Follow the Sun: Our favourite winter-sunshine road trips from Joburg or Durban to Mozambique
Did you know that the very best time of year for soaking up the sunshine along KZN’s northern Elephant Coast and Mozambique is during June and July? Not only does this mean that you avoid the blistering heat (and tourist beat) of mid-summer, it’s also the perfect opportunity to sneak in a bush break en route during the prime game-viewing months of winter.
Our Perfect Hideaway team spends a large part of every year scouring southern Africa for the very best hidden havens. This requires that we drive to every single gem in our portfolio – and so who better to suggest the very best itinerary ideas than our veteran road-tripping specialists? Here are our team’s expert opinions…
Road Trip # 1: Durban to Mozambique
While you could put foot and shoot north across the Kosi Bay/Ponta do Ouro border gate to the Mozambique South Coast in a mere 5½ hours (the distance is just 425 km), we’d have to ask you one question: Why would you? KwaZulu-Natal’s Elephant Coast is one of the world’s most glorious surprises, with exquisite beachfront villas and lodges in sublime eco-sensitive surroundings. This untouched coastline with its incredible marine and estuarine reserves – including the World Heritage Site of iSimangaliso Wetland Park – is the ocean-safari road trip of a lifetime.
Fly in to Durban (did you know that there are now direct flights from London?) and then unwind and acclimatise for a couple of days at No 37 – right on the sands overlooking Sheffield Beach on the Dolphin Coast – or at Zinkwazi Laguna – from where you can practically dip your toes into azure lagoon waters. Each of these prime water’s-edge homes has its own private path to the beach, making them the very height of exclusivity. Now that you have your bearings and have slowed down to a suitably laid-back holiday pace, take a slow drive north.
The pristine Elephant Coast in northern KwaZulu-Natal is an astonishingly diverse tropical jewel.
If you are looking for balmy waters and utterly unspoilt beaches, a four-and-a-half hour road trip from Durban will take you to Thonga Beach Lodge in Kosi Bay. Kosi Bay is a tropical paradise, with four pristine interlinked lakes that form part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). These estuaries are a hotbed of biodiversity and an important turtle breeding ground. Set in the lush dune forest of a secluded bay, Thonga’s thatched beach suites are strung along the crest of a dune within five minutes’ walk of the beach. Here a wonderfully laid-back beach vibe is the order of the day – you’ll find yourself taking most of your meals in your swimsuit and kikoi, deigning only to dress for dinner. Ocean safaris rule supreme: boat trips give you a glimpse of the teeming marine life, from dolphins and turtles to bright reef fish and visiting humpback whales.
If (like us) you need no excuse for a bush break, take a left turn and wend your way to Kosi Bay and Mozambique’s exquisite south coast by way of Thuleni Homestead. Adding a few days at Thuleni is the perfect way to transform your road trip into a bush-and-beach getaway par excellence. This contemporary bushveld hideaway in the heart of the Big Five Manyoni Private Game Reserve is just over three hours’ drive from Durban’s King Shaka Airport. Unfenced African wilderness surrounds you on all sides: if you sit quietly on the deck for long enough, you are likely to see impala, wildebeest, zebra, buffalo and giraffe taking their turn at the waterhole – or, if you’re lucky, lion, rhino, elephant, cheetah, and leopard. From Thuleni, it takes under three hours to do the beautiful scenic drive to Thonga Beach Lodge.
Mozambique’s south coast
Add a sexy stamp to your passport by nipping across the border at the Kosi Bay/Ponta do Oura border gate (open daily from 8am to 5pm). Your destination? Tropical heaven at The Blue Door, just 40 minutes’ north of the border. Mozambique’s South Coast is a sublime tropical beach holiday spot, and the beautiful Blue Door – a dreamy villa overlooking a never-ending white sand beach and a marine reserve that is teeming with sea life – is an idyllic escape where you can play Robinson Crusoe with your family. Ocean safaris offer you the chance to snorkel or dive rich and vibrant coral reefs, which include one of the world’s top pinnacle reefs. Explore the coast on horseback or by foot, keeping an eye out for breeding turtles that return annually to lay their eggs on these protected shores.
