Looking for the best budget-friendly holiday option? Stay home!

Here’s how to make the most of your staycation in Cape Town or Jo’burg.

*By Jonathan Ancer

Scare yourself silly  

Halloween may be over, but that’s no reason not to scare yourself silly.

In Cape Town, a transparent man is said to haunt The Spook House in Milner Street in Rondebosch, while guests at Johannesburg’s Foxwood House Boutique Hotel have reported sightings of the ghost of Oom Paul Kruger.

If you prefer your entertainment with more chill than grrrrill, binge-watch a series. Review-aggregating website, Rotten Tomato conducted an extensive survey to determine the 25 most bingeable shows.

Dance like everybody’s watching

Tackle a family TikTok dance challenge. Dances can be easy, like the Something New by Wiz Khalifa challenge, which involves lining up oldest to youngest and each family member performing a little shimmy to reveal the next person in line.

Drake’s Toosie Slide (right foot up, left foot slide, left foot up, right foot slide) is a little trickier, but if 82-year-old Anthony Hopkins can smash it, so can you.

For advanced movers-and-shakers, Savage by Megan Thee Stallion, has a complicated “clock left hip, right hip, whoa!” combo but you can take an online tutorial to learn the steps.

Get artsy and crafty

During the year everything, rushes at you at a gazillion miles an hour and there’s hardly a moment to breathe, let alone be creative.

Use this time to launch a creative crafty project: paint, take photos, knit, launch your own podcast, get cracking on writing ‘The Great South African Novel’ (or perhaps just A Very Lekker Saffa Limerick: There once was a bru from Parkview).

If you need a deadline to get your creative juices flowing, All About Writing is hosting a short story competition. The theme is Fluid: The freedom to be.

Pay it forward

Research has shown that giving to others makes you happier, lowers your blood pressure, reduces anxiety, and helps you connect to other people – which, when you think about it, is the point of a holiday.

So, sign up to volunteer at a soup kitchen, walk dogs at your local SPCA or rescue centre, visit sick people in hospital or read to the elderly.

Gift of the Givers assists in emergency situations, so if you have medical skills, consider joining their volunteer database.

You could also become a blood donor. Blood is especially needed during the holiday season and you could give someone the greatest Christmas gift of all – their life.

Come clean

With the world facing an environmental crisis, why not use your staycation to become an eco-warrior and join a clean-up campaign.

Every piece of plastic that’s taken away (to be recycled, hopefully) means one less dangerous item for birds or turtles to swallow.

CleanC has been doing beach and community clean-ups for the last four years, and has helped remove over 100 tonnes of rubbish around Cape Town.

CleanCitySA is helping Jo’burg residents restore the city to its former glory by clearing streets, open spaces and changing litter behaviour one cigarette butt at a time.

CleanCitySA has held more than 150 clean-up events since they launched two years ago.

Visit CleanC and CleanCitySA for details of their clean-up events.

Spend a day in a beautiful garden

South Africa boasts some of the world’s best botanical gardens, which are the perfect backdrop for a picnic.

Johannesburg’s Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden is a pocket of tranquillity on the doorstep of our busiest city. It’s home to an abundance of wildlife with about 240 bird species.

Cape Town’s Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens supports a natural forest, fynbos, indigenous wildlife, exhibitions, and sculptures. Its open-air sunset concerts at the amphitheatre are the only place to be on a Sunday evening.

This summer, visitors will be treated to Seeing the Invisible, an augmented reality art exhibition – 13 artworks seen through a smartphone.

Take a hike

With majestic scenery and the endorphins released by being active, hiking is a great staycation activity. There’s also a sense of achievement when you reach your destination.

Capetonians are spoilt with Table Mountain walks that are fairly steep and strenuous: Lion’s Head, Platteklip Gorge, The Pipe Track, and Skeleton Gorge. Newlands Forest caters for all levels of walkers.

