The Rise of the Staycation
Discover a Whole New World in Your Own Backyard
The prospect of staying ‘at home’ may not be quite as exciting as boarding a plane for exotic foreign shores, but with proponents saying it’s a less stressful form of travel – not to mention a cheaper one – ‘staycations’ appear to be on the rise.
According to Google Search, trends show that staycations are now a bigger than ever trend, with many travellers seeking holiday destinations that are within driving distance.
“Many South Africans know the benefits of travelling locally, but there’s a large proportion of South Africans that do not have a culture of travel that could be choosing to spend their hard-earned budget on experiences instead of material goods,” says Sharmila Ragunanan, Group Marketing Manager Dream Hotels & Resorts. “As economic sentiment improves in South Africa, a local holiday is a great, easy first step to developing a love for travel. Thousands of foreign tourists have already discovered the diversity that South Africa has to offer travellers, so South Africans should follow suit.
“You don’t need to travel to France for culture. You don’t need to visit Italy for delicious food. You don’t need to travel to the USA for spectacular natural attractions. You can enjoy all these experiences right here in South Africa. When they say that South Africa offers a world in one country, they’re right.”
Convinced? Then how about checking out these top staycation destinations?
THE CRADLE OF HUMANKIND Located just 50 km north of Johannesburg, discover the birthplace of humanity at the Cradle of Humankind, home to about 40 % of the world’s discovered human ancestral fossils. Your visit does not have to begin and end with bones, fossils and ancient history, though. There are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy the area’s natural beauty and see the wildlife species that find sanctuary here in the picturesque Highveld landscape.
Caving in Sterkfontein and a Walk
Through History at Maropeng
Over 500 hominid fossils and 9,000 stone tools used by our human ancestors have been found in the Sterkfontein Caves. This is also the site of two major finds which changed modern palaeontology: The Australopithecus africanus or Mrs. Ples, dating back 2,5 million years, and Little Foot, an almost complete ape man dating back four million years. Tap into your inner caveman and take one of the tours that start above ground and descend deep within the cave.
Another stop should definitely be the Maropeng Visitors Centre which offers
a world-class, self-guided, interactive exhibition focusing on the development of humans over millions of years. Visitors will enjoy the underground boat ride and gain great insights from the 2,500 m² exhibit.
A Nature Lover’s Paradise
Mount Savannah offers 2,000 hectares of game-viewing pleasure with such species as buffalo, zebra, springbok and giraffe, among others, roaming its rolling landscapes. Count the number of bird species you encounter during your family game drive, or retreat to the plunge pool at the resident lodge to cool off.
Hunt for Gold
At the Blaauberg Historic Gold Mine, you will have the opportunity to embark on a tour of the corridors of the first gold mine in Gauteng. Even better yet, you will be required to “dress” for the occasion in overalls and a helmet before navigating the “mock mine”. This is a great way to gain first-hand experience of how gold was mined in the past, and to view some of the equipment that miners used all those years ago, from picks and pit props to coco pans and rope winches.
Indulge your sense of adventure and explore South Africa’s wild side in St Lucia in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Besides being home to hippos and crocs, what makes it even more magnificent is that it is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that protects a large portion of South Africa’s eastern coastline. So, get ready for the great outdoors and a bit of adventure with mountain-biking, fishing trips, turtle tours and bird-watching.
See the Maputaland turtles in their natural habitat during nesting and hatching season. At night, you can join a tour to look for nesting females and observe baby turtles emerging from their sandy nests. During the day, you may even have the opportunity to swim with them.
Discover the Big Five on Foot Forget bumpy game vehicles. At Imfolozi Game Reserve you will have the unique opportunity to go in search of Africa’s Big Five on foot. Imagine the thrill of coming face-to-face with an elephant while walking through the bush?
Chameleon Night Safaris
St Lucia is also one of the best places to get a glimpse of a flap-necked chameleon, as they are easily spotted at night during a Chameleon Night Safari in the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. You may also spot leopard, giraffe, buffalo and hippo, as well as nocturnal species such as bush babies and aardvarks.
Leave the bright city lights behind and head out for a relaxing break amongst wildflowers, Rooibos plants and rock art. The Cederberg is the ideal spot for those who love the rugged outdoors, uncovering centuries of San heritage and indulging in locally brewed tea or beer.
All Things Rooibos
Did you know that Rooibos is truly and uniquely proudly South African? The area surrounding Citrusdal is the only place in South Africa – and for that matter the world – where Rooibos grows naturally. Pay a visit to Carmien Rooibos Tea Farm and enjoy a tour of the farm, which includes a walk through the entire Rooibos-making process and the opportunity to taste different delicious varieties of Rooibos.
Back in the Saddle Piekenierskloof Mountain Resort’s Blazing Saddles trail network is a must for pedal-heads. Take your pick of their red, blue and green routes for mountain bikers of different levels of experience and expertise. The red route spans some 26 km with a fair amount of climbing, while the 16 km blue route is accessible and fun for the less fit and less technically proficient rider. The 3 km green route comprises a single track offering a few technical challenges.
Unique to this part of the country is of course the famous Namaqualand flowers. Each year around August and September, this area offers up a unique display of wild flowers incorporating over 4,000 species. Take a day trip to Ramskop Wildlife Reserve, which is home to 350 species of wildflowers or drive through the picturesque Biedouw Valley for an al-fresco picnic.