6 Sizzling South African Escapes

by Jared
 * This artilce first appeared here on Goodthingsguy.com

As leisure travel begins to reopen I’ve no doubt that South African’s will be doing what we do best – heading out to explore our country. More than ever, the tourism industry needs our support, so let get out there – and of course, keep it safe and adhere to all safety protocols. Here are some of my favourite escapes, including some sneaky discounts we’ve arranged for your upcoming stays.

1. Winelands Luxury at Lavender Farm Guest House (Franschhoek, Western Province)

If a trip to France was on the cards before the pandemic then fear not, as Franschhoek is ready to serve up some French flair. The owners of Lavender Farm Guest House fell in love with Provence’s famous purple-washed lavender fields and wanted to replicate some of their magic back home. Years later and the plants are a sight to behold in this fairy-tale setting.

Lavender Farm sports 14 suite options – my recommendation is the honeymoon and lavender-facing suites, both with verandas that stare out over the purple fields. When you’re not admiring the lavender and grabbing those perfect Insta-shots, there’s a trendy outdoor Jasmine bar where barman Terrence is ready to serve some ‘J’aime Lavande’ – the farm’s very own branded bubbly.

Lavender Farm is a mere two-minute drive beyond Franschhoek’s main street – although you have your solace, the town’s famed eateries and wineries are never far off. The best time to visit is May through to November when the French Lavender is blooming. Summer is equally spectacular with lanes of flowering English lavender and purple Sage. Email info@ldf.co.za and mention code LAVENDER20 for 20% off your stay. lavenderfarmfranschhoek.co.za

Winelands Luxury at Lavender Farm Guest House (Franschhoek, Western Province)
Photo Cred: Winelands Luxury at Lavender Farm Guest House (Franschhoek, Western Province)

2. Village Life at Dolce Vita (McGregor, Western Province)

Since 2020 has given us a fair share of lemons, perhaps it’s time to trade sour for sweet. Dolce Vita is a supremely spacious private home in the Western Cape’s quaint village of McGregor. ‘The sweet life’ is the closest translation of the Italian for dolce vita, and the home certainly lives up to this expectation.

From the moment I laid eyes on McGregor, I fell in love. The village’s reputation had preceded my visit, especially as it sat calmly on the famous ‘road to nowhere’. Dolce Vita is a corner house on two of the village’s quiet streets. With a multitude of spaces, the house is designed in that the two distinct wings are able to offer separate accommodation for larger families or two couples to share.

In summer I can imagine the large veranda that runs alongside the pool is the centre of attraction—two lounges with fireplaces and ready for evening comfort and warmth in the cooler nights. For lazing about in-between, a glassed-in central courtyard acts as a central conservatory. The glass doors also conveniently open up onto the outside space where a boma and braai stand ready to entertain guests. Email info@mcgregor-accommodation.co.za with the code DOLCE15 for 15% discount. mcgregor-accommodation.co.za/dolce-vita

Village Life at Dolce Vita (McGregor, Western Province)
Photo Cred: McGregor Tourism

3. Mountain Magic at The Cavern (Drakensberg, Kwazulu Natal)

The Cavern has had years of practice welcoming tired city folk and allowing the fresh mountain air to work its magic. The cavern is a firm family favourite – parents have the chance to relax while kids can enjoy all the usual resort activities.

Keen mountain explorers will be in their element – after all, who wouldn’t want to spend an afternoon hiking in the austere grandeur of the Drakensberg and then return to the comfort of a plush room and 3-course meal. There are plenty of walks from The Cavern into the surrounding hills. The hike to Sugar Loaf is my favourite with rewarding views after an invigorating climb. For hiking junkies, consider the iconic chain ladders hike from the Sentinel car park to the top of the Amphitheatre. It’s a five-hour walk and two-hour drive from The Cavern, so best done on route to the hotel.

My recommendation is the Superior Rooms – a little off from the main lodge and set overlooking the Cavern’s magnificent indigenous Fern Forest. For the ultimate detox, try to include a visit to their heavenly spa. Use the code CAVERN10 when booking for a 10% discount at cavern.co.za.

