There’s been an interesting backlash against digital devices encroaching on holiday time…

While the days of snapping selfies and sharing your every travel movement on Instagram or Facebook are far from over, there’s an increasing awareness about the dangers of technology addiction and the negative effects on our personal lives that didn’t exist before.

According to New York University professor, Adam Alter, at least 40% of people have an Internet-based addiction, with the average worker checking email 36 times an hour. Alter asserts that the average millennial uses their smartphone 150 times a day and that this tech zombie epidemic arises because ‘users’ find opening their Facebook app or email account to see if there are any new likes or emails irresistible.

Digital detox holidays desperately needed

The urge to embark on a digital detox holiday is growing in countries like the UK and US, but we are only now seeing South African travellers rebel against being ‘always on’ even when they’re on holiday, says Dream Hotels & Resorts Group Marketing Manager, Sharmila Ragunanan.

“As much as holidaymakers believe when going on holiday that they’re going to relax, the temptation of picking up your phone and sifting through emails is just too much. An American Express study found that one in three employees are willing to respond to work mails when they’re on holiday and, for millennials, this ratio is a lot higher – by almost half. Although this is an American statistic, the same could be said for South Africans and, as such, the provision of free WiFi at hotels and resorts is no longer a nice to have, it’s essential.”

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Ragunanan says the group is beginning to see the backlash growing however, with holidaymakers opting for destinations and retreats which have little or no access to Internet and mobile phone connectivity so that travellers are forced to unplug.

“If you have only one opportunity a year to unwind, but can’t resist being connected, venturing deep into the bushveld could be the only way for you to restore your tired mind, that’s why we make a point of providing opportunities to connect with nature that are unhindered by digital interruptions,” says Ragunanan.

If you’re desperate for a December break that delivers a digital detox, here are a few options that are still available:

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1.       Mthimkulu Wilderness Trails, Greater Kruger National Park

The focus at Mthimkulu is on providing an intimate connection to nature (no Wi-Fi offered). It shares an unfenced border with the Greater Kruger National Park, allowing the free flow of wildlife into the area. At Mthimkhulu, it’s all about the wildlife.

Forget 4×4 game drives. At Mthimkhulu, guests are led through the bush on foot in the company of experienced tracker guides. You’ll learn the skill of animal tracking, how to follow spoor and dung, as well as learn about the sounds and smells around you. Functioning as a basic camp, the accommodation is completely unobtrusive. As a pioneer of solar power, Mthimkulu Wilderness Trails functions with little impact on the surrounding environment, encouraging a healthy relationship with the surrounding natural environment, leaving you with time to re-connect with yourself away from the stresses of the city.

2.       Mjejane Bush Camp, Mpumalanga

A digital detox doesn’t mean that you need to skimp on comfort. You can still relax on king-sized beds and in spacious suites with floor-to-ceiling glass doors – with air-conditioning keeping you refreshed while the sounds of the bush surround you. The facilities at this camp will make you forget all about emails and spreadsheets. At night, you can head out on a thrilling 4×4 game drive, and awake in the morning to a champagne breakfast if you prefer.

This intimate retreat is set on a private reserve, so Mjejane Bush Camp promises sightings of lions, zebras, hippos, giraffes, leopards and many more. It is not uncommon for an inquisitive elephant herd to stroll right past your accommodation on its way to the Crocodile River nearby.

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3.       Nibela Lake Lodge, Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal

Follow the 25km gravel road to Nibela Lake Lodge. This is where your digital detox begins, as you wake up, not to check your phone but to watch the South African sunrise as the light catches the gentle ripples of St Lucia Lake.

Where there is water, there is wildlife, and there is no need to rush at this lodge. Head out for a walk to stretch your legs, or sit on one of the timber decks and watch various species of bird as they cool off at the water’s edge. At night, head over to the outdoor thatched lapa and move in close to the heat of the crackling fire. Don’t bother scrolling through those Insta Stories, this is an ideal meeting place for friends and family to share their real-life experiences of their favourite moments of the day.

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4.       Jackalberry Ridge, Marloth Park, Mpumalanga

Set beneath a canopy of ancient Jackalberry trees, Jackalberry Ridge will reward you with the ultimate detox holiday, paired with a good dose of adventure. Forget uninspiring holidays and ditch your phone charger.

Experience the thrill of morning and evening game drives in open air vehicles within the Kruger National Park.  Your “wild game” checklist will replace your daily “to do” list as you encounter  various animals such as elephants, zebras, buffalos, lions and giraffes. While at Jackalberry, you can wallow in your very own splash pool, as kudu, bushbuck and impala casually stroll through the grounds.

Try your hand at tiger fishing right on the confluence of the Komati and Crocodile River, and after a busy day out, make the most of the braai facilities at dusk, as you are cheered on by the sound of the cicadas- not the incessant buzzing of incoming messages.