Don’t take this the wrong way, but I believe fly-and-flop holidays aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. When you have a few precious weeks of leave to use each year, why would you spend it horizontally on a sun lounger, soaking up the rays with a(nother) all-inclusive cocktail in hand? OK, maybe don’t answer that.
But here’s the thing. The underside of one sun umbrella looks about the same as the next. You might as well be in a hometown hotel, no? So next time, rather save the sundeck for a short break, and spend those valuable leave days — and a pricey flight — for a break that gets you up and out into the great outdoors.
The choice of active holidays on offer has exploded over the past two decades, with specialised tour operators and forward-thinking resorts catering to every sport, hobby and niche activity. Whether it’s a Padel break in Mauritius (courts are sprouting across the island) or sailing holidays in the Mediterranean that see you leave with a skipper’s ticket in hand, the world’s your active oyster.
Trail running is one sport that’s seen a huge rise in interest, with the Two Oceans Trail Marathon, Ultra Trail Cape Town and Ultra Trail Drakensberg enticing runners to swap tar for gravel, and bringing global running stars to our shores.
A leader in this field is local operator Runcation, which offers travel packages for key trail events nationwide, including the Be Moved Marathon. Hosted in the Eastern Cape (May 26-28 2023) local and international runners have the chance to run with the big five in the Amakhala Game Reserve, all in aid of supporting ranger training and conservation efforts in the region. Routes range from 6kn-40km, though the final distance is liable to change on the day, and at short notice, as rangers ensure runners stay a safe distance from any lion, elephant or buffalo that may wander close to the course.
If you prefer your trail on two wheels, there’s a wide world of mountain bike touring on offer, with popular trails on just about every continent. And the rise of e-bikes has made multi-day mountain bike touring more accessible to the average weekend warrior.
“People often wrongly assume e-bikes are just about making riding easier, but in fact it’s about giving people to ability to see and do more on two wheels. [They] give people the confidence to try something new, or take their cycling to the next level,” says Adam Walker of UK-based cycle tour operator Saddle Skedaddle. “We introduced e-bike options on some of our trips quite early on, but demand has risen so quickly that this year we’ve launched new e-bike-only departures on trips in some of our most popular destinations, including the UK, Italy and Spain.”
While Spain, France and Italy have long been classic destinations for cycle touring, “moving out of the pandemic, travellers are seeking out big adventures and unique experiences”, says Walker. “We’ve launched new trips in Sweden and South Korea for 2023. Both destinations are proving very popular as people are looking to try something different and visit places they’ve never been before. We’ve also launched a new leisure cycling holiday along the Caledonia Way in Scotland, a self-guided ride through Italy’s Prosecco region, a beautiful trip in the northeast of France, and both a leisure and family experience along the cycleways of Catalonia.”
A combo of the classic and the unconventional are also driving demand for trekking holidays abroad.
While Kilimanjaro continues to attract those of an adventurous bent, more accessible trekking routes in Europe offer a novel way to discover the countryside.
“The Camino de Santiago, the original hiking pilgrimage trip, and the Tuscany walking tour are well-loved because they are relatively easy to walk while offering amazing foodie experiences, as well as beautiful scenery,” says Jane Davidson of Development Promotions, the local representative for tour operator G Adventures. Along with Costa Rica, Croatia and Norway, trekking “destinations off the beaten track — like Everest Base Camp and Mont Blanc — are also becoming more appealing”.
Looking for an adventure closer to home? The steady winds and turquoise waters of the Langebaan lagoon draw kite surfers from across the globe and it is widely acknowledged as one of the best places on the planet to learn how to kite-surf. Here operators like Windtown Kite School — the first in town to be certified by the International Kiteboarding Organisation — offer residential courses that will take you from newbie to competent kiter in just a few days. You’ll spend a few hours each day in the water, under the eye of an instructor, leaving plenty of time in the afternoon to kick back poolside on the sun lounger. The best of both worlds, you might say.