#AfriTravel: Mini-breaks just across the SA border for quick getaways

2019-03-14 16:30 - Gabi Zietsman
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When you think of mini-breaks or quick getaways, crossing the border doesn't exactly instantly jump to mind.

But you don't have to drive far into a country to feel like you've at least left South Africa. Our neighbours - Namibia, Mozambique, eSwatini, Lesotho, Botswana and Zimbabwe - have a lot to offer just a hop, skip and jump over the border.

You can escape into quaint historical towns, explore vibrant African cities or reconnect with nature in a lush conservation area - all perfect for a quick escape without having to fly there - and visa-free!

SEE: 27 Ways to take shorter breaks more often across Mzansi

Namibia

Oranjemund

If you're really looking for a place where quiet is a way of life, why not venture over the border to the mining town of Oranjemund? In 2017 it got rid of visitation permits and has become focused on improving their tourist offerings. Visiting is also like travelling back in time to the 50s, as the town's isolation has turned it into a bit of a time capsule.

Stay: Accommodation is a bit limited so you'll have to book a bit in advance, but the popular spots include Op My Stoep Lodge and Shepherd Lodge right next to the Orange River, perfect for birding.

Do: Learn more about the area's diamond mining history at the Oranjemund Museum or explore the Orange River mouth, the famous Namib dunes and the nearby beach with not a soul in sight!

See: Oryx - or gemsbok - roam freely throughout the town, and while you can take photos of them, residents don't take kindly to those who bother them with hooting.

QUICK GUIDE TO NAMIBIA: Visa-free travel for South Africans 

Lesotho

Maseru

The capital of Lesotho is just a jump over the border at Maseru Bridge, and it's more than just a stopover before heading into the country's natural beauty. It's a cultural hub for Sotho culture where you can immerse yourself in their language, art and architecture.

Stay: There's a variety of hotels, bed and breakfasts and self-catering options in Maseru, but if you want a proper cultural experience you can stay in the Thaba Bosiu Cultural Village.

Do: You can organise a pony ride just outside Maseru, or take a canoe trip down the Caledon River that acts as the border to SA. You also make a visit to Thaba Bosiu - a historical mountain that was once the stronghold of an 18th-century king.

See: Maseru has very interesting architecture - a mix of traditional and modern Sotho style alongside concrete building and old colonial stalwarts. Also check out the Lesotho War Memorial, commemorating the soldiers from Lesotho killed in WWII, and peruse fine Sotho craftsmanship at the various markets and art centres.

QUICK GUIDE TO LESOTHO: Visa-free travel for South Africans 

eSwatini

Malolotja Nature Reserve

Malolotja Nature Reserve is a mountain wilderness biome with vast grasslands that hug the South African border. It's a great example of the natural landscapes of eSwatini filled with wildlife.

Stay: You have the option to stay in the reserve's log cabins or roughing it in their campsite in yellow grasslands.

Do: Located in the heart of the beautiful Malolotja is Swaziland's first and only canopy tour, where you can zipline over forests and next to sheer cliff drops.

See: The reserve is known for its stunning waterfalls, but the best time to go is in spring when the reserve is coloured in by vibrant wildflowers.

QUICK GUIDE TO ESWATINI: Visa-free travel for South Africans 

Mozambique

Ponta do Ouro

This beachside haven is considered a massive party spot - especially in December - but outside of peak season you can enjoy some RnR cocktails without the big crowds. You can indulge in some scrumptious fresh seafood and Portuguese cuisine and shop some of the most beautiful African fabrics. 

Stay: You can either go for uber luxury or budget backpackers in Ponta, but if you're looking for a truly rustic beach experience have a look at the Ponta Beach Camps where you'll have the ocean on your doorstep.

Do: The Mozambique coast has some of the best diving spots in the world, or if you're not certified you can also opt for some gorgeous snorkelling trips.

See: For a more calm experience take a walk on the stunning sandy beaches that stretch on forever and see some of the lovely shells along the way.

QUICK GUIDE TO MOZAMBIQUE: Visa-free travel for South Africans 

Botswana

Gaborone

You might breeze through this city on the way to the Okavango Delta, but Gaborone has a couple of things to offer visitors as one of the cheapest cities in the world. Its growth doesn't look like it will be slowing down soon, and it's an easy drive from Johannesburg.

Stay: If you're looking for a super luxurious escape, head on over to The Grand Palm Resort's Peermont Walmont Hotel, which is a perfect base for families to explore Gaborone.

Do: Take a hike up Kgale Hill with amazing views of the dam and the city, and perhaps spot a roving black eagle, baboon or even a leopard! You can also check out the Odi and Mochudi Craft Villages, world-famous for their intricate designs.

See: Visit the National Museum and Art Gallery that hosts exhibitions of historical, natural and cultural history showcasing the life and animals of earlier times. There is also a fine collection of traditional art and craft and rotating exhibitions of modern art and sculpture.

QUICK GUIDE TO BOTSWANA: Visa-free travel for South Africans 

Zimbabwe

Gonarezhou National Park

Unspoilt Gonarezhou National Park - 'the place of many elephants' - is less than four hours from the SA border post, much closer than the more popular northern parks. If you visit outside of the main holiday season, you'll likely end up having this 5 000 kilometre-square park very nearly to yourself.

Stay: The Chipinda Pools Tented Campsite is a must-stay glamping spot, which is run as part of a thriving partnership between the Frankfurt Zoological Society and Zimbabwe's National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority.

Do: Not have a car breakdown - this park is quite isolated and your car needs to be in tip-top shape before you take on the classic Zimbabwean roads.

See: It's home to more than 10 000 elephants, and other big animals include leopards, lions, hyenas, hippos and, of course, snappy crocodiles.

QUICK GUIDE TO ZIMBABWE: Visa-free travel for South Africans 

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