After a year of hard work or study, many South Africans are looking forward to the festive season and a chance to escape the routine of working and commuting.
But anyone who’s travelled to the coast during the holidays will know that South Africans’ favourite playgrounds can get very congested. Luane Lavery Brand Communication Manager for British Airways (operated by Comair) and kulula.com has the following suggestions for activities and places often overlooked by the crowds.
Fly, then drive: rather than spending precious time on your holiday behind the wheel, consider flying to your destination and hiring a vehicle once you arrive.
Most of us like having a vehicle at our disposal when we’re on holiday, but that can lead to congestion in the coastal centres. You may choose to reserve your hire car for longer drives and use public transport for shorter trips. In Cape Town for instance, the sophisticated and efficient MyCiti rapid bus transit system uses a swipe-card and on most routes there are buses every five minutes. Unlike the city’s train system, the busses are reliable and safe and the dedicated bus-lanes give speedy, easy access to hotspots across the city.
Attractions include areas of historic interest like the Bo Kaap, District Six and the Company’s Garden, and night-spots like Green and Mouille Point, Kloof and Long Streets, and the beaches of Camps Bay, Llandudno, Sea Point and Big Bay.You can, for example, use the bus to go for breakfast at the V&A Waterfront, visit a beach, have lunch in Hout Bay or Melkbosstrand, take kitesurfing lessons at Blouberg, then take the bus to the Table Mountain cableway station, for sundowners at the summit. See www.myciti.org.za
Naturally, if you do choose to drive, Cape Town has some world-renowned routes to enjoy, like Chapman’s Peak, Drive on the Atlantic seaboard, Clarens Drive on the False Bay coast, and the newly-reopened M4 drive down the southern peninsula toward Simon’s Town and Cape Point.
Port Elizabeth has many attractions, including warm seas, welcoming townsfolk and markets. But wander a little further than the popular beaches and you’ll discover some hidden gems. You can, for example, spend a day at Sardinia Bay, swimming, snorkeling and sunbathing. The movement of sand-dunes means a walk of a few hundred metres from the car-park, so crowds might be a bit thinner than in the city. You can also tackle part, or all, of the Sacramento hiking-trail. Having worked up a thirst and an appetite, head to the Cork Wine Garden in Walmer, which serves tapas and artisanal, cheese, breads and charcuterie, with good wine and an atmosphere that invites lingering afternoons and evenings.
Like Port Elizabeth, Durban has warm seas and is probably the holiday destination of choice for most vacationers from Gauteng. That means its roads, malls and beaches can be crowded. Lavery suggests a few less congested attractions.
- The KwaZulu-Natal Society of Arts in Glenwood is regarded as the province’s foremost contemporary art gallery. Its focus on local art and design is an important driver of the local art community and it has a shop, with fine handmade goods that reflect the diverse traditional crafting skills of the region and include homeware, jewellery, clothing and toys. The Arts Café serves breakfast and lunch. See http://www.kznsagallery.co.za
- The Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve is only 26 hectares in size, but it’s home to hundreds of species of birds and animals. There are guided walks daily through the forest, to the dune and beach, and scenic picnic-spots.
- Giba Gorge, near Pinetown, offers a mountain-bike track, bike- and horse-trails, as well as trail-runs. There’s a restaurant on site, the Stockville Rd Kitchen. See www.gibagorge.co.za
- There are several attractive beaches, north and south of Durban. Try Blythedale Beach, Salt Rock and Ballito Bay. The latter has a tidal pool and picnic spots.