Relax, take a break amid spectacular scenery, and indulge in your favourite pastime. These are our pick of hobby holidays to enjoy around the countryside…
1. KwaZulu-Natal – Art Courses at The Cavern Resort, Northern Drakensberg
For artists looking for inspiration, The Cavern ticks every box. The stupendous mountain landscape alone is enough to release the muses, but add to that a number of fabulous art courses that cater for both beginners and advanced artists, deluxe accommodation, an excellent table and the scene is set for a wonderfully creative and relaxing time.
The natural world is the focus of two of the courses offered: Botanical Art in October each year (24-30 Oct 2016) and Journaling in the Berg every March (1-5 March 2017.) These are led by two of the country’s top botanical artists, Gill Condy and Elsa Pooley. And in mid-May, art teacher Colleen Hamer hosts a four-day painting workshop. An added advantage of these courses is that the artists’ families don’t have to be left at home.
From horse-riding to mountain-bike and hiking trails, trout fishing to tennis, lazing by the pool or unwinding in the spa, or simply watching sport on TV in the pub, there is something for everyone. – Andrea Abbott
036 438 6270, [email protected]
2. Mpumalanga – Forging Knives at Heavin Forge, Belfast
Some 12 years ago I spent a weekend forging a knife here. Yes, girls can do it. This was such a worthwhile experience that I recently considered it worthy of a revisit.
Not much has changed. Heather and Kevin still greet ‘students’ with enthusiastic country hospitality, while their home and workshop, although a busy craft centre, continues to hold a serene ambiance on the outskirts of town.
The basic-but-comfortable bunkhouse has been renovated and extended to accommodate six eager knife makers and includes a kitchen, and a lounge with a large TV where DVDs on knife making can be viewed. Hard, hot work, but satisfying to see my chunk of metal take shape and eventually become a really sharp, highly-functional knife which has pride of place in my kitchen.
Classes are small so everyone gets personal attention, and techniques are up to date, because the Harveys, who are pedantic about their craft, travel to America on a regular basis to hone their skills.
No ready-to-make kits on this course. Everything from your knife to its sheath is produced from raw materials. At the end of the programme you’ll have your own bespoke creation. – Olivia Schaffer
013 253 0914, [email protected]
3. Limpopo – Nahakwe Lodge & Ribolla Art Route Music-makers, Mamaila
Nahakwe Lodge is on the doorstep of the Ribolla Art Route in Limpopo, making it a perfect place for a music workshop celebrating the pulse and rhythm of the area. Renowned sculptors and musicians, Thomas Kubayi and Lucky Ntimani, team up with the young and talented Gift Mkhari and Kenny Nonyana to teach the art of making and playing traditional and modern African musical instruments.
With a combination of the traditional mbira, Khora harp, Dembe calabash and bow, drums, African violin and pipe flute, there’s sure to be an instrument you can play. I’m not a born musician, but at least I could keep up the rhythm with the beautifully carved drum I was given, and I even tried out the innovative creation made from tin plates and the springs of an old chair.
Our music teachers were full of enthusiasm and made it all fun and festive. It was wonderful to sit under the spreading crown of the maroela tree around which the restaurant deck is built, and create music to serenade the setting sun. The free-standing chalets are tucked into the surrounding koppies so you can sit around the fire and make magic under the stars. The next workshop is scheduled for the long weekend in March 2017. – Lisa Martus
Nahakwe Lodge 015 397 7833
Ribolla Art Route 072 180 2398
4. Western Cape – Art experiences at Over the Mountain Guest Farm, Herold
We fell in love with Herold, once the north terminus of the 1847 Montagu Pass. The hamlet retains its historic charm, especially the former police station, post office and farmhouse which have become Over The Mountain Guest Farm.
With six B&B units, two self-catering family units and a tea garden, the place has beguiling views, where, to quote W B Yeats ‘peace comes dropping slow’. Hosts Estelle and Gerrit Brits have devised art and culinary experience packages that you can combine with your stay to really immerse you in the region.
The culinary package offers cooking workshops, master chefs teaching local cuisine, and tasting your way through a variety of local restaurants. The art package is all about workshops designed to inspire your inner Monet, especially given the beautiful landscape surrounding you. You’ll also find out more about the art culture of the area. – Marianne Heron
044 888 1700, [email protected]
5. Western Cape – Daniel Jardim’s Seasonal Cookery Workshop at Temenos, McGregor
As I stepped through the gate into the Temenos gardens, there was only tranquillity. I meandered along quiet paths leading to sacred spaces and tucked-away cottages, and discovered peacocks, ducks and a resident cat.
