WORDS: KIT HEATHCOCK | IMAGES: SUPPLIED, DAVID ROSS, LAR PHOTOGRAPHY, PERFECT HIDEAWAYS & SHUTTERSTOCK
We’re lucky in South Africa to have so many beautiful destinations that work just as well in winter as in summer. All it takes is the right attitude, a few extra layers of clothing and a log fire – plus hot chocolate and marshmallows – and you’re all set. Having said that here are a few top picks for memorable winter holidays.
KwaZulu-Natal scores double points in winter – a tropical climate with warm enough weather for relaxed beach time, and inland Big Five safari experiences right off the beaten track. “I love escaping to KZN in winter. Days are balmy, positively hot, compared to the Cape!” says Michelle Snaddon of Perfect Hideaways, which recently won a Condé Nast Traveler Top Travel Specialist 2019 award. Her pick for winter is Thuleni Homestead on Manyoni Private Game Reserve. “Watch the game drift over to the waterhole from your pool lounger or head into the reserve for a game drive at your leisure. In fact, that’s what I love more than anything else about our private game farms – you can get up when you like! That said, I love being out in the bush in the early morning with a hot-water bottle and blanket to snuggle into.”
Once you’re in KZN why not take a winter 4×4 road trip along the coast. Perfect Hideaways co-owner Helen Untiedt suggests exploring all the way to Mozambique, popping just over the border to discover their unspoilt tropical beach hideaway, The Blue Door at Aloha, a private beachfront bungalow giving onto a soft sand beach. “Days are slow with little to do except relax, beachcomb and body-surf in the waves. Beach games and meal times are all important. Watching dolphins slipping through the ocean with such grace. The piece de resistance must be the shaded day bed that overhangs the beach.”
Snow is the wild card in South African winter holidays, infecting most of us with snow-madness when it falls, but it’s something you can’t plan for… or can you? Take the last-minute panic and queues of traffic out of your snow equation at Tiffindell, a southern Drakensberg mountain resort that guarantees skiing June through August. It has the feel of an Alpine ski resort, with a South African attitude of making a plan. “We have state-of-the-art snow-making equipment which guarantees snow all winter should Mother Nature not provide us with any!” says Travis Morrison, reservations and marketing manager, Tiffindell. “Over the last four years we’ve experienced snowfalls of over 2m on several occasions during our winter seasons.” Take ski lessons, snowboard, toboggan or throw snowballs and make a snowman.
Book accommodation in the Matroosberg Private Nature reserve over the winter months and you just might get lucky and coincide with a snow week. Even if the snow doesn’t oblige, there are crisp mornings, starry nights, mountain trails for mountain biking, quad bikes and hiking, abseiling and a host of outdoor activities to warm you up.
On the Western Cape coastline you may not have the balmy weather of KZN but the whale-watching more than makes up for it. Add long beach or clifftop walks, the green winter landscapes of the Cape and early spring flowers, and winter beach holidays take on their own magic. Get right away from it all in De Hoop Nature Reserve, for unspoilt beaches, hikes, wildlife and excellent land-based whale-watching in the protected marine reserve where whales come to calve each year. De Hoop Collection offers a 40% off winter special on their De Hoop Village self-catering cottages until end July, and have a variety of other accommodation – from luxury hotel suites to camping rondavels.
Or splash out on luxury Morukuru Beach Lodge, an all-inclusive safari-style experience also within the reserve, with views out to sea and whale-watching from your doorstep.
Paternoster on the West Coast is another gem visited by whales in winter. Helen describes the joys of a winter holiday here, staying at Zonnestraal, cosy with underfloor heating and an open ﬁre. “It’s truly blissful to have the beach to ourselves most of the time. The days are sunny and warm, long walks and plenty of shell collecting. Our shell mobiles become more intricate as we combine bones and glass among the weave of treasure. As the evening cools down, we gather around the open ﬁ re and board games become the focus of the evening.”
“The West Coast can be all seasons in one day – wild and windswept, or calm and bright sunshine. The whales arrive in the bay along with a kaleidoscope of spring flowers at the end of winter.” HELEN UNTIEDT, PERFECT HIDEAWAYS
SEE FOR YOURSELF