Are you daydreaming of your next big adventure? The travel bug bites especially hard at the start of a new year…

Before you plan a trip overseas in 2020, it’s worth considering travelling closer to home instead

There’s a reason why South Africa wins countless travel awards and is one of the most popular destinations for international travellers, featuring on the bucket lists of celebrities and backpackers alike.

Poet and philosopher Henry David Thoreau said: “There would be this advantage in travelling in your own country, even in your own neighbourhood, that you would be so thoroughly prepared to understand what you saw you would make fewer traveller’s mistakes.”

Visitors to South Africa may count themselves lucky to spend a few weeks here, but those of us who live here are fortunate to have more time to explore the diverse landscape, cultures, and natural beauty of our country.

We may have to put up with load-shedding and a terrible exchange rate but, if you’re willing to explore, you’ll find that South Africa still has a lot going for it – whether it’s the open road that your heart pines for, a chance to see wildlife up close, hiking on top of the world, or adventure activities to get your blood pumping.

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A guide to local travel that’s world-class

Glamping safari

With glamping – a form of glamorous camping – you will be able to enjoy the beautiful natural scenery nature provides while enjoying a stayover in the perfect outdoor accommodation kitted with everything you need for a comfortable stay.

A truly memorable glamping experience involves a road trip and safari experience across three provinces. On a trip like this, you’ll learn about different regions of the country while enjoying the excitement of game-viewing in the bush.

Start with that special glamping experience at the new AfriCamps at Hoedspruit, Limpopo, which is located just 30 minutes from the Kruger National Park, making it an ideal base for self-driving tours. From here, make your way to the glamping destination at Mackers in Hazyview, Mpumalanga (via the scenic route through the Park), and explore the picturesque Panorama Route, the Blyde River Canyon and the Sabie River.

Round off your trip at their White Elephant Safaris camp in Pongola Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal: it’s the oldest private game reserve in Africa and home to the most unique water-based safari in South Africa.

Each fully-furnished two-bedroom tent offers air-conditioning and a fireplace, a large shower and a kitchen – among other mod cons. Camps in Hoedspruit and Pongola Game Reserve have outdoor wood-fired hot tubs next to each tent for soaking under the stars. It’s definitely a far cry from roughing it.

Cape cottages

You might have visited Cape Point for a few hours when you last had some out-of-town guests, but this popular tourist attraction has so much to offer locals who take more time to explore. And locals now get discounted entry into the park (just be sure to bring your ID).

The best time to visit is early morning, before the heat and the crowds arrive. Or, better yet, wake up in the Park, which boasts a phenomenal sunrise over False Bay. Not everyone knows that Cape Point has self-catering cottages that are considered some of the most unique accommodation in Cape Town.

At the Olifantsbos Guest House and Eland and Duiker Cottages, you can braai under the stars (or cosy up to the fireplace inside in winter), smell the fresh air and fynbos and maybe even catch a glimpse of the legendary Flying Dutchman ghost ship. All this long after the crowds have gone home. You might start to wonder what it was like for the lighthouse keepers who once lived there in total isolation.

Hogsback hiking

You could travel to the other side of the world to seek out the best hiking trails such as the Camino de Santiago in Spain or the Appalachian Trail in the United States. Many come here, however, to walk the Otter Trail, the Whale Trail and the Amatola Hiking Trail.

The Amatola Hiking Trail has a reputation for being the toughest in the country, and many say it is the best. It is recommended for fit, seasoned hikers as it requires walking for up to 19km for at least 10 hours each day.

The six-day, five-night trek stretches 100km from Maden Dam near King William’s Town and ends in the picturesque village of Hogsback. It takes you through the beautiful Amatola Mountains, where you’ll encounter pristine, undisturbed forest and beautiful waterfalls in a truly remote setting.

There’s also a two-day loop starting and ending in Hogsback for those who aren’t ready to commit to the full trek. Be warned, however, that this is still a tough trail and not recommended for inexperienced hikers. If you’re ready to tackle this adventure, note that all hikers require a permit.

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