Covering five of South Africa’s nine provinces, FORBES AFRICA looks at some gorgeous getaways as the year wraps up and it’s time to hit the road.
If you’re looking for forest trails, waterfalls and rock pools, sand dunes by the sea, mountains and majestic views, long plains and starlit nights, or elephants and giraffe, South Africa has every kind of vista you can visit. Here’s a list of a few choice getaways – ranging from cheap to chic.
In the Northern Drakensburg sits Sasi Bush Lodge; with luxury tents, hikes, massages, bush breakfasts and more. Just 3.5 hours from O R Tambo Airport in Johannesburg and three hours from King Shaka Airport in Durban, this destination holiday provides an inexpensive experience than a stay at the Kruger National Park, starting from R2,000 ($117) per night for adults. Sasi Bush Lodge has also tried to re-wild the lands and remove the alien vegetation in the area.
Emzemvelo accommodation covers an incredible range of scenery, from the Big Five to the stunning mountains of the Drakensburg. If you get the Golden Rhino card at R250 ($15) per person, there’s discounts out of season and free entry at Emzemvelo Parks. One of the many options with accommodation include a two-bedroom mountain view chalet at Giant’s Castle, breakfast included, for R1,400 ($82), during peak season. Another great spot is Hluhluwe, replete with the Big Five, at R1,750 ($102) for a two-bedroom chalet. Campsites like Cobham go for R85 ($5) during peak season, while Garden Castle camping goes for the same.
In Cederberg, Western Cape, there’s de Pakhuys, a camping, glamping or chalet style accommodation, nestled in a valley, with a rocky terrain to go bouldering on or hiking, a waterfall walk and stunning stars over fields of flowers. The Africamps’ custom-designed glamping tents go for R977 ($57) per person sharing, complete with a private wood-fired hot tub and bathroom with luxurious rain shower, among other facilities.
Also in Cederberg, Western Cape, is the Gecko Creek Wilderness Lodge, a self-catering private nature reserve that borders the Cederberg Reserve, and a short distance away is the Olifants River. It offers twin cabins and tents overlooking the valley full of Fynbos and wildflowers, and a salt water swimming pool. Activities include waterfall walks, hiking to caves and treks such as the Wolfberg Cracks and Wolfberg Arch, Maltese Cross and Sneeuberg. There’s also Leopard’s Rock with indigenous San Rock Paintings, and the famous Elephant Rock formation, bouldering, horse-riding, wine-tasting nearby, and canoeing – if you have your own canoe. Self-camping is between R150-R190 ($8-$11) per person a night, safari tents sleeping two are R250-R290 ($15-$17), cabins are R450-R490 ($26-$29) per person per night, and cottages are R1,250-R1,500 ($75-$87) per person per night. None of them have electricity, as manager Shivani Ghai says, “It’s more about the rugged outdoors and the stars without any light pollution.” They do have WiFi. They’re already quite booked up for December and January, so email to inquire about available days.
Hogsback in the Amatola Mountains is perfect for hikes through moss-covered forests and views of mist in the morning in valleys below. Named after the rocky ridge that resembles a hog’s back, it offers many places to stay – quintessentially, The Edge, replete with cottages perched on a cliff overlooking a valley or Airbnbs in the forest. The latter can cost less than R1,000 ($58), with pet-friendly or family friendly options available. Mountain and waterfall hikes abound, with a tiny village of chocolate shops and places to eat.
In Morgan’s Bay is In The Green Backpackers, a pet-friendly and eco-friendly accommodation, one kilometer away from the beach and lagoon, surrounded by greenery. The whole house is built out of recycled material, with a vegetable patch, and various walls made out of cob, a natural building material made from subsoil, water, fibrous organic material like straw, and sometimes lime. In the
Green Backpackers is a small establishment, but a personal one, says Corlia Perry, the manager. The outside double room with a view costs R450 ($26) per night, the inside double room goes for R350 ($20) a night, and the safari tent with two single beds is R300 ($17.5) a night, with a five-person dorm room at R150 ($9) per person. There’s also a tree house, made of tin, for the real adventure seekers, which sleeps three people at R250 ($15) a night.
“We bought the property next to us and have started planting fruit trees. This is obviously a long-term project. The idea is to always have some sort of food source available. We have planted avocado trees and macadamia trees, paw paw trees, banana trees, plum and naartjie, plus coffee plants. Also lemon and grapefruit,” concludes Perry.
Woodland Gardens Lodge in Magaliesburg, an hour outside of central Johannesburg, is a pet-friendly self-catering accommodation of chalets, a pool, a shared bonfire, as well as a charming garden also containing goats, pigs and many dogs, along with a little forest. Nearby, there’s hikes into the mountains, resplendent rock pools and hot air ballooning. Ibis Garden Cottage has an enclosed outside bath, with a view of the stars. Chalets range in size – perfect for romantic getaways or family trips, with braai areas and water features. Some are fenced for peace of mind with dogs. They have mid-week specials, and normal rates range from R445 ($26) per person to R830 ($48).
The quaint town of Clarens in the Free State, just 20kms from the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, is surrounded by red sandstone mountains, dotted with orange and red fauna and flora. A rocky yet lively landscape, it has a vibrant town of small shops and 27 restaurants. If you’re looking to get out of the city but still see the New Year in with some dancing, Clarens has the perfect mix. New years’ see the streets turn into a lively mix of eating and dancing outside.
Clarens Eddies Bed & Breakfast has a two-sleeper room for R590 ($34), a four-sleeper room for R864 ($51), and a six-sleeper for R1864 ($109), with breakfast not included in the base rate. They offer free guided mountain walks every day. Around Clarens, there is horse-riding, white river rafting, hot air ballons, day visits to Lesotho with 10 different programs, a cherry picking festival in November, and a steam train ride through the cherry orchards. Through the conservancy, there are 15 different hiking and cycling trails, where you can rent a bicycle. With all the recent rain, the mountain streams have turned this usually dry vista into a “Niagara falls”, says owner of Eddies, Dawn Trevelyan.