Sunny December holidays may be synonymous with seaside breaks, but these five freshwater oases are begging to be explored. Taking a dip has never been so cool! By Arnold Ras  

Chill in the mountains

Nestled in the Du Toitskloof Mountains outside Wellington, CapeNature’s Limietberg Nature Reserve is home to several picturesque swimming holes. The crystal clear mountain water of the Witte River will feel soft on your skin and you can even look for little fish. Your gateway to a memorable summer’s day is Tweede Tol, where you’ll find picnic facilities and ablutions. Just remember, the early bird catches the worm: only 120 people visitors are allowed each day. Gates open at 08:00 and close at 18:00. Free entry to Wild Card members, otherwise R40 for adults and R20 for kids.

Forest fun

The Knysna Forest, part of the Garden Route National Park, is a place of towering yellowwoods, leafy ferns and mouldering leaves. The Homtini River flows through this magical forest setting, creating several falls and rapids against gorgeous concave rock walls. This is where you’ll find Drupkelders, enchanting dark-coloured rock pools between cave-like overhangs. Make sure your hiking gear is up to scratch as the walk to reach Drupkelders is quite challenging. Permits can be obtained from the Goudveld Forest entrance at R27 per adult and R16 for children under the age of 12. Booking is essential – only 12 people at a time are allowed. Wild Card members enter at no cost. Contact +27 (0)44 389 0252 for rates for international visitors.

Adrenalin rush

#Fab4 #slalomski #skiing #albertfallsdam #dam #water #boat #4up #wake #challengeaccepted

A photo posted by Stuart Webb (@stuartjwebb) on

Albert Falls Dam, one of KwaZulu-Natal’s largest dams at 290 million cubic metres, is famous for its adventurous water sports. Only 20km from Pietermaritzburg, Albert Falls is a playground for sailing, canoeing, windsurfing and, of course, water skiing enthusiasts. Imagine hours of adrenalin-charged fun on the water while zebra roam freely along the dam’s edge. Visit Albert Falls’ rates page for more information on boat launching and permit tariffs. Wild Card members pay no gate charges. Contact the reserve on +27 (0)31 7657724 for more information.

Bathe and braai

River jumps at #BontebokNationalPark.

A photo posted by Cape Town meets Helsinki (@ctmeetshel) on

With the majestic Langeberg Mountains as backdrop, Die Stroom (The Stream) at Bontebok National Park offers dreamy picnic spots, ample space for youngsters to run and explore, and the opportunity to cool down in the Breede River. This idyllic spot outside Swellendam is perfect for an incredible summer braai with family or friends – just remember to pack your own firewood. Die Stroom is open to both day and overnight visitors and gates are open from 07:00 to 19:00. Wild Card members pay no conservation fees. Non-members: Adults R37, children R18. Contact the park on +27 (0)28 514 2735 for more information.

Drakensberg delight

Happy boys. Lots of them! #lotheni #drakensberg #togetheragain

A photo posted by Julia Lamberth Dawson (@one_rose_lane) on

Kids will love a day’s outing to the Jacobs Ladder trail, with a refreshing swim as reward. Situated in KZN Wildlife’s Lotheni Nature Reserve, the two-kilometre trail is ideal for the whole family and nature enthusiasts of all ages. Hikers will cross the Lotheni River via the Tebetebe suspension bridge. Now, few things get youngsters as excited as the prospect of a suspension bridge! Upstream awaits a large freshwater pool perfect for cooling down and spending a few fun-filled hours. The trail starts at Lotheni’s reception area and gates are open from 06:00 to 18:00. Contact Lotheni on +27 (0)33 702 0540 for more information. Wild Card members pay no entrance fee, but be sure you have the right proof of membership. Non-members: R40 per adult, R20 per child.

Planning on visiting one of these spots during the December holidays? Remember to share your memories with us by emailing your pictures or videos to [email protected].

Subscribe to the Wild newsletter

* indicates required