When we reached out to Africa specialists to ask about where families should go in South Africa, we got several impressive responses. Here are two agent insiders with different suggestions for different families.
Marcia Cole, owner of Uniglobe Accent Travel, advises against taking very small children on a trip that will include a safari, as many game reserves don’t take children younger than 10. “The game drives are at 5:30 a.m.,” she explains, “and that’s not an hour children like very much.
“The places I use for families are Johannesburg and the north. I try to keep them in malaria-free areas, since I think the drug is difficult for children to take. I fly them into Johannesburg and usually have everything guided for the client. They are picked up at the airport.
“There are several nice properties just 15 to 20 minutes north of Johannesburg. Misty Hills is one lodge; it is large and has lots of green areas and a large swimming pool complex. They also have a restaurant called Carnivore, which is great fun as you get to try all kinds of different meats: kudu, crocodile, lamb, etc.
Another property I love just outside of Johannesburg is Idwala. It is quite small, has thatched roofed units and is private in a very big city. You don’t even know you are just outside the city limits of ‘Joberg.’ They have a small pool, but the location is just wonderful.
“While I have clients in Johannesburg, we do many different things for them. We usually do the Cradle of Mankind, which includes the Maropeng Centre, a science center for all ages about the beginning of mankind. Also in the same area is the Lion and Rhino Park, which teaches families about the rehabilitation of the animals.
“Depending on ages, we would probably include the Apartheid Museum and Soweto with children 16 to 21. It is a marvelous look at how South Africa has changed over the years. One of the most interesting museums is the Hector Pieterson Museum, which gives an overwhelming feeling of what black South Africans went through for freedom.
“From Johannesburg, we recommend taking the trip with a guide up to Sun City area and the Pilanesberg National Park. Sun City has fun activities for children of all ages as well as the parents. The Cascade Hotel is probably the best in Sun City for families.
|The Knysna Waterfront has an assortment of restaurants and retail stores. Travelers and locals alike can also hire ferries, paddle cruisers and boats.|
“Or we use Bakubung Lodge, which is set just outside the Pilanesberg National Park. Most rooms have views of the Park. The lodge has many events that cater to families, facilities for playing tennis and volleyball, a playground and also a nice swimming pool. One can try bush walks, and game drives organized by the hotel property.
“From Sun City area, we recommend Madikwe Private Game Reserve. Again, it is a malaria-free area. There are several private game reserves that welcome children. Jaci’s Private Game Reserve is always our first choice as it encourages families. Accommodations are set up for four, five and six people. Jaci’s Camp has activities for children, and there are always game walks where they learn about what the land does for everyone.”
Lisa Jerome, travel consultant and Africa specialist for Travel Escapes, suggests visiting Cape Town, which she says has a lot to offer for families. “It is naturally beautiful, with numerous outdoor adventures for families, like taking the cable car up Table Mountain for spectacular views of Cape Town and out over the Atlantic Ocean and the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens,” she says. “There are many great spots for a picnic such as one of the beaches along the coast within the Table Mountain National Park.
“All members of the family will fall in love with the famous residents of Boulder’s Beach, the colony of Jackass Penguins. Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales visit the coast between August and October. Table Mountain Park has excellent viewing points for whale-watching.
“For active families, there are numerous hiking and mountain biking trails in the Tokai Forest. There is also hang gliding and paragliding from Table Mountain for a bird’s-eye view! Families will also enjoy The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and lighthouse at the tip of Cape Peninsula. Plus, don’t forget the abundance of water sports like scuba, snorkeling and sailing.
“Cape Town is also culturally diverse, and no visit to the city is complete without a visit to Robben Island and the prison where Nelson Mandela was housed for 18 years. From there, families can learn even more about the history of man and South Africa at the South African Museum.
“The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is a hub of activity with shops, restaurants, theaters, craft markets and museums,” Jerome adds.
What to Do
South Africa is famous for its nature. Rothschild Safaris has organized numerous family trips, with such experiences as touching a wild cheetah in the Cape Winelands, exploring Boulders Beach and Seal Island to see the only penguins found on the African continent, and touring the Two Oceans Aquarium in Cape Town. At the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, children can take a mini-guide course to learn about the skills of the bush while their parents are out on a safari. Leora Rothschild recommends adding cultural activities, and letting children meet other kids from local villages. Note: Check out page 85 for a look at Sabi Sabi.
African Travel, Inc., meanwhile, recently organized a safari for a family of four. They arrived in Johannesburg and went straight to Kruger National Park, where they stayed at a camp called Savannah in Sabi Sand. Their deluxe two-bedroom tent had a private plunge pool and came with a private vehicle for customized safaris. If the kids got bored, the car could return early, or they could stay out as late as they liked.
From there, the family went to Timbavati in northern Kruger, which is famous for its white lions. They stayed at the Royal Malewane in a two-bedroom royal suite with a private vehicle and a chef. Not only could the kids eat what they like, but the rangers could also get the kids involved in the details of trekking, making certain they stayed interested.
Both African Travel and Rothschild Safaris recommend the Garden Route, a coastal stretch with beautiful waterfronts and natural scenery. The area has several animal sanctuaries, so families can walk with elephants or (carefully) pet cheetahs. In Tsitsikamma National Park, families can sample the Otter Trail and go bungee jumping.
Top Tips: When planning trips, bear in mind that different camps have different age limits. Also, confirm that the camps have family tents or rooms and amenities for children. Some smaller camps can be taken over, which is ideal for families with small kids.