Can't afford a weeklong holiday? Try these family-friendly day trips

Where to go for a fun and pocket-friendly day out during lockdown level 2

02 September 2020 - 10:24 By Sanet Oberholzer
Zebra drinking from a dam in the Dinokeng Game Reserve, the only free-roaming Big 5 reserve in Gauteng.
Zebra drinking from a dam in the Dinokeng Game Reserve, the only free-roaming Big 5 reserve in Gauteng.
Image: Supplied

Local travel has opened up under lockdown level 2, but that doesn’t necessarily mean South Africans are free to travel as they please.

Some people cancelled their travel plans ahead of the government giving getaways the green light, and others don't feel safe going away during a pandemic. Many simply can't afford to take a big family holiday at the moment.

Just because you aren't able to embark on a weeklong escape doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take a short break and relax. Day trips are affordable, quick ways to reconnect with nature and spoil the family.

Here are day trip options in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal:

GAUTENG

DINOKENG GAME RESERVE

The reserve is the only free-roaming Big 5 reserve in Gauteng. Located near Hammanskraal, it’s a 40-minute drive from Pretoria central and just over an hour from Johannesburg.

Guests are provided with a map for self-guided game drives. The 140km of pathways are marked to indicate whether the routes are suitable to tackle in high-rise vehicles or sedans. Guided game drives, bush walks and hot air balloon rides can be arranged through private contractors at additional cost.

The reserve boasts three picnic sites and privately-owed restaurants are available at Mangwa Valley Game Lodge, Mongena Private Game Lodge, Kwalata Game Lodge, Tshikwalo Game Lodge, Ngata Safari Lodge and de Kleine Serengeti Game Lodge. Contact the restaurants directly for bookings.

• Dinokeng Game Reserve's office is open from 8am-4pm daily, and visitors can explore the reserve from 6am-6pm. The cost is R80 per adult and R50 per child, plus R250 for a one-day vehicle permit. Permits are available at the Ndlovu, Tau and Wilderness Way gates, which are strictly cashless. See dinokengreserve.co.za

RHINO & LION NATURE RESERVE

The reserve in the Cradle of Humankind is a 45-minute drive from both Johannesburg and Pretoria.

With more than 30 species of animals, including lion and rhino, it is a popular destination for wildlife enthusiasts and people looking for an escape into nature. Included in your entry fee is a lion, wild dog and cheetah feeding, a demonstration with a snake handler and a cheetah talk.

The are more than 30 species of animals to be spotted at the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve.
The are more than 30 species of animals to be spotted at the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve.
Image: Supplied

The Bothongo Wondercave, giraffe feeding, hippo pool, waterfowl park, bike park and waterfall park remain closed, but you can visit the vulture hide, search for lions in the predator camp and go on guided walks and game drives.

You're free to make use of the on-site braai and picnic areas, or visit one of three restaurants on the reserve.

The Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve is open from 8am-5pm, Tuesdays to Fridays, and from 8am-6pm on weekends, public holidays and certain Mondays. Check ahead to make sure the activities you want to do are available on the day you plan to visit. The cost is R150 per adult, and R100 for pensioners and children aged four to 17. See rhinolion.co.za

WESTERN CAPE

NOORDHOEK FARM VILLAGE

Only 30 minutes from Cape Town’s city centre, Noordhoek Farm Village is a great escape for families looking for a relaxed, farm-style setting and plenty of activities to keep the children  busy.

Explore the craft shops and enjoy a drink from the village pub, The Toad, or freshly brewed coffee from The Village Roast while your children entertain themselves in the dedicated play area.

Ahead of your visit,   pre-book a treatment at the on-site spa, Caroline's Health & Beauty, or contact Escape+Explore to book an adventurous activity like mountain biking, hiking or stand-up paddle boarding at a nearby venue.

Food-wise, there's plenty in the village to satisfy even the most fussy customers at Cafe Roux (where you can enjoy live music on Saturdays and Sundays), The Foodbarn Deli and Tapas Bar, and Village Sushi. On Wednesdays from 4pm-8pm there's also the weekly Village Market, which features a large variety of food stalls.

Noordhoek Farm Village is open daily. There's a special activity programme for children on Saturdays from 10,30am-12.30pm. Entrance and children activities are free. See thefarmvillage.co.za

WEST COAST NATIONAL PARK

Part of the SANParks portfolio, this nature reserve is just over an hour’s drive from Cape Town and stretches from Yzerfontein to Langebaan. It features on the West Coast’s Culture Route and Foodie Route.

September is one of the best times to visit as it's when spectacular wildflowers cover the Potsberg section of the park, which is only open during this flower season. Now is also the start of the whale-watching season, which runs until November.

The West Coast National Park during wildflower season (August and September).
The West Coast National Park during wildflower season (August and September).
Image: Gallo SA Editorial Collection/Gallo Images

You can kayak or kiteboard in the Langebaan Lagoon, take a hike or bike ride, or go on a self-guided game drive.

The park has picnic and braai facilities. You can also head to Geelbek Restaurant — a heritage site with views over the park and Langebaan Lagoon — to enjoy local favourites like lamb potjie or Cape Malay curry, or their famous Sunday lunch buffet.

• West Coast National Park is open daily from 7am-6pm between April and August (last vehicle entry  5pm), and from 7am-7pm between September and March (last vehicle entry 6.30pm). The cost is R90 per adult and R45 per child. See sanparks.org

KWAZULU-NATAL

ISIMANGALISO WETLAND PARK

The park in northern KwaZulu-Natal is a two-and-a-half hour drive from central Durban. A heritage site covering 220km of coastline, it's SA’s second-largest protected area (after the Kruger National Park) and incorporates the country’s largest marine protected area.

You'll need more than a single day to explore all 10 “jewels” or sections, each of which boasts its own attractions. It's best to arrive early so you have the entire day to explore and decide what you'd like to see beforehand.

Those looking to enjoy a self-drive game drive should head to the Eastern Shores and Cape Vidal section, which offers a unique combination of beach and bush, or the Western Shores and Charters Creek section, where there's the chance to spot the Big 5. The uMkhuze section of the park is also ideal for bird watching and game viewing.

Other activities on offer include deep sea fishing, estuary boat cruises, horse riding, kayaking, scuba diving, whale watching between June and November, and turtle tours between October and March.

• iSimangaliso Wetland Park is open daily from 6am-6pm between April and October, and from 5am-7pm from November to March. The 10 sections have different entry and vehicle fees, which range from R28 to R55 per adult, R16 to R28 for children, and R29 to R56 per car. A community levy of R5 per person is also applicable when visiting certain sections. There's no entry fee for the Lake St Lucia and Lake Sibaya sections. See isimangaliso.com

PHEZULU SAFARI PARK

A little over 30 minutes from Durban central, the park is in Botha’s Hill in the middle of the Valley of 1,000 Hills.

You can take a guided tour of the reptile park and meet Ramesis, the 90-year-old Nile crocodile, or head off on a guided game drive to spot wildebeest, impala, blesbok, zebra and giraffe and learn about local medicinal plants. Segway tours and various hiking trails — including kids' bike tracks — are also available.

After the day’s activities, you can enjoy a variety of meals at the Nguni Cafe including adventurous options like crocodile burgers and less adventurous ones such as toasted sandwiches.

• PheZulu Safari Park is open from 8am to 4.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Closed on Mondays, excluding public holidays. Game drives are R200 for adults and R100 for children under 12. You'll pay R50 per person to do a hike or a reptile park tour. Segway tours start from R140. See phezulusafaripark.co.za