If you're in the mood to get out into nature with that somebody special,Love Wild Africa's Scott Ramsay has a few suggestions for you. Also see: SA's Wildest Places: Capturing Pockets Of Beauty And Natural Heritage
1. Elandsberg Wilderness Cottages, Tankwa Karoo National Park
Head up the N7 out of Cape Town, and you soon hit the dry, dusty hinterland that eventually leads all the way to Namaqualand. All one really needs in these sultry conditions is your cozzie, hat, shades and a few cold beers or bottles of chilled Chenin.
Maybe not even your cozzie - there are plenty of skinnydipping spots along the way. Elandsberg Wilderness Camp in the Tankwa Karoo National Park has just five adobe cottages, fully kitted out, each with their own deck pool. Spread apart for privacy, and unfenced, the cottages are wide open to the enormous starry skies and endless veld, which is dotted here and there with gemsbok, springbok, eland and the odd aardvark.
Once you’ve done lying around in each other’s arms, head up the 4x4 track to the top of Elandsberg mountain, where some of the best views in the Tankwa await. Great for a sunset picnic with bubbly and biltong. Now, about that skinny dip.
2. Table Mountain and Cape Peninsula
The top of Table Mountain is the Valentine’s Day capital of South Africa, with hundreds of goofy lovers taking selfies of each other as the sun dips below the Atlantic Ocean. The romantic vibe is always impressive and bound to result in a kiss or two, but hey, it’s not very original. So if you’re serious about your squeeze, then book the Overseer’s Cottage at the top of Table Mountain. Your bags will be driven up for you, but you’ll need to hike up to get there (sorry, that’s park policy, folks).
But it’s worth it: this eyrie is the only place where members of the general public are allowed to overnight on the mountain. Sleeping up to 16 people, but still small, intimate and cost-effective for a single couple (or two or three couples, if you’re into sharing Valentine’s Day with good friends).
Perched on the eastern rim above Kirstenbosch, it’s got the best sunrise in all of Cape Town, with views of False Bay and the Kogelberg Mountains. Make the most of your exclusivity and head for an early morning dip in the nearby dams that were built to supply Cape Town with water in the early 1900s. Look out for the flirty red disas that blossom alongside secluded streams at this time of year (but please don’t pick them).
There’s a little chapel at Cathedral Peak Hotel, and it’s there for good reason. Many lovers who stay in the northern part of the Drakensberg tend to come back and tie the knot. That’s because there’s something achingly dreamy about the soaring basalt cliffs and peaks which bonds a couple together, sometimes forever.
These are the highest mountains in Southern Africa, reaching 3 500 metres, snowcapped in winter but luminous green during the epic storms of summer, when thunder and lightning rip the sky apart. If you’re extra adventurous, take your Valentine for a hike into the Mnweni region, the wildest part of the Berg, guided by Caiphus Mthabela, a local Zulu who knows these mountains better than anyone.
Afterwards, head back to Cathedral Peak Hotel for a well-deserved hot bath. Then take a flip in a helicopter with Sky Adventures and land on top of the escarpment for a glass of champers. Go on a guided walk to one of several rock art sites, where bushmen paintings 2 000 years old surpass maybe even the Louvre in Paris for sheer impact.
Finish the day with a G and T on the stoep of the hotel, as the sun’s last rays tickles the tops of Cathedral Peak itself. It’s a delicious recipe of romance that may or may not end up in the chapel one day. Who cares really - what matters is doing it all again the next day.
4. Kruger / Lowveld
The romance of a Kruger hoilday is undeniable. A herd of elephants or pride of lions does something unique to a person’s heart. Away from the hardness of the city, Africa’s wild spirit softens the human soul.
Although Kruger’s main camps are overrun with tourists these days, the bushveld camps still retain the spirit of the early days, when the pioneering ranger, a cantankerous Scotsman called James Stevenson-Hamilton, used to mutter “keep it wild, keep it simple”. Aye Colonel, aye, I agree with you, sir. Simple is sexy.
These smaller bushveld camps contain no more than a dozen small cottages or rondavels, and have no noisy restaurants or public areas like the bigger camps. Biyamiti in the south has superb sightings of lion and white rhino. Talamati in the central part of the park is famous for elephants that come to drink from the floodlit waterhole in front of camp.
Shimuwini on the Letaba River is one of the most remote, and great for leopards; I once drove out of camp early one morning and a big male pierced me with his assassin’s eyes, before slinking off to kill something else. Now that’s something your Valentine will always remember.
What to read next on Traveller24:
- The best original Valentine’s Day Ideas
- SA Insider Guide: Valentine's Day came early with these top weekend events across SA
- Around the World in 14 Valentine’s Day traditions - but what about SA's?