The (early) countdown begins

’Twas the (flight) before Christmas and these 10 December travel ideas had everyone stirring…

How soon is too soon to start thinking about, and counting down to, the end-of-year festive season? In a normal, pre-Covid world, most cringe at the sight of festive decorations before December. 2020 has certainly become the anomaly, with the vast majority of us already eager to see the tail end of 2020, as well as that faint 2021 glimmer of hope that we’ll all return to some sort of normalcy.

The good news is that we’re officially in the second-last chapter of this rather grim book called 2020 and it’s time to look ahead to our end-of-year celebrations (in whatever form they shall take). Whether you’re planning a local staycation with loved ones, or you’re keeping a close eye on border re-openings in the hopes of escaping on a last-minute, end-of-year adventure, these 10 festive season travel ideas will get the creatures of your quaranteam stirring…

1. White Christmas

Swap the snow and slush for the impossibly white sand and glorious sunshine of &Beyond Mnemba Island in tropical Zanzibar. This exclusive private island is, quite literally, a heart-shaped nirvana with just 12 unapologetically romantic beachside bandas. Think leisurely snorkelling, scuba diving, swimming, SUPing and siestaing by day, and sunset dhow cruises, lantern-lit sandcastle dinners for two, beach barbecues and twinkling stars by night.

2. The Night (Flight) Before Christmas

Although these once-in-a-lifetime, ultra-luxury flights can be booked before Christmas, they jet off in search of extraordinary adventure in the new year. Travel safely, privately and luxuriously on these newly-launched private jet and yacht journeys in South Africa and the Galápagos Islands. The ultimate luxury travel bubble, this ‘flight before (after) Christmas’ will more than make up for all the lost flights and adventures that were sorely missed in 2020.

3. Jingle Bell Rock

&Beyond Phinda Rock Lodge is a small and secluded six-suite lodge that clings dramatically to steep, rocky cliffs in the game-rich &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa. With sweeping views of the Zululand bushveld, each spacious stone suite boasts a private plunge pool and picturesque veranda, not to mention an outdoor shower (and indoor bathtub) with a view. Action-packed mornings and afternoons are spent in search of the Big Five, while siesta time is spent in luxury, or next to the pool.

4. ’Tis the (Turtle) Season

&Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve is within easy reach of the Indian Ocean coastline and every year, from November to January, massive leatherback and loggerhead turtles emerge from the sea to lay their eggs on the shores of nearby Sodwana Bay. Phinda’s Turtle Nesting Adventure enables wildlife lovers to witness this incredible phenomenon up close.

5. Let’s Start the (Gnu) Year Right

Definitely one for the wildlife bucket list, East Africa’s year-round Great Migration is a jaw-dropping sight to behold. It is a never-ending trek of more than 1.5 million wildebeest (gnu), 500 000 zebra, 18 000 eland and 200 000 Thompson’s gazelle, as they traverse the vast Serengeti/Mara ecosystem forever in search of palatable grass. The migration peaks in July/August, with the world-famous, nail-biting river crossings, however every month of the year has its own unique highlights.

6. Silent Night

The arresting beauty and soul-restoring silence of the timeless Namib Desert are the ultimate remedy for the chaos of this past year. Escape to the ultra-romantic and seriously luxurious &Beyond Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, where energetic days are spent out exploring the spellbinding landscape, and nights are spent appreciating the deeply satisfying stillness while gazing up at the trillions of twinkling stars above.

7. Oh Christmas Tree(house)

Nostalgia has remained a global coping mechanism this year and what’s more nostalgic than a treehouse, where you can essentially hide from all your troubles (not to mention other people)? The &Beyond Ngala Treehouse is a four-story luxury hideaway nestled within 14 700 hectares (36 324 acres) of Big Five wilderness and it is the perfect, nostalgic way to usher in the new year.

8. Tid(e)ings of Comfort and Joy

As we all wait enthusiastically for the tides of 2020 to change, escape to the swaying palm trees, captivating coral reefs and unbelievably turquoise waters of &Beyond Benguerra Island in Mozambique. Slow the pace right down to the gentle, shifting tides of the ocean and indulge in some much-needed vitamin sea and African sunshine.

9. Walking in a Winter (Wine) Wonderland

This year’s oh-so long month of ‘Marcember’ has inspired both wanderlust and winederlust. Combining both well-deserved passions into one, there’s no better place to ‘wine down’ than in the picturesque and delightfully slow-paced Cape Winelands in South Africa. Celebrated for its moreish, award-winning wines and culinary ingenuity, this little gastronomic corner of Africa is the perfect playground for sipping (and eating) your way back to happiness.

10. I’ll be Home(stead) for Christmas

&Beyond Phinda Homestead is a sole-use luxury villa situated in the sprawling Big Five wilderness of &Beyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in South Africa. This four-bedroomed contemporary bush farmhouse overlooks a forested pan frequented by wildlife and its rim-flow swimming pool is famously photographed for the elephants that often stop for a quick drink.

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