Already checked Australia and New Zealand off the travel must-do list and looking for the next family adventure? South Africa is beautiful, exciting and has so much to offer. While the trip down there is definitely a long-haul, the payoff will be in an extraordinary experience.
WHERE TO GO:
Cape Town is often the starting point for holidays through South Africa and it’s easy to see why! Depending on the ages of the kids, hike or take the cable car up to Table Mountain and then head to the many beaches during the summer months. The Victoria & Albert Waterfront is a great place to base yourself with the Two Oceans Aquarium and ferry to Robben Island located nearby, and plenty of restaurants within walking distance. Visit the penguin colony at Boulders Beach (making sure to take photos of the many penguin crossing signs), head to the warrior toy museum in Simon’s Town or show the kids one of the southernmost points in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope — there is so much for children to do in this vibrant city!
The towns that make up South Africa’s winelands — Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl — are the perfect choice for families who love being out in the open. Vineyard tours can be tailored for families — exploring Cape Dutch homesteads, strolling through the vineyards dotted around the mountain ranges and special grace juice tastings for the kids as parents enjoy the real stuff. You can embark on Segway tours, visit wildlife rehabilitation centres as well as enjoy a traditional South African ‘Braai’ — where the kids get to participate. Hotels are family friendly and many have pools which are perfect for the afternoons after a day out exploring.
The Garden Route is one of South Africa’s most popular journeys, stretching along the stunning coastline from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth. Get up close to elephants at the Elephant Sanctuary in Plettenberg Bay, see the monkeys at Monkeyland, visit an ostrich farm in Outdshoorn or explore the limestone caverns of the Cango Caves. The best thing about self-driving this beautiful route is that you can stop to take pictures or take breaks for meals whenever you feel like it — the freedom is intoxicating! Properties along the route range from charming little boutique hotels to sprawling properties with all the facilities and activities.
Kruger National Park is a fantastic place to introduce the kids to the safari experience. One reason for this is that you are all but guaranteed to see all the animals, though admittedly it is much busier than quieter countries such as Namibia or Botswana. The Madikwe Game Reserve is malaria-free, and both destinations are far more lenient than elsewhere in regards to taking younger children on game drives. Safari lodges and camps often have dedicated programs for children with activities such as jungle-games, bug walks, arts and crafts and special guides who really explain the environment in language that they understand.
WHERE TO STAY:
Morukuru Family Lodges
Morukuru Family Lodges are the epitome of luxury safari accommodation and have been skillfully designed to allow families or groups of friends to spend quality time together without the pressure of sticking to time schedules. Located just a four-hour drive or one-hour flight from Johannesburg/Pretoria, Morukuru is situated in one of the most accessible reserves in Africa — the Madikwe Game Reserve. Choose from accommodation including the River House, a luxury private bush house with a river view. The Farm House, set in the heart of the reserve and surrounded by lush green lawns within a fenced-in safe area, is perfect for the kids to play and roam at their leisure. And finally, the Owner’s House is a hidden gem found under the leafy canopy’s of an ancient Morukuru tree on the banks of the Marico River.
Ants Nest is located in a natural amphitheatre and set on the edge of a cliff overlooking the Waterberg, offering great opportunities to view the variety of game that visit the waterhole in front. Their “you can do what you want, when you want” ethos works well for families who prefer a relaxed and laid back holiday, allowing for the chance to plan the safari experience at their own time and leisure. The deluxe family-suite is very spacious and perfect for two children travelling with their parents. There is even space for a third child, with an additional bed located beside the second bedroom. A unique policy at Ants Nest means that children of all ages can join their parents on all game viewing activities, ensuring that they too partake in the full safari experience. The exceptional variety of family friendly activities on offer include guided walks, walking safaris, horse riding lessons, fishing, mountain biking and night sky safaris, just to name a few! For animal lovers, there is a wide selection of wonderfully tame ponies catering to riders of all experience levels.
Grootbos Private Nature Reserve
Located just two hours from Cape Town and 30 minutes from Hermanus, the Grootbos experience allows families to explore the pristine nature reserve, rustic trails and beautiful beaches with activities such as horse riding, nature drives and land-based whale watching as well as ocean-based whale watching and shark cage diving. The two-bedroom luxury suite is our top pick and there is even a fireplace, ready for recounting the day’s activities around the fire! The games room features chess, pool, arts and crafts, a library and big screen projector for movie nights. Grootbos is particularly known for their wonderful child-friendly staff who not only act as child minders but who invest time in talking to the kids and encouraging them to play games, read stories and get out an explore the magnificent scenery surrounding the property. Parents can rest assured that the kids will be cared for, leaving with lots of memories and tales to share with their friends upon their return home.
Babylonstoren is a fantastic place for families to experience a unique Cape Town stay. Explore the 200 hectares of farm, and during the right season take part in harvesting, pruning, planting or picking fruits, vegetables, spices and herbs. Join one of the daily guided cellar tours, taking you through the entire winemaking processing, including the vineyards and olive process, to production and maturation, and of course, including a wine tasting. For children, the farm is a highlight where they can play with the resident geese, donkeys and collect eggs each morning for breakfast. With mountain bikes provided to all guests and vast landscapes to explore, this is a wonderful property for both parents and kids.
