Deserts, Picnics And Mountain Walks

Sunset over the Botswana border

With a few more weeks before the official arrival of Spring, South Africans know that there can be some chilly weather ahead before winter lets go. But there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get out and explore southern Africa!

Shaun Pozyn, Head of Marketing for British Airways (operated by Comair) says that late winter can be a great time for doing just that and suggests the following: 

Namibia: The stark beauty of this country continues to beguile visitors looking for solitude, space and big, vaulted skies. Winter is a good time to see game because animals tend to gravitate toward watering holes and in the Etosha National Park, many of these are floodlit at night. Pozyn says Windhoek is a good springboard for destinations like the Park, the Caprivi Strip and Kaokoland. The Skeleton Coast National Park is a place of stark, splendid isolation: a graveyard of ships with solitude and silence that’s a great antidote for commuting to and from work. The stretch of coastline between Ugabmund and Terrace Bay feels primal, remote and timeless, with rolling fog, sandstorms and strange critters, including geckos that wipe their eyes with their tongues.

Northern Cape: The Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park in the Kalahari Desert spans 3.6 million hectares of conservation area across South Africa and Botswana amalgamating the former Kalahari Gemsbok National Park in SA and Botswana’s adjacent Gemsbok National Park. The park is open to day visitors, for border crossings at the Twee Rivieren border post (a minimum two-night stay is required in the Park), and for camping. Kgalagadi Lodge is just five kilometres from Twee Rivieren entrance to the park and offers families a great accommodation venue with the option of self-drive or guided day safaris (all organised for you by the lodge) into the park. The lodge is renowned for its unique menu created by owner SJ Slabbert and guests simply have to try the famed Kgalagadi burger. Accommodation options vary from luxury family suites to half-suite/half-camping (all air-conditioned) as well as camping facilities – with a noted benefit that all come with their own ablutions. In winter weather that ranges from -11 degrees Celsius at night to a balmy 24 degrees in the daytime, you can enjoy the sun alongside the pool while the kids participate in donkey cart and camel rides, or huddle together around the fire pit and look at the starry canvas before enjoying a Kalahari-size dinner. 

Mauritius: Blessed with warm, clear Indian Ocean seas and locals renowned for their hospitality, there’s more than enough to stay for at least a week, although nobody will begrudge you spending that time simply soaking up the sun. Mauritius has long been a favourite of holidaymakers and honeymooners and Pozyn suggests snorkelling at Pointe aux Piments – it’s only about six metres deep and a great place to see sea turtles and other beautiful creatures. If you’re not a licenced scuba diver, you can do a crash course, called a resort course but even if you prefer to snorkel, you’ll be dazzled by the life on the shallow tropical reefs.

Other attractions include the food, especially the seafood, and messing about in boats of all sorts: kayaks, sailing dinghies, SUPs (stand-up paddleboards), pedalos and sailboards. There’s also a variety of motorised craft, for waterskiing and every other splashy pastime you could wish for. All that fun can work up an appetite and Pozyn recommends La Terrasse at Grand Baie.

KwaZulu-Natal: Balmy waves teem with bathers in summer, but there’s still much to entice adventurous winter travellers. The Drakensberg mountain range and the Midlands have a range of attractions to delight body and soul. Pozyn recommends the Midlands Meander as a springboard for your explorations. The brew route guides you to half a dozen or so craft breweries, including the Nottingham Road Brewery and Gilroy Beers. Tour operators are available if you don’t have a designated driver.

Hartford House near Mooi River offers a five-course tasting meal and, like several other establishments in the area, offers picnic baskets, which can be enjoyed with fine views of the Giant’s Castle massif of the Drakensberg. 

Western Cape: The province’s subtropical climate means it has wetter, cooler winters that invite long evenings in front of log fires, but there are also warm, sunny and windless days. Just reopened after two weeks of annual maintenance, the Table Mountain Cableway offers unsurpassed views of Cape Town and Table Bay. Energetic visitors can hike from Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden up Skeleton Gorge and across the top of Table Mountain to the Cableway. The Bascule Wine and Whisky Bar at the Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront stocks liquid gold and local wine aplenty, and the hotel’s high tea has had good reviews. A little further afield, the Hog House Brewing Company is possibly the only bakery, brewery and braai venue to have outlets in an industrial area and on a wine-farm. The focus is on barbecued foods, like the burnt bacon ends, arancini balls and brinjal parmigiana. The brewery is at the Ndabeni branch and the bakery is at the Spier branch.

Kgalagadi information: Tracy Maher | Other supplied by Comair. Image: Kgalagadi Lodge