Thursday, 24 December 2020 12:16 PM
As 2020 nears its end, we recognize that it’s been tough to contend. Our travel plans changed in the blink of an eye, which forced us to take a break from the sky. But as 2021 makes way for a new travel beginning, we can’t help but reminisce on the things we have missed. And remind you of the local beauty that exists, not far from your backyard, which could be hard to resist. So if tempted to explore or even dream a little more, we’ll give your travel dreams some steam with these 8 things we love and (missed) about Mzansi in 2020.
What would an authentic South African travel experience be like without some wildlife? With 19 national parks and over 800 game reserves, Mzansi has no shortage of places to go on a wildlife adventure. Wildlife tourism plays a vital role in driving conservation efforts, protecting endangered species and their natural habitat. But during our lockdowns, visits to these specular places were few and far between. So, if you’ve missed Mzansi’s wildlife as much as we have, then add these wildlife experiences to your bucket list: Run-ins with the Big Five, breathtaking sightings of the marine big five along the coast and many magical encounters with other wildlife. These include snorkelling with seals, cage diving with sharks and tracking cheetahs on foot.
The holiday season means beach season in Mzansi. And since the introduction of temporary restrictions, the beach may seem like a distant memory. But, we’re here to remind you of the plethora of experiences you can enjoy across the varied coastlines we've all come to love - so when you’re ready for that next beach holiday, you’ll have much more beach to explore. Imagine the many beaches in Kwazulu Natal that you can enjoy all year round, thanks to the warm waters of the Indian ocean. See and be seen at the trendy beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay. Catch a wave at Jeffrey's Bay, one of the world's hottest surfing spots. Immerse yourself in the bliss of laid back beach-living at the holiday towns along the Garden Route. Or, escape to the seclusion of some of the most pristine beaches along the Wild Coast.
The natural beauty
Where the beaches lacked in 2020, is well made up for in South Africa’s beautifully diverse landscape - think bush, mountains, desert, savannahs and forests. If you share our love for Mzansi’s natural attractions, then there's no better time than the new normal, to explore the local outdoors. Mountain bikers are spoilt for choice, with stunning trails across the country. Not to mention, the panoramic views of the landscape one can experience while hiking up the Drakensberg, Table Mountain or along the Blyde River Canyon - to name a few popular locations. Go on an offroad adventure through the Richtersveld, the only mountain desert in South Africa. Or, play golf surrounded by the lush forests and green hills of George and Knysna.
Delicious food and wine
When home confinement became the order of the day in 2020, we missed out on the many food and wine experiences we encountered through local travel. A culture as diverse as ours is bound to produce a variety of local staples with regional variations - from biltong, bunny chows, and malva puddings, to Cape Malay curries, chutney, pap and chakalaka. So if food FOMO got the better of you under lockdown, pay homage to our local cuisine by exploring the many places that serve up some of our favourites. And if you’re a wine enthusiast wanting to make up for time lost, explore the lesser-known wine regions in Kwazulu Natal, Free State and Northern Cape. Or go big, with a tour to the Cape Winelands to taste some of South Africa’s internationally renowned wines. Not to mention, the picturesque historical towns along this famous route that help create the perfect backdrop to your wine tasting activities.
Our heritage sites
Our 9 UNESCO world heritage sites, are historical and culturally significant landmarks that remind us of our global contribution to humanity. Some of these sites are well known to international and local tourists alike - Table Mountain, Robben Island, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and The Cradle of Humankind. But there are hidden gems among the list of sites that are certainly worth the visit. Add The Kingdom of Mapungubwe (hill of the jackal), located in Limpopo to your bucket list of places to see. This ancient Southern African state flourished as a regional trade centre and was abandoned by 1400, leaving untouched artefacts. Another site for the bucket list is the Barberton Makhonjwa Mountains in Mpumalanga which have the best-preserved volcanic and sedimentary rocks on earth, dating back to 3 billion years.
Local is indeed lekker! Exploring some of the lesser-known, or underrated parts of South Africa has given us a renewed appreciation for our beautiful country and opens a new world of local travel possibilities in the new normal. From small towns surrounding the major metropolises to quirky spots you wouldn’t have imagined existed - there’s a hidden gem waiting just for you. Visit “the world’s biggest pineapple” in Bathurst, Eastern Cape. Bathurst is well known for its pineapple harvests - a landmark paying homage to this activity couldn’t be more fitting. And hidden in the hills of Mpumalanga, you’ll find Adam's Calendar, which is said to be "the oldest man-made structure on earth".
Our bustling cities
We love the unique vibrance each of our cities brings to Mzansi. Johannesburg, “The city of gold”, is Africa's business capital and possesses all the traits of a fast-paced cosmopolitan city. Head over to the district of Maboneng, Braamfontein, Newtown and Soweto to get a taste of Joburg’s eclectic vibe. Cape Town, the Mother City, is often coined as one of the world’s most beautiful cities and with reason. From beaches to enjoy, landmarks to explore to culinary experiences to savour, and of course, there’s the magnificent Table Mountain, a fixture that never fails to disappoint - you can get a multitude of experiences in one city. You can feel the love when you land in the friendly city of Port Elizabeth. Port Elizabeth is not only famous for its pristine beaches and bottlenose dolphins, but also for the great hospitality of its people. East London is a small city that packs a punch with economic activity and serves as the Wild Coast gateway. Then, there’s Durbs - dubbed South Africa’s playground, it promises warm weather all year round and is home to some of the best beaches and local cuisine.
The culture and people
Mzansi travel just wouldn’t be the same without its people and culture. The rainbow nation is the lifeblood of a proudly South African culture rooted in diversity and rich history. Through this diversity, we’ve developed distinct ways of greeting, celebrating special occasions, and even overcoming adversity. Think of the simple “Howzit” greeting and similar variants in our 11 official languages. And, what would a celebration be without a shisa nyama or braai? But what we loved most of all in 2020, was how we used song and dance to overcome challenging times at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The South African hit, Jerusalema quickly became the soundtrack to a world in lockdown, with groovy dance moves to match the addictive beat. It even got our kulula crew dancing!