Spa hopping: Your complete guide to SA's natural hot springs for a winter break

2016-07-03 18:13 - Carina Greeff
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Monkey chilling in a hot water spring

Our utlimate guide to hot springs in South Africa. (Photo: iStock)

South Africa truly bursts with mind blowing natural resources and we are too lucky to have it all on our doorstep. A resource often overlooked is the bubbling warm water oozing from the earth's crust at our many natural hot springs.

Hot springs lie scattered across South Africa. The Western Cape, Northern Cape, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga boast a fine selection of natural hot springs and we can’t wait to soak away the winter in these warm, healthy, stress relieving waters.

To make the best of this never ending winter, take to the roads and discover our unique hot springs with family or friends. Try one or two, or tackle the entire SA spa hopping road trip! 

SEE: Breathe in deep and find your centre in these 15 wellness travel destinations

Limpopo

1. Tshipise

If you want to start your vacation in SA’s north-east, a stay at Tshipisi, meaning ‘something warm’, is a must. This Forever Resort prides itself in beautiful natural surroundings such as the Tshipise ‘koppie’ overlooking the resort, magnificent Baobabs and endless Mopanie trees decorating the grounds.


What to do:

In addition to Tshipise’s hot mineral pools, the location of the resort lends itself to an array of activities. Game viewing on horseback, bush drives, nature trails, curio shopping, tennis, bowls and putt-putt are a few popular options.

The Nzhelele dam close to the resort will also satisfy the avid fishermen's urge to reel in the big ones. Ardent explorers can wander to ancient rock formations or discover the beauty of the Sagole Baobab – SA’s largest at 38.2m high! 

SEE: Magaliesberg Escape: Old-school chill at the Valley

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Just off the N1 en route to Zimbabwe, Tshipise is a conveniently located stop on your trips to Botswana, Zimbabwe or Kruger National Park.

From Tshipise, make your way south-west towards Bela Bela, SA’s mineral hot spring mecca.

What to do:  The name, Bela-Bela, meaning ‘boiling-boiling’, gives a good indication of what you can expect when visiting this town. With natural hot springs as the town’s main attraction, you are in for a steamy soak session like no other within the peaceful African bush atmosphere.

2. ATKV Klein Kariba resort

This ATKV resort is located within the ravines of the Waterberg and welcomes adventure and serenity seekers alike.

Relax in two warm mineral baths or a heated indoor pool, embrace outside activities like the super tube, putt-putt, horse riding, game viewing, hiking routes, cycling, fishing, paddle and rowing boats or quad bikes.

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3. 
Warmbaths Forever Resort

The ladies will especially appreciate the rejuvenating spa packages available at the Warmbaths Hydro.

The heated pool, tube ride, river ride, wave pool, super tube and cable water ski will awaken the water sport junkie in you, but if that’s too intense for you, try tennis, volleyball or a selection of game drives. Even spot some game by quad bike.

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Bela Bela has an abundance of interesting sites to explore which are easily accessible from both Klein Kariba and Warmbaths resorts.

Visit the Makapan Valley north-east of Mokopane and discover beautiful limestone caves with a remarkable history. In the 1920’s thousands of hominid fossils were excavated here. Three iconic caves can be explored – the limestone caves, the Cave of Hearths and the Historic cave – where Ndebele tribes seeked refuge from Voortrekkers in 1854.

Mpumalanga

4. Badplaas

This Forever Resort is found at the foot of the Hlumuhlumu mountains and lies within a nature reserve, making this a unique spa destination.

What to do:

Pamper yourself at the hydro, spot game and birds on a game drive, enjoy water fun with the kids or sharpen your putting skills with mini golf.

Paint ball, a speed slide, super tube and river ride are truly exhilarating. Day visitors are also welcome and this is a convenient spot for holiday makers heading to Swaziland or Mozambique.

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In surrounding areas, explore the history and ghost stories of Kaapsehoop village where gold prospecting, political intrigue, murder, mayhem, mystery and Kruger’s millions are frequent topics to be explored.

Elands River Falls in Emgwenya is also worth a visit and can be viewed while rock climbing. Follow the safer approach and view the falls from the observation platform.

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KwaZulu-Natal

5. Natal Hot Springs and Leisure Resort

Make KwaZulu-Natal your next stop and visit the beautiful Gooderson Natal Hot Springs & Leisure Resort located south of Paulpietersburg.

The natural springs have been feared by the San as it was believed that the warm water came from a large black snake’s underground lair. This, off course, is only myth and we would definitely recommend soaking up the natural hot Natal waters.

Chloride, sulphite and carbonate rich waters of up to 45°C bubble from fault fissures and make for a stress relieving experience.

SEE: Testing bravery at Hot Springs in Natal

What to do:

This resort boasts all the must-have spa activities like a water park with a super tube, adventure golf, tennis and quad bikes.

Nature lovers can enjoy a guided bird walk, a mountain bike trail and horse riding. And then there are the well-loved hot springs containing 23 chemical elements. The five hot and four cold pools date back to the springs' discovery during the Great Trek in 1888.

The surroundings also offer ample opportunity for day trips. Visit the Bivane dam for canoeing, fishing or taking in the beautiful vistas.

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Vryheid Hill Nature Reserve, in nearby Vryheid, offers self-guided trails for avid bird and game watchers to explore the five different eco-systems of the reserve.  

The Bushveld boasts many hot spring locations, fit for game drives, but spa hopping in the Western Cape will give you a completely different experience. Change your scenery and make the long trip towards the Cape.