Temenos is a retreat centre created by Billy Kennedy, with a focus on mindfulness, the thread of which is pulled through to Daniel Jardim’s seasonal cookery workshops.
By connecting with food in a more meaningful way and sourcing local ingredients in season, eating becomes
a joyous experience. Daniel’s background in nutrition, and experience as a chef at the Buddhist Retreat Centre in KwaZulu-Natal, combine with his dynamic enthusiasm and zest for life to give participants a delicious experience in every sense of the word. I loved the way he engaged with the ingredients and the experience of creating food, and his tactile approach made me realise how disconnected I had become from the act of preparing a meal.
Accommodation at Temenos is in 14 cottages, all en suite, and with private patios and fireplaces. You can choose to self-cater, dine at the restaurant or opt for a dinner, bed and breakfast package. – Lisa Martus
Temenos 023 625 1871, [email protected]
6. KwaZulu-Natal – Umzumbe Beach Art Escapes, South Coast
I’m not sure what possessed me. People tell me that, of all the painting disciplines, watercolour is possibly the most difficult. I wouldn’t know. I’d never painted a thing in my life. Apart from painting the odd bedroom wall, I hadn’t even held a paintbrush since kindergarten, so you can imagine my trepidation when I signed up to attend a weekend getaway with well-known watercolourist and art teacher Grant Wood on KwaZulu-Natal’s South Coast.
I needn’t have worried. Grant, who is based in Umzumbe, has been painting for years and, while he manages to make things look easy, he was also reassuring, accommodated accomplished artists as well as a few of us total novices, and ensured we all went home with at least one framed painting we were proud to hang on our wall.
I actually managed to sell mine! Even though the painting classes were fantastically inspiring and educational, our watercolour weekend escape was much more than that. It was a weekend of great sea views and early morning dips in the ocean before classes began. Plus a gastronomic delight of gourmet lunches and dinners accompanied by much hilarity, especially on the very special evening of wine tasting. – Sue Derwent
039 684 6381, [email protected]
7. Eastern Free State – Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge Photography Workshops, Northern Drakensberg
If you have a passion for photography and would like to improve your skills, take this opportunity to participate in a hands-on, practical, four-day workshop in a spectacular natural environment. Witsieshoek Mountain Lodge is perched in the Maloti Mountains of the Drakensberg and boasts a pub that is on top of the world.
I love the wildness and remoteness of this lodge, 2 286m above sea level, at Sentinel Peak, home to the rare Bearded Vultures. Witsieshoek has panoramic views, and the photographic workshop, led by expert Sean König, gives you the chance to improve your technique while you photograph the dramatic scenery of the Drakensberg Amphitheatre. I really enjoyed the night-sky and light-painting photography, but a unique element of this workshop is an opportunity to access the initiation caves of the Batlokoa tribe.
After the short hikes in the area to get the best angles, Sean spends time doing a post-processing session where he goes through all the techniques, tricks and tips to make photos sensational. With so many photo opportunities in spectacular scenery, and an expert eye to take your photography to the next level, this really is a winner.
There is a workshop every new moon from September to December. There’s a choice of accommodation at Witsieshoek on a bed and breakfast basis, including exclusive chalets, rustic bungalows and the affordable Hiker’s Cabin. – Lisa Martus
8. Mpumalanga – Birding Weekends, Kruger National Park
What better place to enjoy some excellent birding than in the Kruger, with its more than 500 bird species. Not only ace twitchers who know their Sparrowhawks from their African Goshawks are welcome.
Novice birders like me will enjoy this introduction to the fascinating world of birds (and birders!). It’s surprising how quickly your eyes and ears atune to spotting markings and feathers, and it does of course help to have experts like Simon Ridge, Malcolm Henderson and Lance Robinson on board.
A variety of activities are organised, including a camp walk, early morning and night drives, as well as birding talks. But we did find time in between for a little siesta in our comfortable rondawel at Letaba camp.
The weekends are self-cater, but we were treated to coffee and delicious muffins on our morning drives, and drinks and snacks when we stopped at sundown, as well as a farewell braai.
Despite the drought, our tally for the weekend was a staggering 222 species, including five of what is known as the Big Six of birds visitors to Kruger want to see – Martial Eagle, Saddle-billed Stork, Kori Bustard and Ground Hornbill. The Pel’s Fishing Owl eluded us, but we were rewarded with a sighting of the Spotted Eagle-Owl on our night drive.
These weekends (every January and February) are hosted by members of the SANParks Honorary Rangers West Rand Region to raise funds for our national parks. Over the last 10 years, the SANParks Honarary Rangers have raised more than R248 million. – Nita Hazell
KNP Birding Weekends 011 476 3057, [email protected]