Some fabulous winter getaways
Us South Africans are spoilt – we get to enjoy very long summers, and when the cooler temperatures arrive, we get the opportunity to travel our own country in search of cosy hideaways and dramatic natural landscapes.
Here are a few suggestions for that ideal winter break ...
Winter (June to August) is the perfect time for a bit of pampering, and in South Africa there are excellent spas, many of them in gorgeous locations. The West Coast always offers some kind of appeal, no matter what the season – and having a winter spa experience at the Healing Earth Spa at Abalone House in Paternoster can only be good for the soul. Other great spa getaways include the Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa along the Atlantic Seaboard, Karkloof Safari Spa in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, and the Summerfields Rose Retreat & Spa in Mpumalanga.
The small town of Dullstroom in Mpumalanga, about three hours from Johannesburg, is all about fly-fishing, misty mornings and crackling fireplaces. Its main street offers lots of opportunities to eat great food, hunt down some local art and crafts, and enjoy a pint or two at the pub. Accommodation ranges from camping to high-end, and there are great walks and trails in the area. Other great spots for fishing are Chrissiesmeer (one of the places in South Africa that also offers frogging safaris) and Rhodes Village, in the Eastern Cape Highlands – where it's all about fishing, roaring fireplaces and lots of red wine.
Food and wine getaways
For food and adventure lovers, the Kokerboom Food and Wine Route in the Northern Cape is a great option. The route, operated by Open Africa, runs from Upington to Augrabies. En route you can visit a brandy estate and taste the local tipple, go shopping at the Pienk Padstaal in Kakamas, and/or try cheese/milk/dairy products from a local farmer in one of the prettiest parts of the country. The route includes a visit to the only sushi bar in the Northern Cape (according to local magazine Country Life) and gives one the opportunity to visit the farm stalls along the Orange River.
The KwaZulu-Natal Midlands is also a great place for an autumn break – it’s pretty, there is lots to do and it has reasonably priced accommodation. Great food and good beer is simply part of the journey. For information on what to do and where to go, visit the Midlands Meander website and plan your trip. For a value-for-money weekend, consider a stay at The Bend Country House and Nature Estate in Nottingham Road; or you could spoil yourself at Granny Mouse Country House and Spa (it is known for good food and gorgeous gardens, no matter what the season).
Getting into nature
Take a break in the Drakensberg mountains. There are great hikes and trails for those who enjoy the outdoors – and lots of accommodation, including some great B&Bs and family hotels. Birdwatching in Nylsvley in Limpopo province will provide hours of entertainment for birdwatchers (the reserve has more than 370 bird species).
There are also always outdoor adventure activities such as abseiling, quad biking, river rafting and mountain biking all over South Africa.
Heading for the greens during the winter months is never a bad idea. You might want to try out the extreme 19th hole at Legend Golf & Safari Resort in Limpopo, pay your dues on the Gary Player Golf Course or Lost City Golf Course at Sun City, or make your way down to Fancourt on the Garden Route, where you can choose to play on one of three of the finest golf courses on the African continent.
The cooler months offer an ideal opportunity to spend time in the bush. Animal sightings are pretty good during the winter months, and lodges often have special winter offers to attract clientele. On the high end of the scale, try Singita Castleton, an exclusive lodge in the Sabi Sand Reserve. For a special occasion, book out the entire lodge – it sleeps 12 and is located within a 45 000ha private reserve.
Another option is the newly refurbished Geiger's Camp in Motswari Private Game Reserve (close to the Kruger National Park). The camp consists of two stone houses with amazing views of the Timbavati bushveld. Overnight walking safaris are also an option for those staying at Geiger's Camp.
For a unique experience in the Northern Cape, Tswalu Kalahari private game reserve is a great place to enjoy incredible landscapes and to get to know a little bit more about local San culture. The horseback safaris on offer at Tswalu are a highlight, and there are also private yoga classes available if that takes your fancy.
The Waterberg, Mapungubwe National Park, the Pilanesberg Game Reserve and Madikwe Game Reserve are also all great options at this time of year.