12 Epic bush breaks for Gautengers

2016-11-26 12:31 - Louzel Lombard Steyn
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Cape Town - The South African summertime craze is coming, whether we like it or not. 

Sooner than we know it, GP number-plated SUVs towing a caravan towing a boat towing a jetski will head down the N1 and N3 towards the coastal regions in a phenomenon that might as well be added to National Geographic's Great Migrations. 

No less than 20% of voters on News24, or 6 276 out of a total 30 840, indicated that they'll be heading to the coast this December. That's a lot. 

So if you want to miss the busy roads and even busier beaches this festive season, we've got the perfect bush breakaways for Gautengers.

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These bush hideaways tick all our boxes of 'bosveld' necessities - early sunrises, big brunches, even bigger game and magnificent afternoon thundershowers. 

Here are 12 Epic December Bush breaks that's a quick drive from Gauteng: 

Head to SA's Ark - Pilanesberg Game Reserve

Ever heard of the ground-breaking Project Genesis - the largest game translocation undertaken in the world? 

In the early '80s, more than 6 000 animals from parks across southern Africa were settled in the Pilanesberg. R1.5 million was spent on the game fence surrounding the Park, while R1.8 million was spent on the game itself. 

Why? To establish an eco-system with virtually all animal species of southern Africa, including lions, elephants, buffaloes, leopards, zebras, hyenas, giraffes, hippos and crocodiles, as well as over 350 bird species.

Check out: 10 Cool Pilanesberg facts that will make you go 'bos'

Pilanesberg offers a host of accommodation options, ranging from resorts, safari tents and bush lodges to chalets and self-catering. 

Luxury lovers will love the exclusive lodges in the private Black Rhino Reserve, a recent addition to Pilanesberg, while families and budget travellers will find a variety of accommodation choices to suit every budget, including self-catering, bed and breakfast and chalet options

Located on the slopes of an ancient volcano in the Park, Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge is a renowned accommodation choice in the district owing to its wide range of activities for both adults and children. Photographers will love the bird walk and hides available at the lodge.

A video posted by juac21 (@juac21) on

If you're after a little bit more romance, Tambuti Game Lodge is the ideal destination to sneak away for a romantic weekend in the bush – private, candlelit dinners can be arranged here and the attraction of the Big 5 and other large game makes this lodge a popular destination for South African travellers. 

A photo posted by Ayida Leung (@ayileung) on

Pilanesberg is located in the North West province, just 2 hours and 30 minutes from Johannesburg central.  

Explore KwaZulu-Natal 

Are you dreaming of a bushveld braai for Christmas eve, but would like to party on the beach for New Year's eve? If you make KZN your destination of choice, you can. You can simply spend a few days in the veld before driving on to enjoy the warm Indian Ocean waters and sandy shores.

If you're wondering where to find your bush escape, there's a few insider spots we know of...  

Mkuze Falls Game Lodge is one such sweet spot. Located in the heart of Zululand, this lodge features nine elegant thatched chalets and one safari suite. Apart from boasting the Big 5 and a horde of other plains game, over 430 different species of bird can be found here.

A photo posted by @pangeatravel on

For a more cultural bush escape, Isibindi Eco-Reserve is a beautiful lodge set among the rolling hills of montane grassland and riverine forests. The suites at Isibindi Zulu Lodge are specifically designed in the manner of the traditional Zulu beehive shape and guests are given a special Zulu-inspired boma dinner.

Apart from an intriguing and special look into Zulu culture, the reserve offers a slice of South African wildlife at its best. 

If you're driving from Johannesburg, it's an easy trip south on the N3. Depending on where you're headed, the trip should take no longer than a 4-hours' drive. 

Marvel in the magical Madikwe  

Family-travellers, are you paying attention? There's a spot in Madikwe Game Reserve we absolutely love for a bush breakaway. The love and dedication for Tuningi Safari Lodge from management couple Heidi and Gavin shows - exquisite touches in the luxury suites through to the child-friendly approach which has been instilled. It's a hit for the family.

