The Rise of the Staycation

The prospect of staying ‘at home’ may not be quite as exciting as boarding a plane for exotic shores overseas, but with proponents saying it’s a less stressful form of travel, the rise of staycations (a holiday in your own country) appears to be on the rise.

According to Google Search, trends show that the staycation is bigger than ever – many travellers actually seeking holiday destinations that are within driving distance.

“Many South Africans know the benefits of travelling locally, but there’s a large portion 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 demand for travel. Thousands of foreign tourists have already discovered the diversity that South Africa has to offer travellers.”

Says Sharmila: “You don’t need to travel to France for culture. You don’t need to visit Italy for delicious food. You don’t travel to the USA for spectacular natural phenomena. You can enjoy all these experiences right here in South Africa. When they say the destination offers a world in one country, they’re right.”

Here are some of the top staycation suggestions for 2019:

The Cradle of Humankind

Located just 50km north of Johannesburg, discover the birthplace of humanity at the Cradle of Humankind, home to about 40% of the world’s human ancestor fossils.

Your visit does not have to begin and end with bones, fossils and ancient history, there are also plenty of opportunities to enjoy the area’s natural landscapes and see the wildlife species that find sanctuary in the picturesque Highveld landscape.

What to do and see:

1. Caving in Sterkfontein and a walk-through history at Maropeng

Over 500 hominid fossils and 9000 stone tools used by our human ancestors have been found in the Sterkfontein Caves. This is also where two major finds were found 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 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 2500 sqm exhibit which features fossils and stone tools used by our ancestors.

2. A nature lover’s paradise

Mount Savannah offers 2000 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 lodge to cool off.

3. 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 helmet before navigating the ‘mock mine’. This is a great way to gain first-hand experience of how gold was mined back in the day and a view of the equipment that miners used all those years ago, from picks and pit props to cocopans and rope winches.

St. Lucia

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 included within the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, a 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 by swimming with dolphins, horse-riding on the beach, to turtle nesting tours and snorkelling. Not sure these activities are available in St Lucia, maybe Sodwana Bay? Maybe please let me know the source of this information and I will check, or refer to Nibela’s website for activities in the surrounding areas. However, here are some more reasons to add St Lucia to your staycation list:

What to do and see:

1. Turtle time

See the Maputaland turtles in their natural habitat during nesting and hatching season. At night, you can walk along the beach looking 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.

2. 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 rhinos while walking through the bush.

3. 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. However also be on the lookout for leopard, giraffe, buffalo and even hippos as well as nocturnal species such as bushbabies and aardvarks.

The Cederberg

Leave behind the bright city lights and head out for a relaxing break amongst wildflowers, rooibos and rock art. Based yourself in Citrusdal and explore this piece of heaven, which is the only place in the world where Rooibos grows naturally.

The Cederberg is the ideal spot for those who love the rugged outdoors, uncovering centuries of San heritage and to have your choice of locally brewed tea or beer.

What to do and see:

1. All things Rooibos

Did you know that Rooibos is truly and uniquely, proudly South African? The only place in South Africa and for that matter the world, where rooibos is grown is in the area surrounding Citrusdal.

Pay a visit to Carmien Rooibos Tea Farm and enjoy a tour of the farm, a walk through the entire rooibos making process and spoil your senses as you get to taste and discover all the different varieties of Rooibos.

2. 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 26km with a fair amount of climbing, while the 16km blue route is accessible and fun for the less fit and less technically proficient rider. The 3km green route comprises a single-track offering a few technical challenges.

3. Flower power

Also, very unique to the part of the country is, of course, the famous Namaqualand flowers. Each year in roughly between August and September this area offers up a unique display of wildflowers (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.