Mountain Magic at The Cavern (Drakensberg, Kwazulu Natal)
Photo Cred: Mountain Magic at The Cavern (Drakensberg, Kwazulu Natal)

4. Bush bliss at Khaya Ndlovu Manor House (Hoedspruit, Limpopo)

Hoedspruit is a conveniently located gateway to nearby Kruger and also Limpopo and Mpumulanga tourist spots. Just outside town in the 5500-hectare Big Game Rietspruit Reserve, Khaya Ndoluvu sits with gracious views out over kilometres of Highveld. At sunset, make sure to have a camera and cocktail in hand as the sun slowly sinks over the bush around.

If you’re keen to head to the skies, but not yet on a crowded plane across continents, why not explore the Hoedspruit area by chopper. Hoedspruit Helicopters offers a bucket list flip over the Blyde River Canyon and not only are you guaranteed to a wildly beautiful flight, but these tourist trips help fund key conservation work. The pilot collects you from the lodge for ultimate convenience.

Khaya Ndolvu’s principle is a clever one; accommodation costs are kept surprisingly low by offering meals and game drives as optional extras. In that way, guests can enjoy the luxury lodge experience, but also easily day trip into Kruger or visit the tourist spots of the Panoramic Route without feeling like they’re forfeiting what they’ve paid for. And at R950pppn for the experience and views, including a hearty breakfast, it’s a smart move. Email reservations@khayandlovu.co.za for the deal. khayandlovu.co.za

Bush bliss at Khaya Ndlovu Manor House (Hoedspruit, Limpopo)
Photo Cred: Bush bliss at Khaya Ndlovu Manor House (Hoedspruit, Limpopo)

5. Trennerys Hotel & Camping (Wild Coast, Eastern Cape)

The remote beaches and green rolling hills of the Wild Coast are just itching to welcome guests again. It’s a magical land where you find waterfalls that tumble into the ocean, share a beach with resident cows, rides horses on the sand, and for the brave – abseil down ocean-side cliffs.

For decades Trennerys has been entertaining guests in this magnificent setting; a particular favourite with families who return annually for their beach breaks. The accommodation is mostly in free-standing chalets, ideal for a little private space in the tropical gardens. The beach, only a one-minute walk down the garden, is simply stunning and some of my best Wild Coast memories are the daily sunset swims. For avid campers, there’s also an exclusive campsite at Trennerys.

For a little adventure, I’d highly recommended Trevor’s Trails. They are a couple of short experiences exploring the local area, particularly along the Qolora River. Two boat trips and a short walk led us to the astonishing ‘Gates’ – impressive rock walls that cradle the river. Do take the plunge and follow your host Carlos with an exhilarating dive off the cliff into the river below. Email mailto:reservations@trennerys.co.za with the code TRENNERYS20 to enjoy a 20% discount on your stay at trennerys.co.za.

Bush bliss at Khaya Ndlovu Manor House (Hoedspruit, Limpopo)
Photo Cred: Trennerys Hotel & Camping (Wild Coast, Eastern Cape)

6. Karoo Calm at the Eco Karoo Lodge (Luckhoff, Free State)

Speak to anyone who has lived in, grown up in, or spent significant time in the Karoo, and they’ll tell fond tales with a gentle smile on your face. To be honest, it’s rustic and rugged charm had not yet won me over, and so it was labelled a necessary stopover and not a destination. Then the Eco Karoo Lodge changed everything.

Driving down a dirt road in the middle of nowhere, the road seems to approach a barren rocks kloof at the base of the mountains. Only right at the end, does this Karoo hidden gem slowly reveal itself. Eco Karoo Lodge features a fully-stocked self-catering kitchen, a beautifully appointed lounge, a boma, and then three spacious free-standing units. Each has two bedrooms, a central bathroom and outdoor shower.

This is star country, and I mean it. Sitting outside around the braai or fire, you only have to look upwards and have your gaze met by a million shining stars. Local designers were employed to create beautiful spaces with the textures and tones of the surrounding countryside effortlessly carrying into the spaces. As if it couldn’t get any better, the cost is only R550pppn to stay. Unimaginable solace at an enticing price. ecokaroo.com

Bush bliss at Khaya Ndlovu Manor House (Hoedspruit, Limpopo)
Photo Cred: Karoo Calm at the Eco Karoo Lodge (Luckhoff, Free State)

* Note discounts above are valid for travel until 30th November 2020, terms and conditions apply.

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