Ten 'cheap' holiday destinations in South Africa

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A dark giraffe spotted at Kruger National Park
A dark giraffe spotted at Kruger National Park
Gallo Images: Paul MacFarlane

Schools are closed. Parents are taking leave and everyone else is literally counting down to their last day at work. For many, the festive season is the only time they have to rest and relax.

Even though it's been a tough year, a little holiday might go a long way towards restoring you and your family for the new year. 

We looked around at some of the beautiful (but cheapish) places you can enjoy this December. 

Mattanu Private Game Reserve, Northern Cape

Mattanu Private Game Reserve is in the Northern Cape Province, approximately 50km north of Kimberley.

Guests can enjoy the reserve during a day visit or opt to sleep in at the reserve. Giving themselves enough time to enjoy all that the reserve has to offer, from the quad biking game viewing experience , buffet breakfast and bird watching.

UKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park, KwaZulu-Natal

uKhahlamba-Drakensberg Park has enough activities for the whole family. These include horse riding, tennis, putt-putt and a children’s playground. Quad bike rides and helicopter flips are also available.

Drakensberg Park is an open-air mountain museum where more than 30 000 examples of Bushman rock art can be viewed on the walls of caves.

The park includes Royal Natal National Park, a provincial park, and covers part of the Drakensberg, an escarpment formation with the highest elevations in southern Africa.

Read more| Why it's important to protect your skin when out in the sun this holiday

Lake Eland's Suspension bridge, KwaZulu-Natal

Set in  the magnificent Oribi Gorge, it is situated in the South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal, just 35 minutes away from Port Shepstone. This reserve  has a large variety of birds and game, including giraffes, zebras and warthog. Offering day visitor, weekender or holidaymaker a unique opportunity to experience nature.

The bridge is one of the main highlights for guests visiting Lake Eland Game Reserve and boasts dramatic views of Oribi Gorge.

Berlin Falls, Mpumalanga

Berlin Falls, north of Graskop, in Mpumalanga might be a great place to spend a tranquil summer’s day in December. A special observation platform allows travelers to view the wonders.

These falls tumble down in a single drop for some 80 metres, or about 260 feet, before crashing dramatically into a round basin.

In addition, this waterfall is also a popular stop on the way to other attractions in the immediate vicinity. These include God’s Window and Blyde River Canyon as well as several other waterfalls.

Blyde River Canyon Lodge, Mpumalanga

The Blyde River Canyon Lodge is a hidden jewel, set alongside the sparkling waters of the Blyde River and affectionately sheltered by the majestic Drakensberg Mountains.

The lodge offers local and international travelers a unique African bush experience.

Situated in an 85 hectare botanical reserve, which boasts a wealth of fauna and flora,  Blyde River Canyon Lodge could be a magical holiday getaway.

Hartbeespoort, North West

Hartbeespoort is a South African resort town in North West, just 45 minutes from Pretoria.

It’s known for the Hartbeespoort Dam and the Whitewater rapids of the Crocodile River. Both are visible from the Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway, which ascends to the top of the Magaliesberg mountains.

There are a number of things that one can do when visiting Haarties, from river rafting, horse riding, hot air ballooning  and bird watching etc.

 Golden Gate Highlands National Park, Free State

Nestled in the rolling foothills of the Maluti Mountains of the north eastern Free State lies the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, near the Lesotho border.

It covers an area of 340 km². The park's most notable features are its golden, ochre, and orange-hued, deeply eroded sandstone cliffs and outcrops, especially the Brandwag rock.

For those who are into history and culture, they can visit the Basotho Cultural Village, which mirrors how the village looked in the 18th century. Where they  will meet the chief, his wives and the traditional healer. An amazing architectural sight with stunning settings and decorations that are a feast of colour for the eyes.

Nature lovers, can spend time in the majestic Maluti Mountains, hiking, horse riding, exploring caves and much more in their indescribable golden glow. The vulture’s restaurant (bird hide) welcomes birders to a proper vulture feast.

 Read more| Five historical sites you can visit for Heritage Day

Augrabies Falls National Park, Northern Cape

Augrabies Falls National Park is a national park is situated around the Augrabies Falls, about 120 km west of Upington in the Northern Cape Province, South Africa.  

The falls covers an area of 820 km² and stretches along the Orange River.

The Khoi people called it Aukoerebis, or place of Great Noise, as this powerful flow of water is unleashed from rocky surroundings characterized by the 18-km abyss of the Orange River Gorge.

While the waterfall in the main source of attraction, visitors can also enjoy a game drive, nature trails and arrow points.

Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape, Limpopo

Mapungubwe National Park is the ideal location for anyone interested in wildlife and birds.

Mapungubwe is set hard against the northern border of South Africa, joining Zimbabwe and Botswana.

The Mapungubwe Cultural Landscape demonstrates the rise and fall of the first indigenous kingdom in Southern Africa between 900 and 1,300 AD.

Visit the treetop walkway overlooking the Limpopo River, enjoy bird watching and game drivers in the sun set.

Robben Island, Western Cape

The solitary island of Robben Island situated some 9km offshore from Cape Town has a deep connection with the history of South Africa. It is where South African President Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison.

Visitors can go on a guided tour to the Robben Island Museum and get first-hand accounts of Nelson Mandela's life in prison.

While in Western Cape, visitors can tour the province and take part in other activities such as wine tasting, you can also hop on the bus tour and sightsee Cape Town or take a drive to see the Knysna Elephant Park

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