With many spots happy to offer your pets bed and breakfast (well, a basket and a bone), there’s no reason to leave behind your most loyal companions on your next trip, writes Cindy Tilney
Travelling is on my list of favourite activities; but, if there’s one thing that really kills my holiday buzz, it’s the separation anxiety from my fur-kids. Until recently, it never occurred to me to take them along. Happily, it turns out that a variety of lodges, B&Bs, self-catering getaways and campsites across the country are only too happy to put up with dogs and cats, along with human guests. Here’s a pick of some of the top pet-friendly venues throughout SA.
This sublime four-star retreat is positioned on a private country estate in the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountains, just an hour’s drive from Johannesburg or Pretoria. It is a haven for pets, visiting and local alike: hosts Mark and Caroline have a furry menagerie of five cats and eight dogs, including a huge Great Dane named Harry.
Stone Hill has eight rustic, freestanding timber cottages and one guest suite linked to the main house, plus a small conference room. Each unit has a completely fenced garden with a patio and braai area, fully serviced kitchen, fireplace, DStv, and even extra luxuries such as electric blankets and fans – not to mention magnificent views of the surrounding countryside.
There’s a 5 km walking trail, as well as a riverine area where dogs can play and splash to their hearts’ content, while a pool back at the homestead is available for their humans to enjoy.
Off Rustenburg Road
082 447 6893
Plettenberg Bay, Western Cape
Living up to its name, Treehaven is located in a lush green belt of indigenous forest in Plettenberg Bay. You’ll find three separate self-catering units in this incredible natural environment where it’s not uncommon to come across elusive Knysna loeries nesting in the trees overhead.
The owners are both creatives (Carol an artist, Feo a retired architect turned poet) and their talent for design is reflected in the houses’ inviting interiors and contemporary architectural style. Each has an enclosed garden, so dogs can roam freely, and is kitted out with a fully equipped kitchen and a patio area with braai. It is no problem to bring along pets of the feline or avian variety either – although the owners request they not be left alone for long stretches of time.
Treehaven is roughly 15 minutes’ walk – two minutes by car – from Plett’s finest beaches (some of which are dog-friendly; the lodge will be able to provide further details) and within close proximity to the town centre, with its selection of shops and restaurants.
45 & 47 Hanois Crescent
044 533 1989, 082 798 7907
Atlantic Dream Beachfront Villa
Scarborough, Western Cape
Set overlooking the beach in the scenic village of Scarborough, Atlantic Dream is an elegant self-catering escape filled with an arsenal of facilities, including a pool, a gas fireplace, and a games room with pool table and table tennis. The property is also entirely walled, so you can let your dogs run free.
The area is blessed with one of the country’s most beautiful coastlines and sunsets are nothing short of spectacular. Located 45 minutes from Cape Town’s city centre, Scarborough is a seaside wilderness of arresting beauty – windswept aquamarine waters, white-sand beaches and mountains covered in fynbos. Whale-watching, kite-surfing, wine-tasting and fine dining are just a handful of the activities on offer in the surrounding Cape Peninsula.
11 Beach Road
082 631 0421
Nieu-Bethesda, Eastern Cape
Just a few minutes’ walk from Helen Martins’ iconic Owl House, in the quirky Karoo town of Nieu-Bethesda, you’ll find the Owlhouse Backpackers, which offers a range of affordable accommodation for those travelling on a shoestring. Visitors can choose from self-catering cottages, B&B rooms, backpackers dorms or the camping area in the garden. Those who opt for self-catering also have the choice of dining in the Karoo Lamb Restaurant, which serves a sumptuous array of Karoo roasts, potjies, home-grown veggies, light meals and hearty breakfasts.
All options welcome dogs, cats, birds and pigs – owners simply need to bring beds and bowls, and pets can stay inside. Nieu-Bethesda itself is a hub for friendly hounds, with many pet-friendly shops and restaurants. The town and its surrounds offer an alluring mix of attractions: hiking and biking trails, bushman paintings, fossils, superb sunsets, star-filled night skies, and – of course – the unforgettable Owl House.
049 841 1642
Kurisa Moya Nature Lodge
This exceptional 422 ha property lies within the Woodbush Forest, the country’s largest indigenous forest after Tsitsikamma. This pristine habitat supports an incredible array of bird life (including many rare species) and a variety of small game (buck, bush babies, caracals, civets, genets, vervet monkeys and jackals, to name but a few).
The lodge offers three accommodation options, set far apart enough that guests can enjoy absolute privacy and tranquillity. The farmhouse sleeps 10; Thora Boloka, a cosy stone-and-wood cottage, sleeps up to six; and the Forest Lodge Cabins, 3m above the ground in the tree canopy, overlooking a river valley, are perfect for honeymooners. There is no electricity and decor is simple and uncluttered. Despite this back-to-basics approach, there is no compromise on comfort – the lodgings are all equipped with solar or gas lighting and appliances, a braai and a fireplace.
None of the properties are fenced, so Kurisa Moya’s owners stress the importance of dogs being well trained. Guests are free to roam the walking trails that traverse the property (either on their own, or with a bird or nature guide) and to swim in the dams. Other activities include sunset 4×4 drives, fly-fishing lessons and cultural tours of the local villages.
University of Limpopo to Mooketsi road
071 658 6980, 082 200 4596
eNtokozweni (Machadodorp), Mpumalanga
Set in a 1 500 ha nature conservancy, Five Assegais is a strikingly beautiful getaway that offers visitors two distinct experiences – a stay at a romantic luxury fishing lodge and the opportunity to enjoy several spectacular hiking trails, including the five-day Num-Num Trail.
Located on the edge of a wide dam stocked with golden, brown and rainbow trout (for catch-and-release fishing), the four-star lodge is built around a historical stone homestead that was an uitspanplek during the Barberton gold rush of the 1880s. It is very private and comfortable, with four double bedrooms, a fully equipped dining and kitchen area, a lounge, a fireplace, DStv, a patio with a braai and a jacuzzi offering spectacular views over the dam and the mountain beyond.
The congenial and entertaining owner and host Francis has created a luxurious and wonderfully eclectic interior filled with Persian carpets, wooden finishes, white cotton linen and an array of soft touches – extra blankets for chilly nights, fluffy towels and handmade olive-oil soaps.
Pets are most welcome, but the outside area is not enclosed, so it’s essential that dogs are well-trained.
eNtokozweni to Badplaas road (R541)
082 889 6757, 072 889 9284
Pet travel tips
• Exercise dogs well before setting off on a long journey.
• Bring a few ‘creature comforts’ from home (a favourite blanket, stuffed toy, etc) to help your pet feel relaxed.
• Make sure pets have access to water at all times.
• Travel with cats in a cat basket for a safer, calmer journey.
• Make regular pit stops along the way so dogs can stretch their legs and relieve themselves – but always keep them on a leash when you do so.
• Ensure your pet is wearing an ID tag and is microchipped, in case they manage to escape at any point during the journey.
Information taken from The South African Petfriendly Directory
Photography Andreas Eiselen/HSMimages.co.za, Gallo/Gettyimages, courtesy images
(This article was first published in the spring 2014 issue of AA traveller magazine)