Tuningi is renowned for its eco-tourism efforts and upliftment of the rural communities within Madikwe Game Reserve. 

Also in Madikwe, in the western section of the reserve on the Tweedeport Ridge, Buffalo Ridge Safari Lodge is a popular destination for holidaymakers wanting the quintessential safari experience. But it is not the fantastic safari experience that makes Buffalo Ridge unique - this is the only lodge in South Africa that is wholly-owned by a rural community.

A photo posted by Lindsay Wikoff (@lwikoff) on

Madikwe is arguably the finest game reserve in the country, and The Bush House is a jewel in the crown of this North-West Province treasure. The luxurious lodge we know today used to be quite different, and was actually once a farmhouse that has been renovated to its present-day glory. 

Six en-suite rooms are available, with four of them each sporting unparalleled views of Madikwe, where the Big 5 and a host of other wildlife are regularly spotted. 

The drive from Johannesburg to Madikwe is about 4 hours. 

Go wild in the Greater Kruger National Park 

It's easy for South Africans to think of other African countries when considering the best safaris on the globe. But overlooking one of the biggest and richest wildlife hubs on the continent, South Africa, is a sin. 

Nothing can compare to the Kruger when it comes to wildlife. Earlier this month, for example, Kruger visitors caught on camera a wildlife sighting where a hippo tried to attack a Land Rover as pride of lions attacked it from behind. Other - equally crazy - Kruger Stories confirm that it really doesn't get wilder than here... 

WATCH: Incredible Kruger: Unusual battle as bird takes out two snakes

Apart from the incredible wildlife on offer, SA also has some of the most incredible accommodation options available. And if you don't want to stay in one of the Park's camps, there's a myriad of options to choose from right on the Kruger's doorstep. 
Tintswalo's Safari Lodge, for example, would suit any luxury lover in search of some African safari romance. In the native Shangaan language, Tintswalo means “the intangible feeling of love, gratitude and peace bestowed upon someone offering you a meaningful and worthy gift.” So naturally, these guys cater for those in love, with love. 

The lodge is nestled between the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve to the North, Sabi Sand Reserve to the South, and open to the Greater Kruger National Park on its fenceless eastern boundary.

Makalali Private Lodge is another favourite. Once an old cattle farm, Makalali was bought in the nineties with a single goal in mind - to be different. Restocking and regenerating of the veld soon began, and the lodge started taking shape. 

Today, Makalali consists of three gorgeous camps situated on the banks of the Makhutswi river with plunge pools, viewing decks and a lovely boma.

A photo posted by Amy Tan (@planethoppers) on

Also just outside the Kruger, Thornybush Game Reserve is home to Tangala Safari Camp – a thatched, luxury camp comprising 5 twin-bedded chalets. This electricity-free choice of accommodation prides itself on conservation and sustainability. In fact, it is one of the very few electricity-free safari camps in South Africa. 

Game viewing is of a high standard in Thornybush and the Big 5 is regularly spotted, along with a horde of resident bird species. Tangala may be off-the-grid, but it is certainly on par with one of the best safari experiences around.  

Kuname River Lodge is another must. Sporting magnificent views of the bushveld, Kuname River Camp consists of five tastefully decorated chalets that provide guests with an intimate safari experience in the Karongwe Private Game Reserve – 45 minutes away from the Kruger National Park.

Experienced rangers ensure that wildlife sightings are frequent and an impressive number of animal and bird species roam free in this 9 000-hectare reserve. From open- air vehicle game viewing by morning to sipping on a cocktail in a rockpool by evening, Kuname River Lodge beckons to be explored.

A photo posted by Lane Nieset (@lanenieset) on

The Kruger National Park is no more than 4 hours from Johannesburg central. Depending on where you're going, your trip should take somewhere between a 4 and 6 hours' drive. 

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