How many times have you started an email or a call lately, apologising for your delayed response? How many times have you put off catching up with that one friend? In today’s fast-paced world, it feels like we’re always trying to catch up and forever apologising for it. Our lives are time-starved and, let’s face it, we’re all suffering from NET … not enough time.
Whether subconsciously or not, we constantly rush from A to B, seeking instant gratification and moving on. But is that good for the soul? We never rush a good meal, an expensive bottle of wine or a big decision. And we often wish those page-turner books and binge-worthy shows would just go on forever. So why rush when it comes to travel? It’s time to slow down and enjoy the journey.
You can’t rush something you want to last forever.
Stay a while
Now, more than ever, the soul-restoring benefits of slow travel are priceless. I’ve always been a proponent of slow travel, both in my professional and personal travels. In fact, one of the commonly asked questions I get is, “Won’t you get bored being on safari [in the desert, on an island, etc.] for that long?!” My answer, deadpan, is ‘Never.’
My last adventure pre-Covid was to the captivating &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge in the Namib Desert. A storm rolled in (yes, in the second driest desert in the world) and my stay was felicitously prolonged due to cancelled flights. A puzzled guest enquired, “What could you possibly do in the desert for 12 days?!” Well, everything and nothing at all. It’s a soul place. And in a soul place, one must always practice the pause.
Whether you’re an energetic, type A traveller that needs non-stop adrenaline and action, or you’re simply in search of serenity and solitude, there is a real indulgence to staying longer in (and truly appreciating) one destination.
Here are six of my favourite places to linger longer (disclaimer: I have lingered longer at five of them — many, more than once — however, Bhutan remains firmly entrenched on my slow travel wish list).
1. Phinda Private Game Reserve, South Africa
Despite having a set daily routine, no two days on safari are ever the same. Ever. In fact, no two game drives (or sunrises or sunsets) are ever the same, so the longer the stay … the more wildlife encounters you’ll experience.
And if you’re willing to check your wildlife FOMO at the door every now and then, then the lodges are the perfect place to indulge in some guilt-free R&R. Our signature ‘you-won’t-want-to-leave-your-room’ luxury should be enjoyed.
Skip a game drive here and there, steal a lie-in, laze by the pool, treat yourself to a massage, sneak off for a siesta and linger over leisurely meals. If you want something more energetic, take a day trip to nearby Sodwana Bay for some beach time and scuba diving, opt for an invigorating nature walk or participate in an unforgettable conservation activity. You can even sleep out under the stars one night, in Big Five territory, under billowy mosquito nets and cosy duvets.
With seven different habitats, six uniquely different lodges and the Big Five (and more), &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve is the perfect place to relax and stay a while. You may never want to leave.
2. Vira Vira, Chile
I sat with the General Manager, Executive Chef and Barman one evening, sipping on local pisco sours, and trying to make a full list of the adventures on offer at &Beyond Vira Vira in Chile’s picturesque Lake District. We lost count.
Think 22 hectares (almost 55 acres) of open meadows, wooded pathways, volcanic views, an organic farm, a quesería and 6 km of crystal-clear river frontage.
You can venture out to explore ancient Araucaría forests, climb a volcano, go horseback riding, heli-skiing, dog-sledding, snowboarding, snowshoeing, fly-fishing, birdwatching, mountain biking, hiking and so much more.
You can also spend some quality time in the local Mapuche community and share an authentic traditional lunch cooked on an open fire in their ruka (homestead).
Once back at the lodge, well, it’s all about R&R (and fresh, wholesome, leave-the-diet-at-home food … and wine). There are two outdoor hot tubs, cosy fireplaces around every corner, and the glass-fronted wooden suites are an invitation to truly switch off. Disconnect from the modern world and reconnect with the natural world.
3. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia
With its dramatic desertscape, satisfying silence, kaleidoscopic colour palette and sea of spellbinding dunes that have stood the test of time, there’s no denying that the achingly beautiful Namib Desert is food for the soul.
Blissfully remote and recently rebuilt with the ultimate in desert luxury in mind, the romantic &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is an ethereal escape from reality. You will absolutely want (lots of) time in these desert suites. Just beyond the floor-to-ceiling glass, is a spacious private pool with a postcard-perfect view.
Each suite has a discreet butler hatch so you can dine in privacy should you choose, plus a generously stocked (and nowhere near mini) bar complete with espresso machine, homemade ice cream and freshly baked biscuits. A pair of Swarovski binoculars in each suite help bring the deceptively barren desert to life and there is a huge stargazing skylight above the bed.
This landscape is Mad Max meets planet Mars meets the Moon and it begs to be explored. There are 13 choose your own (desert) adventures that will have you falling madly in love with this soul-restoring desert.
4. Mnemba Island, Zanzibar
Perhaps the ultimate in luxury is having a remote and tropical private island (almost) all to yourself.
&Beyond Mnemba Island is best described as a barefoot beach paradise. It is (quite literally) a heart-shaped island nirvana off the idyllic northeastern shores of Zanzibar, with just 12 spacious and rustically luxurious beachside bandas.
This is undeniably one of the most romantic, relaxing and carefree places on the planet. You can walk the entire powdery-soft and driftwood-strewn circumference of the island in just 20 minutes.
Greet the sunrise with a peaceful yoga session and toast the sunset on a traditional dhow cruise. You can also swim, snorkel, scuba dive, kayak, SUP and swim with dolphins. Swap one of your beach walks with a forest walk and spot the shy suni antelope and highly endangered Aders’ duiker. If you’re lucky, you can watch giant sea turtles lay their eggs ashore, and even luckier still, witness hatchlings emerge from their nest and brave it to sea.
A private butler will cater to your every whim and menus are merely a suggestion. Timetables don’t exist here; choose your own schedule to match your energy levels or do nothing at all. You can be as active or as idle as you please and the island’s surreal 50 shades of blue will be forever etched in your mind.
Image © De Waal Rautenbach.
5. Cape Town & Surrounds, South Africa
Consistently, and unquestionably, voted one of the most extraordinarily beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town has something for everyone. Blessed with mountains to climb, forests to roam, beaches to stroll, winelands to savour and world-class restaurants to frequent, no amount of time ever feels long enough to fully appreciate all that Cape Town has to offer.
Beyond the cosmopolitan city centre are award-winning vineyards and a vast, rugged coastline where two oceans meet. Hop in a car and take the scenic route, stopping at beaches, wine estates and jaw-dropping lookout points along the way.
There is an endless combination of unforgettable roadtrip routes to explore. My favourite? Start at the city’s uber luxurious and one-of-a-kind Silo Hotel, amble east to the tranquil La Residence in Franschhoek, head south to the charming Birkenhead House in Hermanus and finish your journey in the breathtaking floral wonderland of Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. Read more about this soul-boosting roadtrip here and here.
Warning: Cape Town and its inimitable surrounds will steal your heart. You’ll be back.
Perhaps the perfect place to find your Zen is the intoxicatingly beautiful Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, a peace-loving nation that places the utmost value on happiness and the environment.
Inhale the invigorating mountain air, trek the wooded hills and steep valleys, practice meditation, pray with Buddhist monks and amble through ancient monasteries.
Complementing the peace and solitude is an abundance of adventure, from trekking, white-water rafting and rock climbing, to mountaineering, archery and fishing.
Here are 10 surprising facts about Bhutan, one of the happiest, greenest and most sustainable countries in the world.
SEE WHAT LIES BEYOND
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