Welgevonden Game Reserve, South Africa
Welgevonden Game Reserve, South Africa
Image: 123RF / Simon Eeman

You may have seen in the news that at present Brits are feeling a bit stressed. This latest bout of worry has set in, not because of the realities of Brexit hitting home, or because of the drama surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine and potentially associated clots (although they are fussing about both), but because there is a very real chance they are not going to be able to go on their summer holidays this year.

The prospect of not being able to fly to the Algarve, Capri, or Ibiza for sun and sand has sent the inhabitants of the UK into absolute decline. Read any of the comments on articles broaching the topic and you will be engulfed by a cascade of fury, depression, and imagined revolt.

Boris Johnson’s government is terrified of “mutant Covid variants”, such as the ones first identified in South Africa and Brazil, sneaking into the country. So, of course, allowing citizens to holiday abroad, where they might come into contact with said lurgies, is a risk that the chaps at No 10 are not thrilled about. As I write this, UK citizens may not leave the country for holidays at all.

Initially I read about this debacle and laughed. My first thought was, “Shame, the poor, entitled creatures can’t possibly miss out on the Costa del Sol for one year.” But then I engaged my brain. Coming out of a dark, freezing, hard lockdown of winter, complete with terrible Covid-19 numbers, of course a beach holiday sounds just the fix. Except that the residents of Blighty can’t really do that on home turf. All 67-million of them could descend on the patches of good shoreline they have but that is absolutely not the same as the sort of vacation that hot parts of Europe, the Caribbean, Asia, and our neck of the woods offer. Brighton and Ballito are not the same thing.

This made me clock just how bloody lucky we are. Sure, thanks to “our” variant, we’re basically banned from travelling beyond our borders at the moment and our glacially slow vaccine rollout isn’t doing us any favours either — but, heavens, to go on a great trip we absolutely don’t need to use our passports at all.

The Eastern Cape, the Garden Route, KZN — our strips of exceptional sea and sand are never-ending. As are our sunny days. Even in winter you can indulge in a good beach break up the North Coast.

Otherwise, there are the Winelands and the Midlands for year-round delights, road trips through the Karoo for stark beauty, city excursions, and, most importantly, more bush-break options than you can shake a spekboom branch at.

I just spent time at the excellent new Laluka Safari Lodge in Welgevonden Game Reserve. A leopard stalked its prey next to our game vehicle, we came upon a never-spotted-before baby white rhino. I woke up with views over a spectacular gorge, and flopped about in my private plunge pool. An English mate said she had a very ungenerous moment looking at my pics from the stay.

I don’t want to be the saccharine Pollyanna of a pandemic, but the past year has offered up a lesson for us all. It’s made South Africans — especially the ones with cash — remember that travelling locally is actually rather top drawer.

My Instagram feed offers a continuous stream of Joburgers hitting Kruger, Cape Town, the Camdeboo and every luxury lodge, hotel, and hideaway in between. It must be said that rand-adjusted rates from local spots has facilitated this, but there’s nothing like a crisis to force you to alter your outlook and make do. Not that views over the Atlantic Ocean or hanging with the Big Five are making do.

They go head-to-head with your yearly sojourn to Mauritius or Miami Beach any day. Just ask Londoners right now — they’d positively die to be able to escape to either — even with a third wave on our horizon.

We should count our blessings — especially when they’re not in dollars, are in our backyards, and are utterly divine, irrespective of how fancy and well-travelled we are.

Buitendach is Wanted’s former editor and a contributing editor to the Financial Mail.

 From the May edition of Wanted, 2021.

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