Johannesburg’s Melville Koppies is rich in history, with tools showing that early Stone Age humans camped there half-a-million years ago.

There are a number of scenic hiking trails with a beautiful city skyline view. There are various trails at Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, 10 km from the city centre, and a moderately challenging 9-km loop at Delta Park, a green lung in northern Johannesburg.

Try the 3,5-km loop at Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden and some gentle walks at The Wilds, a lush urban jungle in the heart of Houghton.

Remember: don’t hike alone, always wear a hat, slather yourself in sunblock, bring a warm windproof jacket, and make sure you follow hiking safety rules.

Be a tourist in your own city

A staycation gives you the opportunity to be a homegrown tourist and rediscover your city’s delights. Visit museums, local attractions, historic districts, uncover hidden treasures and learn about your city’s best kept secrets.

The best Cape Town attractions

Mother City staycationers can wander through the Bo-Kaap, with its colourful houses, beautiful mosques and rich history, then head to the Noon Day Gun, which has been fired at midday every day since 1806.

One of the City’s best kept secrets is the Company’s Garden, which was planted in 1652 to produce fruit and veggies for ships stopping at Cape Town.

You can sit under South Africa’s oldest pear tree and keep an eye out for the Garden’s most elusive resident, Albie – the white squirrel who, local legend has it, brings fortune to all lucky enough to catch a glimpse of him.

The Green Point Park – with its family-friendly space, outdoor gym, play and adventure parks, and labyrinth – is another hidden gem.

Another area to explore is the quaint seaside suburb of Kalk Bay, which Forbes magazine declared the coolest neighbourhood in the world in 2018.

Go for a sunrise walk on the beach, swim in a tidal pool, have a coffee and croissant at one of the cafés, then browse the great shops on the bustling Main Road and enjoy a legendary fish-and-chips lunch at the harbour.

The Heart of Cape Town Museum celebrates the achievements of those medical pioneers who pushed the boundaries of science that culminated in the first human heart transplant in 1967.

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art houses the largest collection dedicated to contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora.

The Franschhoek Motor Museum showcases over 100 years of automotive history, with a collection of 220 individual vehicles, such as an 1898 Beeston motor tricycle.

The District Six Museum is committed to telling the stories of those who were forcefully removed from the area by the apartheid government. District Six was a vibrant and diverse community … and then the bulldozers arrived.

The best Joburg attractions

Gautengers can travel far on their staycation – all the way back to the origin of our species.

The Maropeng visitors’ centre at the Cradle of Humankind, in Magaliesburg is a World Heritage Site where you’ll learn about the birth of humanity.

Explore the Sterkfontein Caves, where scientists have discovered hominid and animal fossils, the most famous being Mrs Ples, a 2,1-million-year-old Australopithecus skull, and Little Foot, an Australopithecus skeleton that’s more than 3 million years old.

There are also key historical struggle sites in Johannesburg that provide fascinating insights into our past. One is Braamfontein’s Constitution Hill, which tells the country’s story of democracy. It was a prison that held many heroes of the liberation movement, including Nelson Mandela. It’s now home to the Constitutional Court, which protects the rights of all citizens.

Visit Soweto’s Vilakazi Street, in a neighbourhood called Orlando West – the only street in the world that has had two Nobel Laureates as residents, Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Here, you can pop in at the Mandela House Museum and then visit the nearby memorial to Hector Pieterson, a 13-year-old pupil who was killed by police during the June 16 1976 Soweto Uprising.

The Apartheid Museum features provocative footage, photos, text and artefacts documenting the rise of apartheid and the struggle against it.

The Bensusan Museum of Photography has a world-class collection, showing the history of photography, from the first shadow puppets to the movies that keep us entertained today.

The SA National Museum of Military History is a memorial to all South African soldiers, taking you back through the country’s war history.

Pull-quote: “With the world facing an environmental crisis, why not use your staycation to become an eco-warrior and join a clean-up campaign.”

This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

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