For the serial explorers among us, 2020 felt like the year we stopped going. Covid-19 made its global debut and continues to run interference, scuppering travel plans and forcing the planet to press pause. The new year is barely out of the starting blocks and as people re-think the way they do travel, several interesting trends have emerged within the Southern African context.
Sustainable tourism , climate change and travel ethics was a hot topic in 2020, thrust into the spotlight by the flygskam movement and an intercontinental alliance of teenage eco activists led by Greta Thunberg. Regenerative travel follows a similar narrative, underpinned by a spirit of benevolence and philanthropy as altruistic travellers pursue value driven vacations. Their mission- to positively impact the host country, be it through voluntourism or getting behind humanitarian aid projects that uplift and strengthen communities. “People are increasingly aware of our global inter-connectedness and the universal impact of this virus and climate change,” says Dr Jennifer Lalley, Co-Founder and Conservation Director of Natural Selection, “we’ve noticed a bigger demand for meaningful holidays with companies that give back.”
Immersive culture travel
In the ongoing quest for unique immersive travel experiences, painting holidays have piqued the interest of creatives looking for novel ways to experience a destination and preserve a vacation memory. Artist, writer and teacher Louis Jansen van Vuuren has been curating cultural encounters at his Chateau La Creuzette in France for the past twenty years. “I’ve noticed a nod back to themed holidays – art, writing, gardening and culinary workshops,” he says, noting that this type of cultural tourism is particularly appealing to solo travellers, mother-daughter duos, and small groups of friends who treasure intimate experiences in a risk-free environment.
Safaris and the great outdoors
Nothing quite speaks to wildlife tourism and eco adventurism like an authentic African safari.
Forecasters have clocked increased interest in the higher end experience where lodges are ensconced in more remote regions, are managed to stringent Covid protocols and where guest numbers are small enough to ensure ease of social distancing in and out of camp.
Leading luxury safari outfit *Natural Selection that owns and operates a stellar Southern African property portfolio (see their Lekkerwater Beach Lodge pictured above), has reported a hike in reservations since November last year and 2021 is looking bullish.
Ian Manley of communications and reputation consultants ManleySocial commented, “Private Bush camps like Geiger’s at Motswari Private Game Reserve a property managed by Newmark in the Timbavati, are on the hotlist especially with the international markets that are waiting for the green light to travel. The term du jour -‘Bio-secure’ – is more than just a new buzzword in the hospitality sector; it’s a must-have, and for all travellers it’s non- negotiable”.
Local really is lekker
While international flights to far flung destinations remain on hold, going local more than satisfies as travellers hit the road buoyed by a renewed appreciation for ‘doorstep travel’.
South Africa’s spectacular tourism offering delivers at every turn and the sky is the limit, particularly in the Western Cape. Road trips have taken on a life of their own as people adventure to small towns, discovering as much as they can while the going is good.
Attractive special accommodation offers are coming in thick and fast too, further incentivising and enticing locals to get travelling and throw their weight behind the tourism industry that is hanging by a thread due to the absence of the international source markets.
Tim Lundy, author and pro mountaineer who leads walks and hikes across the Western Cape, hiking tour bookings increased as soon as Lockdown restrictions eased. Nature is the ultimate stress reliever and Lundy is adept as creating innovating excursions, all protocols observed. (Note: his popular Glamtails tours will only resume once the various Hemel-en-Aarde wine farms re-open so keep an eye on his Facebook Group for details.)
Health and wellness travel
It was the philosopher Seneca who said that travel and change of place impart new vigour to the mind. 2020 saw the rise of the conscious traveller and this year will see an uptake in health and wellness travel. Rejuvenating retreats that focus on yoga, detox, meditation, physical fitness and overall personal development are high on the agenda for mindful travellers looking to destress and realign in soothing environments. “COVID-19 seems to have created the space for a ‘do-over’; an opportunity for us to start again and put greater focus on what’s important”, says Natalia Rosa, Director of specialist content, communications and marketing company Big Ambitions.
Disenchanted as some may be with virtual and armchair travel, it remains the sole way for many to explore, notably for those with corona virus contamination anxiety. To sate the static wanderer’s appetite for exploration, Google Arts and Culture has us covered with a bank of brilliant content from leading museums and galleries, in addition to virtual reality experiences and tours. In a smart pandemic pivot, Amazon launched a new online offering in September last year to include virtual experiences led by local experts that include learning DIY skills and taking virtual tours of far-off places and cultural landmarks.
In spite of all the challenges, the overriding sentiment out there is one of positivity. Travel like there’s no tomorrow, be well and be safe.
I spoke about local travel on Capetalk- the link is here.
The original version of this article first appeared in the Cape Times South Africa on 8 January, 2020
ROAD TRIP: MCGREGOR VILLAGE
I live in McGregor Village which is 2 hours from Cape Town in the Langeberg Valley. My husband and I moved here permanently in June 2020 to a thatch cottage that I’ve owned for about 5 years. Here are a few suggestions of things to do if you’re headed this way…
There are a number of fabulous reasons to visit, especially now, as people seek destinations where one can socially distance with minimal effort. For those who love to get out in nature and enjoy physical excercise, there are 3 main hikes: Vrolikheid and Kleinberg and Boesmanskloof – the latter is the McGregor to Greyton hike which is temporarily closed. You can also take beautiful walks around the dam -it’s on your right as you head out the village on the famous‘ road to nowhere‘ – and through the nature reserve along well marked paths.
If you want peace and solitude, the village will give you that. Connect with Temenos where you book a stay, do a retreat, meditate, do yoga or just spend quiet time walking the spiral in the beautiful gardens, reading and just being in the moment. Tebaldi’s is the restaurant attached to Temenos, open Wed-Sunday.
Try The Blend for coffee by Truth. Check if 51 on Voortrekker is open for a sublime takeaway flat white.
Lord’s wine estate on the hill is a must. Sans wine it’s a little frustrating but do go anyway-the food is great and the views superb.
Stop by Mill Stone pottery studio in Bree Street. Items range from the functional to the decorative in stoneware, terracotta and porcelain.
For more info about what to do in McGregor during the next few weeks until this Lockdown Level eases, click here.