WHAT TO DO:
A Family Day Out in the Winelands
Have a resident wine expert create an exclusive tailor-made wine tasting day, perfect for parents with little ones in tow. Take in the beautiful sights and scenery of the Winelands as you make your way through the mountain ranges, vineyards and Cape Dutch homesteads; the perfect experience for families who love being out in the open.
Head to Middelvlei in Devon Valley for a unique wine tasting experience. Opt for the boerebraai, a traditional South African barbecue, where kids receive a basket of treats including a ‘stockbroad’ — a type of bread they can cook themselves over the open flames. The little ones are encouraged to run free on the lawns and feed the farm animals. Alternatively, plan a trip to Laborie’s Harvest restaurant in Paarl, where you can enjoy a beautiful meal with a table near the jungle gym, keeping the little ones busy, while the older kids will enjoy playing boulle on the lawn.
A Fun City Scavenger Hunt
Head out on a family scavenger hunt, designed to highlight the history of Cape Town and the cultures that make up its residents, in a way that’s super fun for all. You will be presented with clues at each stage and will be required to collect items and photographs along the way as well as preparing some local food and interacting with Capetonians. Make your way to Signal Hill to see the firing of the Noon Gun, before enjoying an interactive lunch in the Bo-Kaap. After a pit stop for gift shopping, head up to the cableway station for your exciting cable car ride up Table Mountain. A special travelogue with your scavenger hunt loot, photos and more will be gifted to you at the end, as a reminder of your visit to the Mother City.
The Cape Peninsula Wet & Wild (a water-based peninsula tour)
Practice your Stand-Up paddle boarding skills in the secure environment of the V&A Waterfront before exploring the highlights of the Cape Peninsula and embracing the ocean! Explore Kalk Bay Harbour where you can visit the fish market, meet the seals and throw a hand line over the harbour wall to see if you can catch anything.
For animal lovers, head to Waters Edge or Windmill Beach to witness penguins before snorkeling in rock pools, the size of swimming pools!
Sea Kayaking & Cape Point
Embark on a sea kayaking experience from the Waterfront of Simon’s Town, located on the False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula. Paddle past the civilian and Naval Harbour and out to Boulders Beach. Visit the penguins before making a stop at a lovely semi-private beach for refreshments, swimming and snorkeling. Double kayaks are provided for those with no paddling experience. During the whale season from July to December, the Southern Right whale graces the Cape Town shores, allowing the possibility for travelers to see them in their natural habitat. Enjoy lunch at a seaside restaurant before making an obligatory trip to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point (the tip of the Cape Peninsula). To end your day, drive along the scenic coastal route via Noordhoek Chapman’s Peak Drive, Hout Bay and the Atlantic Seaboard.
FAMILY TRAVEL TIPS:
Malaria-free zones: There are many parts of South Africa that are considered “malaria free” which will put parents at ease. Contact us to find out where exactly you can go without having to worry.
When to travel: As a year round travel destination, there really isn’t a bad time to visit South Africa. If you’re looking to experience the beach as well as safari, then you should travel during the country’s summer months (mid-October to mid-February). This is also the country’s peak season and availability fills up quickly and prices are the highest. Kruger National park and Madikwe are especially good during the winter months of June to the beginning of October.
When to book: South Africa is an incredibly popular destination and therefore it is important to plan in advance to ensure you and your family get the best out of your experience. Accommodation that is well suited to families (interconnecting rooms, multi-bed suites) are often limited and sell out quickly. If you’re looking to travel during the peak summer months, we recommend booking at least a year in advance to guarantee you get the properties and room configurations that are best suited to your family.
Road trippin’: While you can of course hire a car and driver if you’re not comfortable out on the open road, we do recommend spending at least some of the time driving yourself. The roads are wide and well maintained along popular routes and offer some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. There really is nothing more liberating than hitting the open road, and we find kids love the whole road trip idea!
Travel regulations for children: It is very important that parents travelling with minors refer to the guidelines set out by the Department of Home Affairs for the Republic of South Africa to ensure that the required documentation for immigration is prepared before departing.
Experience Africa: The most important lesson we can give to families planning a holiday to South Africa is to remember that travelling is all about learning and of course, having lots of fun! Enjoy these unique experiences with your children as you learn about different cultures, encounter a variety of wildlife and participate in exciting activities, from game drives to family fun in some of Africa’s most vibrant and interesting cityscapes.
Lightfoot Travel is a Hong Kong-based luxury tour operator specializing in family holidays to destinations spanning all seven continents. An itinerary for a family of four to South Africa starts at HKD 73,750 (excluding flights), and everything can be tailored to fit each individual family’s needs and requirements. Call +852 2815 0068 to speak to one of our Africa specialists or visit www.lightfoottravel.com to start planning your family holiday now.