Inject a little travel into your life with a ‘staycation’
To all the travellers with wanderlust, this past few months has really served to dent any international holiday travel plans as the COVID-19 pandemic has the entire world in various stages of lockdown.
South Africa, particularly, has been impacted by this event, almost paralysing our international tourist industry.
With adherence to lockdown adjusted level 4 restrictions in place, restaurants and eateries will be allowed to continue operating while adhering to strict health protocols. These establishments may not accommodate more than 50 people at one time and smaller venues may not accommodate more than 50% of their usual capacity.
Although night clubs will remain closed and curfew hours are from 9pm – 4am, with all non-essential establishments closing by 8pm, that doesn’t mean you can’t still enjoy a lovely dinner at a local restaurant, even without alcohol.
And while gatherings are not allowed in public spaces like beaches, they, and parks are open, so intimate picnics are still on the cards.
Please note, wearing a mask is compulsory when in public spaces and not wearing a mask in public could get you a fine or jail time.
During the first week in July 2021, the CDC said that it had added South Africa to its ‘do not travel list’ alongside other nations including Botswana, the Republic of the Congo, Malawi and Rwanda, while it has 84 ‘major restrictions’ from other countries in place.
By comparison, there are currently 28 moderate restrictions in place on South Africa, where travel is possible, but only if travellers meet certain entry requirements which can include taking Covid-19 tests.
As with South Africa’s opening of borders, countries that do allow travel for leisure and tourism purposes do not do so unconditionally and will require travellers to either submit recent negative Covid-19 tests or be subject to a mandatory quarantine period. (businesstech.co.za)
The upside is — with the risk of sounding really selfish — we have our entire beautiful country to ourselves! No crisped tourists baking on our beaches or being rescued from lions or sharks. Yes, we really do miss them and their international currency, but hey! local has never been lekkerer!
This is the time to take that road trip through the Kalahari, to spend the night under the stars in the Swartberg or to take your fishing rod and head for the coast.
South Africa is a world within a country. We boast every type of scenery available to man, from desert and scrublands to verdant forests, mountains, sparkling rivers and endless beaches. We offer snow laden mountains in winter and baking sand dunes in summer. Our fauna and flora draw millions of tourists during peak holiday seasons while a variety of luxurious accommodation is available for the weary traveller, including lodges in the countryside, hotels and game reserves.
While Jozi, Durban, Bloemfontein and Nelspruit are internationally recognised tourist destinations, smaller spots like Hermanus — famous for whale viewing from shore — Pilgrim’s rest, Sun City — aka Vegas in the bush — Sutherland in the pitch black of the Karoo night, a must see for stargazers, Jeffreys Bay for the surfing dudes, George, Clarens, of Goldengate fame, Oudtshoorn and unforgettable Dullstroom, all provide incredible tourist attractions.
So why not take the opportunity to explore some of our wonderous land, while we have it to ourselves? Now is the time for a perfect staycation, while doing your bit to help the tourism industry to recover.
As the nearest beach to Gauteng, the financial hub of the country, Durban still draws the inland dweller to its sandy beaches and warm Indian Ocean. While all necessary pandemic-related precautions are followed, it is here that a variety of activities will continue to entertain the local tourist, from fishing, ski-boating, sailing, to the seafront promenade that extends from uShaka Marine World, a massive theme park with an aquarium, to the futuristic Moses Mabhida Stadium, circa 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Situated on Durban’s Golden Mile, Ushaka Seaworld has taken the pandemic seriously and assures on its website: “We’d like to reassure you that we are being extra vigilant so that you can have extra fun… we have stringent health and safety protocols in place, and we are constantly communicating with and educating our staff to ensure they do all they can to both safeguard and reassure our guests.” While advising that all visitors are to follow precautions as recommended by the Department of Health.
Perched atop the Berea, Durban’s landmark Botanic Gardens has been off-limits since the advent of the Covid-19 lockdown, but is now open, to restricted numbers of members of the public with terms and conditions.
Moving south, the Garden Route and Klein Karoo are considered one of the most gorgeous, breath-taking areas in South Africa, if not the world.
Stretching from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the neighbouring Eastern Cape, it is renowned for its ecological diversity along with the abundant lagoons and lakes dotted along the coast. Included in this stretch is Mossel Bay, Knysna, Oudtshoorn, Plettenberg Bay and Nature’s Valley; with George — considered one of the most picturesque towns on the globe — the Garden Route’s largest city and main administrative centre.
The area offers every imaginable scenic treat from majestic mountains, awe-inspiring vistas with valleys and lakes, rivers and forests. This is a must visit for the bird and/or nature lover, with infinite stretches of stunning white sandy beaches and endless opportunities to engage in all manner of walks, water sports and hikes.
And the Mother City and surrounds? Well, not much can be said that will do the gem of the country justice. From Kirstenbosch Gardens to the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town’s cableway and the promenade along the seafront, its vast selection of Blue Flag beaches, Robben Island Museum to the winelands and farthest point of the continent, the Western Cape is opening up to local tourism.
All hotels across every hotel group throughout the country have assured adherence to all health and safety protocols for the safety and reassurance of staff and guests.
South Africa was created for the road tripper, with its endless unexplored areas and unexpected surprises.
- For example, Nieu Bethesda in the Karoo, dating back to the 1800s, is home to the famous Owl House, while way up in the nether reaches of the country’s Northern Cape, lies the village of De Aar, a small town where, for over a century, its steam locomotive travelled on the line between Kimberley and Cape Town, and is now home to steam train enthusiasts.
- In KwaZulu-Natal is the village of Gillits, 35kms inland from Durban, where its residents enjoy an escape from Durban’s clammy humidity. Its now defunct train station remains a beautiful feature, whilst the local conservancy abounds with indigenous forest, wetlands and grasslands. The area cannot be beaten for walks and bird spotting.
- So too, Clarens, nestled at the foot of the spectacular Golden Gate in the Freestate, is home to an artistic community that draws tourism from around the country to its arts and crafts, astoundingly beautiful surroundings and authentic farm produce.
- While Henley-on-Klip village — famous as the village where Oprah Winfrey has her school — lies on the banks of the Klip River between Johannesburg and Vereeniging. With its quiet, distinctly colonial feel and shade trees lining the streets and open fields edged with wildflowers, it celebrates a farm-like community that offers market days and tranquil living.
- In vibrant contrast, Sun City (fondly nicknamed Sin City) situated about two hours’ drive from Johannesburg, offers a luxury casino and resort. As Africa’s Kingdom of Pleasure, the complex comprises four hotels, two championship golf courses, two casinos, an (almost) authentic South African cultural village and more than 7000 crocodiles within a sanctuary. And when the glitz overwhelms, there is always the adjacent Pilanesberg Game Reserve, the most popular public Game Reserve in South Africa.
If your appetite for our magnificent country has not been whetted for a staycation, you deserve lockdown!
So, grab that hand sanitiser and sunblock and head out into the most beautiful country on the planet.
Just don’t tan with your mask on…