Chasing the sun is something we think of doing only when it begins going through the motions of packing up and leaving. Around this time of year. Whilst the last few months have had even swimming pool devotees shade hopping and water slugging, the slight shift in weather manages to catch us off balance and a last bid for the sun-kissed break we missed over Christmas is crucial for the easter break.
Chasing the sun in South Africa is never difficult – most parts of the country it never leaves. We’ve come up with a combination of beach-side, river-side and inland sunshine destinations where the sun is almost guaranteed to put in a daily appearance…
The Nuweveld Mountains, Groot Karoo
Not many visitors to South Africa make it to the Karoo. Some do it by default, when in the Western Cape, or travelling the N1 en route between Cape Town and Johannesburg. Even fewer realise that there are mountains in what is, for all intents and purposes, a vast, flat landscape.
The land of the Nuweveld Mountains that dominate the Karoo National Park is the home of the riverine rabbit, the black rhino and the extinct quagga. Explore the Karoo towns of Beaufort West, Loxton, Victoria West, Prince Albert, Laingsburg and Sutherland.
The Orange River, Northern Cape
The northern reaches of the Northern Cape are dominated by the Orange River. It rises in the Drakensberg in Lesotho and flows west across the country via various little towns like Douglas, Prieska and Upington, through Keimoes, Kakamas and the Augrabies Falls National Park.
Thereafter it forms the border between South Africa and Namibia, hugs the Richtersveld and heads out to sea at Alexander Bay. Safari and canoe trails, wine estates, mountains, wind sculpted boulders, and a rich indigenous vegetation make this a unique part of the country to visit.
Eastern Cape’s Sunshine Coast
As its name suggests the tourist region that stretches from the Tsitsikamma Mountains to East London is a series of coastal villages, rivers, lakes, lagoons, beachside forests and surfing and swimming beaches that gets the most sunshine in the country – 320 days out of 365.
If it is a beach-side, rock pool peppered, boulder hopping, shell combing, fishing, swimming holiday that you want then the Sunshine Coast is it.
The Wild Coast
Everyone who has been to this undeveloped, windswept coastline will exclaim at its mystery and inviolable beauty. With virtually no infrastructure to speak of, much of this coastline is at once unreachable (the exclusive realm of hikers, horse riders, 4X4 drivers, and the locals who live there) and remote.
The Wild Coast Sun’s indomitable jingle ‘take a walk on the wild side’ remains relevant – unspoilt wilderness in the form of ragged cliffs, desolate beaches, protected bays, green valleys and rolling hills from East London to the border of KwaZulu Natal.
The Soutpansberg, Limpopo
This far Northern mountain range stretches 130 kilometres from the little town of Vivo in theWest to the Kruger National Park in the East. It forms part of the UNESCO Vhembe Biosphere Reserve and is home to mystery, beauty and a number of nature reserves.
A subtropical climate that produces avocados and macadamia nuts on farms on the southern slopes of the Soutpansberg, baobabs, rocky kloofs, unspoilt mountain retreats, Lake Fundudzi, the Mabudashango hiking trail and a wealth of trees and birds make this an impressive destination.
The wetlands of KZN’s Elephant Coast
The coastline of the Elephant Coast, once the stamping ground of a number of free-ranging elephants, is home to a series of wetlands protected by the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (that includes Lake St Lucia, Cape Vidal, Charter’s Creek, False Bay Park, Mkhuze Game Reserve, Sodwana Bay, Lake Sibaya and Kosi Bay).
The wetlands are home to any number of birds and animals, and lie interspersed amongst beaches, swamps, forests, lakes, offshore coral reefs and sand dunes. This part of the coast contains Africa’s largest estuarine system, Africa’s oldest game reserve (the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi), the largest sea turtle (the leatherback), and exceptionally good weather all year round.
The Eastern Highlands of the Free State
Lying roughly South East of Bethlehem between Rt26 and Rt74, the Eastern Highlands is a region dominated by the orange-hued and eroded towering sandstone cliffs that are not only beautiful but filled with caves and shelters that boast San rock paintings.
This part of the province is the Free State’s calling card – country villages like Clarens, Fouriesberg and Ficksburg, friendly people, grasslands, cosmos and the Kingdom of Lesotho just across its border. Sunshine just about all year round.