30 May HOLIDAY OFF THE BEATEN TRACK
You’re planning your winter getaway but would like something different from the same-old, same-old. Well, in South African you have a plethora of stunning destinations that are a breeze to get to. And if it’s within a few hours of Joburg, you don’t even have to drive yourself because Rhino Shuttles are happy to take you where you want to go.
Here are a few suggestions to consider.
This small, well-preserved 19th century mining town is situated in Dinokeng, the north-east corner of Gauteng. Founded in 1902, it has yielded some of the largest diamonds ever discovered in South Africa.
For example, the famous Cullinan diamond, weighing in at a hefty 3,106.75 carats, was cut into several polished gems. The largest, The Great Star of Africa (530.4 carats) is the largest polished white diamond in the world. It is mounted in the head of the British Sovereign’s Sceptre with Cross.
Cullinan’s open-cast mine is one of the biggest in the world, around three times the size of the famous Kimberley Big Hole. Choose the kind of mine tour you want: a surface one, a motorized one, or the only underground tour of a working mine in the country.
In the Diamond Hub you can see replicas of the most famous gems mined here and watch diamond cutting demonstrations.
The quaint little town’s focal point is the jacaranda-lined Oak Avenue with its cottages with wrought-iron work and picket fences, bric-a-brac shops, restaurants and the must-visit Jan Harmsgat se Agterplaas (literally, ‘Jan Harmgat’s back yard’), a garden theatre-cum-gallery that rarely fails to delight visitors.
The mountainous terrain surrounding Cullinan offers multiple activities for more adventure-oriented visitors, like gorge gliding, horse-riding, abseiling, bongo drum sessions and archery.
KOMATI GORGE LODGE
Located on the banks of the Komati River, the Komati Gorge Lodge is the perfect getaway for combining active days with lazy evenings. It is less than three hours from Johannesburg on the Drakensberg Escarpment in Mpumalanga between Carolina and Machadodorp.
Wherever you look, you will see scenes of breath-taking beauty: mysterious gorges, dense forests, cascading water, indigenous trees and all kinds of wildlife.
Explore the Komati Gorge on horseback, mountain bike, foot, or guided quad-bike tour. There are good spots for rock-climbing, but climbers need to take their own gear. Fishing kit, mountain bikes and tubes for floating down the river can all be hired, so you don’t need to worry about bike racks, or tying down rods.
The lodge is also pet-friendly; you just need to call ahead to arrange. Spend the evening in the bar, or the hammock on your private balcony.
LA PROVENCE D’AFRIQUE
If it’s a romantic breakaway you’re after, a quick drive to Magaliesburg might bring you the closest you’ll ever get to old France. A cool, cobbled, indoor street café leads off into seven unusual chateaux-style suites, designed and decorated by owner and artist Charles Gotthard.
Every room practically drips with French romance and is decorated with antique furniture, Victorian bathtubs and wood-burning fireplaces.
Breakfast is served under weeping willows beside the Magalies River, a setting even more romantic than the rooms.
The Forest “Zen” Spa, set in the middle of the forest overlooking the river, is the cherry on the romance cake.
The Elephant Sanctuary and King Cheetah Breeding Farm are close by, as are abseiling, rock-climbing, caving and rafting. The Goblin Cove with Gobble d’Gook coffee nook is a must visit. The world heritage site with magnificent caves and a tour every hour is also an option, as is horse rides amongst the game on the neighbouring game farms.