Tired of your four walls and itching to get out? The lingering question on your mind is likely where you can travel when lockdown eases.
After months inside, you’re likely favouring the great outdoors over your usual longing for exciting city vibes. If wide-open spaces where you can connect with nature and avoid the crowds are tickling your wanderlust, South Africa ticks all the boxes.
South Africa has been voted a favourite destination to visit post-COVID, and for a good reason – it has a lot to offer the traveller looking for more socially distant types of holidays. What makes it such a go-to for those demanding social distance? Read on to find out…
One of South Africa’s mainstays for local and international travellers is the safari. Not only will a safari holiday offer you the low density of travellers and wide-open spaces you crave, but you’re also actively contributing to protecting the environment and sustaining communities.
The Kruger National Park is renowned as South Africa’s premier safari destination to spot the Big 5 due to the density of these species in the protected area. The Kruger National Park has tarred roads for self-drive travellers and offers a fantastic opportunity to enjoy the wildlife without being in direct contact with other safari enthusiasts.
The Greater Kruger borders on the Kruger National Park and is generally privately run and famous for wildlife viewing. Animals in these private reserves roam free and navigating the bush is only permitted on guided game drives which operate throughout concessions.
The private lodges that occupy this area actively support conservation efforts and various local communities. By staying in a private concession, you are not only contributing to the socio-economic projects that benefit the environment and community, but you also promote social distance while on holiday. It’s a win-win.
Madikwe Game Reserve is located about 3 hours’ drive from Johannesburg and offers an excellent Big 5 safari option. This reserve is less frequented than the Kruger Park and is considered a hidden gem for safari enthusiasts.
Addo Elephant Park is known for its up-close encounters with magnificent herds of elephant as well as its Big 7 experiences. Here, you not only have the Big 5 to thrill you but along the park’s coastal areas, you can also see southern right whales and great white sharks.
The national park is just under an hour’s drive from Port Elizabeth. It offers a variety of lodge accommodation in which to stay. Being a national park, this safari experience, much like that of the Kruger National Park, is a fantastic self-drive option. Add on a Garden Route road trip, and you’ll get to enjoy coastal beauty and the wonders of wildlife all on one holiday.
What to expect on safari
On safari, you can experience wildlife in its natural habitat while in the safe hands of professional guides and rangers.
A typical safari experience includes:
- Approximately 6 hours of game viewing per day: Guests drive in an open-air safari vehicle. These drives take place early morning and late afternoon when the wildlife is most active. Take care to keep an eye out for creatures large and small. Watching a golden orb spider spin her web can be just as fascinating to watch as a pride of lion lazing in the shade of an acacia tree.
- Meals and drinks enjoyed in the open air: Enjoy long lazy breakfasts out on the deck in the fresh air and dinner in the boma around a fire under a clear night’s sky. You could even enjoy lunch in the comfort of your own chalet.
- Time to relax: Take a dip in the plunge pool, book a spa treatment or relax with a book on your balcony overlooking the bush. You’ll have plenty of time in between game drives to do as you wish.
Places to stay
Visitors to South Africa will be spoilt for choice when they want to get away from the crowds and escape. Here are some of our favourites and why:
Grootbos Nature Reserve: Located about two hours outside of Cape Town, this eco-reserve offers an authentic immersion into nature, top-class service, and unique activities that allow you to really get away and relax. There’s also plenty to do, such as nature drives, coastal safaris, whale-watching tours, bird watching, horse riding and award-winning spa treatments enjoyed outside in the fresh forest air. If you would like to enjoy an even more secluded accommodation option, we can highly recommend one of the private villas.
Bushmans Kloof Wilderness Reserve & Wellness Retreat: A three-hour drive outside of Cape Town, this natural haven is located in the Cederberg Mountains. It offers a true escape from the city. Bushmans Kloof supports the Treadright Foundation and various other initiatives helping local communities and the environment. Want to spend time on your own? This retreat also offers gorgeous villa options.
Taking a day trip
Want to escape the city? Here are several self-drive day trips you’ll want to pack your padkos for:
From Cape Town
Characterised by its breathtaking landscapes, good food and good wine, the Cape Winelands is the perfect day trip from Cape Town, with a range of wineries open for tastings in small groups or in private.
From Port Elizabeth
Open-air picnic spots and secluded beaches litter the Eastern Cape coastline. Should you wish to grab a mountain bike or hiking pack and explore the mountains, you’ll find some of the best routes in the country, such as the Outeniqua Trail or Otter Trail.
Gauteng has some lovely options for things to do just a few hours’ drive from the main cities of Joburg and Pretoria. Get out into the open and visit the Pilanesberg National Park. Just under two hours from Gauteng, the park offers affordable safari options including views of the Big 5 and an opportunity to see some of the area’s ancient rock art.
Nature is generous in this part of the country. You’re spoilt for choice with the array of activities along the Midlands Meander, just over an hour’s drive from the city. Explore this 80km sightseeing route and you will encounter beautiful hiking trails for all fitness levels, zip line adventures through the forests, birding, wildlife experiences while walking, mountain biking, and fishing. This lush green province is absolutely beautiful and offers a great opportunity to get back in touch with nature, take in the crisp air, and enjoy the outdoors.
South Africa is not your average destination. Explore the beauty, experience the open air, and take advantage of a destination that offers so much in this post-pandemic era.
By Olivia Gradidge