Road Trip # 2: Joburg to Mozambique
You have a few options if you are planning to drive to Mozambique’s South Coast from Jozi. The new Maputo-Catembe bridge, Africa’s longest suspension bridge, cuts down travel time significantly, however we still love the slow pleasure of blissful breaks along the way for a bush-and-beach road trip to remember. If you are looking for a slightly shorter itinerary, drive via game-rich Malelane, cross the border early at Komatipoort and end up at the heavenly Blue Door (near Ponta Mamoli) on the edge of the tropical Indian Ocean. If you have more time for exploring, we highly recommend skirting the southern Swaziland border en route to Kosi Bay via Manyoni Private Game Reserve before heading north over the Mozambique border to The Blue Door.
Jozi to Moz, Route 1:
First the bush…
If you are planning a slightly shorter break, we suggest a couple of nights at Laniakea Lodge (near Kruger National Park’s Malelane Gate, about 400km from Joburg and 90 minutes’ drive from Nelspruit (where you should stock up on fresh groceries). This beautiful self-catering lodge in the Mjejane Private Game Reserve bordering the Kruger National Park is an excellent bush stop-over, offering prime game viewing (the lodge even comes with a private nine-seater game-viewing vehicle and ranger) and laid-back living in a wonderfully soulful villa.
…Now for the beach!
After a couple of days packed with game-viewing drives you’ll be used to early starts – we recommend you plan an early-morning crossing at the Lebombo Border Gate near Komatipoort into Mozambique (the border is open daily from 6am to midnight). The drive from Laniakea Lodge to the border post is under 40 minutes, but we prefer an early start to avoid queues. The new Maputo-Catembe bridge has made the drive to The Blue Door amazingly accessible. During our stay, we absolutely loved our early morning and evening walks on the deserted beach, endless swims in the turquoise waters of this special marine reserve as well as spectacular snorkelling, world-class diving and kayaking.
Jozi to Moz, Route 2:
Head out of Joburg via Ermelo to Thuleni Homestead, in the heart of historic Zululand. This handpicked bush villa has floor-to-ceiling glass with incredible views over the deck and pool to the waterhole below and even Ghost Mountain can be seen through the canopy of trees from your bed in the main suite. Manyoni Private Game Reserve is one of the largest privately owned reserves in KwaZulu-Natal and is the focus of the World Wildlife Fund Black Rhino Range Expansion Project.
From Thuleni, you can choose whether to soak up the wonders of KZN’s Elephant Coast en route to Thonga Beach Lodge or to take a slightly less-scenic but quicker route directly to The Blue Door in Mozambique. Of course, our first choice is to add a few days at Thonga so you can truly discover the natural wonders and astounding beauty of the tropical wilderness areas surrounding Kosi Bay.
Prefer to fly in? Touch down in Vilanculos.
If self-driving is not for you, direct flights from Johannesburg or Nelspruit mean it is ridiculously easy to fly to Vilanculos in Mozambique. Warm up this winter with our hot list of top Vilanculos villas:
- Life is a beach at Villa Ponta, with views that stretch out over the Bazaruto Archipelago. Just 6km north of Vilanculos, the living is oh-so-easy at this self-catering but impeccably serviced beach villa.
- If you could take a perfect slice of a Greek island villa and beach and relocate it to a wild and unspoilt place with vanilla-coloured sand, a warm aquamarine Indian ocean with gentle and welcoming local hospitality, you’d be at Santorini. Perched on the red cliffs of Kingfisher Bay in Vilanculos, Santorini’s unfurling view of the archipelago islands and curling mainland in the distance is unsurpassable.
- Delivering a flawless balance of the wild and the luxurious, Perlo do Mar is off-the-beaten-track perfection and the ideal spot from which to island hop to nearby Bazaruto. The lodge offers jet skiing, sailing, diving and kayaking, as well as deep-sea fishing.
- Accessible only by boat, San Sebastián in the Sanctuary wildlife and coastal marine reserve is a very special place and one of our firm favourites. The San Sebastian Coastal Reserve, a 30 000-hectare reserve located in the southern area of the Bazaruto Archipelago, has a well-deserved reputation as a biodiversity hotspot. Mail us directly on email@example.com if you’d like hear more.
Perfect Hideaways has over 300 curated properties across South Africa. If you’d like to stay in one of these hidden gems, contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or +27 21 790 0972 so that we can help you find your perfect hideaway.