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By Brendan Seery

Deputy Editor

SA is home to the three Bs: Berg, bush and beach

Wriggle your toes in the sand or experience the African bush without going through a border or carrying your passport with you.

A few years ago, I was chatting to people from the Kenya tourism authority and they were waxing lyrical about the attractions of their country.

We have it all, they said. We have beautiful beaches. We have wonderful bush and wildlife. And we have majestic mountains.

So, I answered, a bit like South Africa, then?

They were not best pleased as I struggled to understand why someone from here would want to spend money on an air ticket, high-priced accommodation and tours, not to mention paying for a visa, to spend time in places that were, literally and metaphorically, “just around the corner” back home.

I have realised for years that South Africans are blessed with an amazingly beautiful land of contrasts, tourism and holiday opportunities. What continues to surprise me is how many people I know haven’t bothered to get to know their “own backyard”, but can tell you exactly where to shop in Dubai or dine in London.

We did a lot of travelling around the country when our children were small and managed to mix-and-match berg, bush and beach to provide lasting memories.

Waterberg mountain range in Limpopo. Picture: iStock

When it comes to berg, the awesome Drakensberg mountains spring to mind. There are scores of places to stay in the Northern, Central and Southern Berg, ranging from the luxurious hotels to simple campsites. Wherever you go, there is the backdrop of that imposing spine of rock, which stretches across the country.

Perched on a mountainside ledge, or even sitting next to a trout dam in a valley below, you will find yourself enveloped by peace. Mountains have that effect on many of us. When you are small and insignificant – as you feel next to the Drakensberg’s peaks – you realise and think about the bigger things in life.

But the Drakensberg is not the only mountain retreat in SA. Try the Soutspansberg and Waterberg ranges in Limpopo for equally impressive, but drier and less well trafficked experiences.

Then there are the Maluti and Rooiberg ranges of the eastern Free State, which include popular destinations like Clarens.

Of course, virtually the whole of the Western Cape is dotted by mountain ranges, culminating in the regal Table Mountain.

Picture: iStock

When it comes to bush, thoughts automatically turn to the Kruger National Park and its surrounds. Wherever you are – in a National Parks rest camp or a five-star game lodge – you will experience the African bush. And its beauty is more than the animals, magnificent though they are.

It is how the smell of the bush changes as the blanket of night falls softly over it; it is the blood-red sun through the dust in the mornings and evenings; it is the ceiling of stars, close enough to touch in a pitch-black night.

Yet there are plenty of other options. All over the country there are “Big Five” reserves and a host of smaller places which offer the solitude of the bush without the dangerous animals.

Our beaches are among the best in the world. KwaZulu-Natal, the Eastern and Western Cape offer a range of experiences and accommodation options, from camping to Hollywood-style pampering.

Umhlanga beach, KwaZulu-Natal. Picture: iStock

The best place to enjoy the sea is … from the beach. If you feel like swimming or indulging in watersport, don’t neglect safety.

If you’re going to swim, do so where there are lifeguards, or at least where you know there are no dangerous currents and where there are no sharks.

A South African beach, with its endless far horizons, is a place to sit, relax, breathe in deeply as you wriggle your toes in the sand and think about the meaning of life.

Best of all – you don’t need to go through a border or have your passport with you.

Brendan Seery

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