If you’re dreaming of a far-off escape, away from the same-old scenery you’ve seen for the last few months, don’t despair if you’re not able to holiday overseas quite yet.
It’s not for nothing that South Africa is famed the world over for our diversity. Our proud rainbow nation extends beyond just our diversity of cultures.
According to a World Resources Report, South Africa is one of just 17 mega-diverse countries on the planet. What this means for the local South African is that if you’re dreaming of a completely different view out the window, you don’t need your passport.
Not only does South Africa offer a taste of the whole world in one, but we also have some truly unique landscapes and ecosystems that you’d be hard pressed to find anywhere else.
So, this year, swap the following international holidays for a local one and fall in love with South Africa all over again:
Trade Lake Kariba for Lake Jozini
Lake Kariba, hugging Zambia and Zimbabwe, is the world's largest man-made lake. It offers relaxation by the bucket load as well as boating, fishing, water sports, incredible sunsets, wildlife spotting and more.
Forgo the passport for your ID and make the journey to Lake Jozini, a hidden gem on the unspoilt Elephant Coast, tucked away in the far northern corner of KwaZulu-Natal.
For an off the beaten track, relaxed fishing holiday – miles away from the hustle and bustle of daily life – this is one of South Africa’s best kept secrets.
Check into Jozini Tiger Lodge & Spa nestled on a hilltop high above the shores of Lake Jozini and you’d be forgiven for thinking you’ve left Mzansi.
Spend your days tiger fishing; exploring nearby St Lucia; the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Game Reserve; and Ndumo Game Reserve and Tembe Elephant Park for game viewing, walking, birding and picnicking. Come sunset, hop on a sundowner cruise on the lake to meet the resident hippos.
Swap a jungle retreat in Asia for the forests of the Elephant Coast
If you’re dreaming of a jungle retreat, hidden in the steamy forests of Asia overlooking shimmering island waters, then the Elephant Coast delivers on this too. The humidity comes as part of the package as well!
The Elephant Coast looks and feels a bit like a Costa Rican rainforest, the forests of Kenya and the humid jungles of Thailand or Bali all rolled into one.
But to compare this magnificent stretch of coast to anywhere else in the world is actually doing it an injustice. It is staggering and truly unique in its own right. Think gorgeous sandy beaches fringed by subtropical forest – home to a variety of diverse wildlife and birdlife.
Nibela Lake Lodge is an off-the-beaten-track favourite, hidden in the forest and boasting magnificent views over the St Lucia estuary. With just 11 treetop timber chalets raised high above the forest floor, exclusivity and privacy comes guaranteed.
The Lakeview Restaurant is the perfect place to enjoy drinks and dinner with the best view of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. The lodge makes the ideal base for exploring the UNESCO World Heritage site, the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, and the Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park.
Say hello to Durbs instead of an island getaway
Craving the sunny days, palm-lined boulevards and spicy food of Miami or Mauritius? You can find this, but with found-nowhere-else-on-earth-flair, in eternally sunny Durban.
Fun-loving yet relaxed, equal parts energy and laidback cool, Durban’s beaches are a worthy rival for any of our favourite international island and beach getaways.
Head down the south coast, just over an hour’s drive from Durban and check into laidback Scottburgh. Enjoy warm seas, South Coast charm and incredible ocean views from the Blue Marlin Hotel, that has welcomed generations of holidaymakers.
“Scottburgh holds a warm spot in many a South African’s heart, “says Sharmila Ragunanan, Marketing Manager of Dream Hotels & Resorts. “The Blue Marlin Hotel is an icon in these parts, with a history spanning 70 years. It’s family friendly, affordable and the ocean is pretty much right on the hotel doorstep,” adds Ragunanan.
Trade Bali for Zimbali
Nestled in a coastal forest reserve a stone’s throw from the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, Zimbali Lodge lures guests with a unique ‘Balinese’ charm, but with the added bonus of its unique South African setting. It’s hardly a stretch of the imagination to imagine yourself in a Balinese resort – whether you’re hitting the surf, sipping cocktails next to the spectacular pool or exploring the forest surroundings of the reserve.
Add on a trip to South Africa’s first and only aerial boardwalk in the enchanting Dlinza Forest near Eshowe, as you bird watch and spot the colourful butterflies that call this Garden of Eden home.
Switch Kenya for Kruger
Sure, Kenya is fantastic and iconic for a “safari” bush break but for now, trade the endless savannah plains of Kenya for the great South African bushveld.
International and local visitors alike flock to the famous Kruger National Park for a dose of wildlife. Relax into the rhythm of life in the bushveld, governed only by game drives, relaxing in the lodge and meal and nap times.
While there are the popular favourites renowned across the world for “safaris in Africa,” there are also lesser-known game reserves and lodges that offer the same safari magic but are slightly more off the beaten track. Opt for a private concession in Kruger if you want some more privacy, or visit the Pilanesberg and Madikwe Game Reserves, or Limpopo’s Waterberg Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO site.
Trade the Swiss Alps for the Drakensberg
Dreaming of a snowy white winter or rolling green hills and fresh mountain air? Head to the Drakensberg, South Africa’s unique version of the iconic Swiss Alps. Here, you can enjoy the ultimate Alpine experience, but with all our South African warmth and charm.
Ragunanan pinpoints Little Switzerland Resort as the place to stay. “Nestled at the foot of the Northern Drakensberg, this Alpine-style accommodation feels as though you’ve stumbled upon a little Swiss village somewhere in the Alps.”
Wine and dine in the Cape instead of France
Dreaming of sipping a delicious Bordeaux while admiring endless French vineyard views? The Cape Winelands offers the same (if not better) winelands experience, filled with mountain views, endless vineyards, fresh pastries and chocolates, internationally-acclaimed restaurants, cafes and award-winning wine farms.
Keep the French fantasy going by checking in at Le Franschhoek Hotel & Spa. Wine and wine in the two onsite restaurants (one a stunning glass conservatory) and relax in the spa or sizeable pool – perfect for days spent lounging in the sun.
With all of these and more, use this time to explore South Africa and discover the wealth of delights that await in our beautifully diverse and unique country – rivalling any international getaway, we’d argue!