Western Cape

Route 62 makes for a mini spa hop of its own. Passing through this route, visit Calitzdorp Spa, Warmwaterberg in Barrydale and Avalon Springs in Montagu. Finish off this leg of your trip at Goudini Spa in nearby Rawsonville. Don't forget about The Baths peacefully hidden in Citrusdal.

6. Calitzdorp Spa

Just off the R62, outside Calitzdorp, visit Calitzdorp Spa to get away from the city's bustle and relax amongst springbok, peacocks and remarkable succulents. 

As a bonus to the wondrous natural warm water, the 50°C water has been known to cure many ailments over the years. You will not only leave relaxed and revitalised but also relieved from sprains, high blood pressure, bruises and rheumatic complaints!

SEE: Tour de Braai: A 5-day gravel ride from George to Swellendam


What to do:

The avid birdwatcher will enjoy spotting 72 different bird species and peacocks and their chicks will become your feathered friends. 

Hikers can choose between the springbok, tortoise and fish eagle trail - where they can do as the names state - spot springbok, mountain tortoise and fish eagles.

If you are visiting from Prince Albert, strongly consider taking the road less travelled via the Swart Berg Pass for breathtaking Little Karoo views. Warning: Do not attempt this in a low car or in heavy rains, the route can be rather treacherous. 


7. Warmwaterberg, Barrydale 

Between Barrydale and Ladysmith, you will find the beautiful Warmwaterberg mineral hot springs. 

It's not only the hot and healthy waters that attract visitors to Warmwaterberg. The spring is located alongside the Warmwaterberg Mountain in the Little Karoo, which makes for an unspoiled breakaway of charming natural beauty.

The hot water is completely untreated, natural and clean. The property is also less commercial than the larger spas on our list, bringing a different kind of peace and tranquility.

SEE: Blissful Barrydale

What to do:

Submerge yourself in the natural hot waters overlooking the beautiful, green camping grounds. Return in summer and cool down in the large cold pool also on the property. Spot peacocks parading elegantly on the grass surrounding your tent or chalet and sit back with a good read.

Conveniently located just off the ever-popular Route 62, Warmwaterberg makes a perfect overnight stop. 

Some suggested stops in Barrydale include Diesel & Creme for a unique milkshake experience and Barrydale Cellar for their Cape pot still brandies.

8. Avalon Springs, Montagu

Many Khoi drawings reveal the secret that hot springs have been enjoyed in the Montagu area for centuries and it's discovery by an injured farmer on his ox wagon also tell the tale of the water's unique healing abilities.

Today the popular Montagu springs host a selection of activities for young and old to enjoy. From the R62, drive through Montagu to reach this surprisingly buzzing holiday destination.

SEE: Montagu: A Route 62 trip down memory lane


What to do:

Relax in large outside pools, take a break for a drink at the pool bar, book a luxurious spa treatment, dine in style at the Cogman's restaurant or feel like a kid again and ride the super tube!

Montagu surrounds beckon guests to stay a little longer with interesting activities to try. Montagu is a hit among rock climbers and I have been privileged with a view from the top myself. Click here if you're tempted to try it!

Why not give the Robertson Wine Valley a visit while you're there and see what the fuss is about in a 1956 Cadillac?


9. Goudini Spa

A mere 90 minute drive from Cape Town and just beyond the Huguenot Tunnel, find the scenic wine growing town of Rawsonville. Take a right off the N1 towards Goudini Spa for both a relaxing and adventurous stay. Like all ATKV resorts, Goudini Spa won't disappoint in terms of family entertainment.

SEE: #FindYourEscape: Run away from the city to Rawsonville

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What to do:

The mineral bath, jacuzzi, water slides, trampolines, putt-putt, hiking trails, horseback riding, tennis, volleyball and a games area will keep you and the kids busy for hours.

The region is, however, well known for its wine farms, so we strongly recommend visiting a few. Pay a visit to Du Toitskloof wines, Deetlefs Wine and Slanghoek Cellar in the nearby Slanghoek Valley.

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10. 
The Baths, Citrusdal

Holiday makers often stop by this natural gem en route to the Northern Cape or Namibia, but a longer stay is surely worth your while. The Baths is a smaller and lesser travelled spa on our check list and is perfectly suited for breakaways with or without the kids.

SEE: #FindYourEscape at these relaxing solo getaways in SA

What to do:

The source's spring water can be enjoyed in the hot and cold pools, rock pools and baths.

Once tired of swimming, the kids will keep busy with a trampoline, tennis, playground and a pool table.

Located near the Cederberg area, a trip to The Baths should include a hike or rock art excursion. On your way there, be sure to stop for Citrusdal's best coffee and quirky art at Die Sandveldhuisie.


Visit in Spring to see the area decorated with countless wild flowers, explore beautiful views over the Olifants River Valley while hiking or take a wack at a 9-hole golf course on the banks of the Olifants River.

Northern Cape

11. Riemvasmaak hot springs

Find Riemvasmaak's picturesque hot springs surrounded by majestic granite cliffs where you might be visited by a few dassies clambering around. Visitors have described the surrounds as lunar because of granite cliffs, desolate rocky plateaus and interesting vegetation.

SEE: #SARoadTrips: The hidden magic of the Northern Cape


What to do

Riemvasmaak is loved by 4X4 fanatics as they experience true Northern Cape desert-like isolation from the buzzing city life. Experience the rugged, Northern Cape and marvel over rocky plateaus. Take on the Perdepoort Trail, the Molopo Trail or the Deurspring Trail.

For lunch, arrange a meal with Riemvasmaak village locals and they will gladly invite you into their homes. This makes for an authentic experience where you can learn about Riemvasmaak's history of forced removals and restitution after Apartheid.

Experience the fierce power of the Orange River when you pay a visit to the Augrabies falls just south of the hot springs.