Words by Gabriella Brondani-Rego

The coveted public holiday. South Africans are no stranger to the concept of 15 (seemingly) arbitrary days each year where we can put up our feet and relax. With so many public holidays available, the chance of getting a long weekend or combining some leave days off from work provide the opportunity to enjoy a rather lengthy break from reality. Many South Africans actively book these periods off in their annual calendars, yet why do so few embrace the opportunity to maximise the days off and escape to an exotic destination? The answer may be that most people do not realise how easy it is to book a flight, pack a bag and arrive in a new country with no visa hassles – at a moment’s notice. With the advances in technology, modern airplanes can transport a person almost half way around the world in under a day. Bearing that fact in mind, combining efficient air travel with luxury resorts means that you can escape the stress of modern day life in no time at all.

If you’re considering a trip with the family (or your significant other) in the coming months, here are a few easy-to-reach destinations that will also provide the most incredible holiday you could’ve dreamed of.

Mauritius

Club Med MauritiusIf you are looking for an island destination that takes less time to fly to, than driving from Johannesburg to Durban, the Indian Ocean beckons. A mere four hours in an airplane and you will touch down on the tropical island of Mauritius. If you’re looking to experience Mauritius all-inclusive style, the Club Med way, it doesn’t get better than Club Med’s La Plantation d’Albion and La Pointe aux Cannoniers resorts. Surrounded by a coral reef, the island provides plenty of opportunities to experience a beach holiday at a moment’s notice. Relaxing by the infinity pool with champagne or soaking up some personal wellness at the spa, Mauritius is an oasis of peace and tranquility. For those looking to be more adventurous, wakeboarding, kitesurfing, snorkelling and scuba diving are all available, courtesy of the turquoise ocean around the island, enclosed by the coral reef. If you’re embracing the public holidays and travelling with kids, Petit Club Med® (for two to three year olds), Mini Club Med® (for four to 10 year olds) and Junior Club Med (for kids between 11 and 17 years old) at the resort will ensure that your little ones are well looked after while you enjoy all that Mauritius has to offer.

Thailand

Maybe you’re able to secure a longer patch of leave and don’t mind travelling a bit further, but still to an easy-to-access destination. If that’s the case, booking a flight to Thailand should be on your list. With the ability to get a visa on arrival, the ease of access to this Southeast Asian country makes it an attractive travel destination. Thailand as a holiday destination has long been a firm favourite for South Africans of all ages – be it couples or families – with its popularity having increased significantly over the past few years. There are many reasons that contribute to Thailand’s appeal: the beaches, the nightlife, and the affordability aspect, to name but a few. Thailand really has so much to offer the holiday-goer. Two of the main areas most popular among travellers are: the Gulf of Thailand and the Andaman Sea

Both of these areas offer the option to hop around to some spectacular islands, and since there are regular ferries operating every day, it is a very appealing and affordable option for the economical traveller and backpacker.

The Gulf of Thailand: A rather large Gulf comprising of many islands (bordering the South of Thailand), the three main islands that feature on most tourist’s must-visit destinations are: Koh Samui, Koh Tao and Koh Pha Ngan. The word “koh” translates into “island” and in this context, it introduces the name of each island in the Gulf.

The Andaman Sea: Located on the west side of Thailand, the main destinations that tourists tend to visit are: Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, and Krabi. Technically, only two of those are islands, as Krabi is part of the mainland. But Krabi is a good place to visit nonetheless owing to the awesome Tonsai Beach and limestone rocks for those wanting to try out some rock climbing.

Maldives

Perhaps best known for its idyllic white beaches and crystal clear turquoise sea, the Republic of the Maldives is situated in the MaldivesIndian Ocean. This heavenly holiday destination, long-thought of as the preserve of honeymooners or rich couples, is actively wooing families with young children and contributing to the burgeoning kids-focused travel industry. Until about 10 years ago, few resorts catered for kids (in providing babysitting facilities and child-dedicated activities), but these days, things have changed. From 2016, visitors to Club Med Kani have enjoyed activities designed especially for kids aged 4-10 and 11-17. At Club Med’s Finolhu resort, kids from 12 years old are welcome and can enjoy the kids’ facilities at their Kani resort (five minutes from Finolhu.) With your little treasures in good hands, you’ll be able to enjoy various activities ranging from kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling to sailing and more that Club Med and the Maldives has to offer.

Most families fly into the capital Malé and then catch resort transport – either a boat or sea-plane. Flying Emirates from Johannesburg to Malé is an easy, pleasant 14-hour flight (including one stop over in Dubai where kids and parents can stretch their legs). 

The tropical climate means year-round warm temperatures.  Summer coincides with the start of the low or wet season (the South-West Monsoon typically occurs from May – September), which can mean cloudier skies, more wind and the chance of rain. This is, however, a blessing as the temperatures are more moderate at 28-30 C during the day. Combined with a breeze, this makes for a much less stifling environment for the mini traveler.

BLQ_Club Med Maldives