapflights, car rental inquiries have increased by 267% since the beginning of the year, compared to the same period prior to the pandemic.

The Midlands

An easy one-hour drive from Durban and four and a half hours on the N3 highway from Joburg, the Midlands Meander is a collection of arranged routes situated in the heart of KwaZulu-Natal. The landscape is vast and green, boasting stretches of open land, clusters of trees and the occasional herd of horses, cattle and sheep.

From an assortment of fabulous restaurants to artisanal crafts with the warmest hospitality in naturally beautiful surroundings, it’s the perfect place to unwind away from the city. Attend a wine tasting at one of the boutique wineries and soak up the splendour of towering oak trees, intertwining vines and the bliss of the summer sunshine. Or perhaps see some R&R at one of their many spas offering luxurious treatments in the most tranquil settings.

Paternoster

Paternoster is one of South Africa’s oldest fishing settlements on the West Coast. It is located 145km north of Cape Town, between Saldanha Bay and St Helena Bay, near Cape Columbine. The town has a population of just over 1 880 people and spans an area of 194.8 hectares.

The raw and unrefined topography of the Cape West Coast is as well known as the rustic seashore settlements. Met by the roar of the Atlantic ocean, deep navy blue waves that break on white-sand beaches and dunes, the quiet village complements this natural wildness with quaint fishermen’s huts, an array of sublime restaurants boasting delicious seafood and the laidback lifestyle of its inhabitants.

Seals, dolphins, and whales may all be seen here on a daily basis. The area’s coastal birds will delight bird enthusiasts, and the West Coast’s famed wildflowers will blossom in the springtime, the perfect setting for long leisurely hikes and picnics.

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