A Southern Hemisphere country, South Africa’s warmer summer months are approaching as we come to the end of ours in Hong Kong. An ideal destination for the October half-term, Christmas and Chinese New Year holidays, our friends at Lightfoot Travel give us the definitive guide to the country, including their top accommodation picks in each region.
One of the most family-friendly destinations in Africa, Cape Town is easily navigable with plenty of activities for kids of all ages.
* For self-driving families, visiting the penguin colony at Boulders Beach and experiencing the Ratanga Junction Theme Park - with its mix of hair-raising rides, animal shows and even a petting zoo – are perfect for day trips.
* For sites within the city centre, the Two Oceans Aquarium is a show stopper with a shark exhibit, private penguin encounters, a kelp forest, and even a children’s play area where kids can create ocean-themed arts and crafts. The Scratch Patch is a really unique attraction for little explorers, where tens of thousands of semi-precious gem stones are strewn around and kids can sit amongst piles of shiny Tiger’s Eyes, amethysts, agates and crystals, “scratch” through to find them, and actually take the stones home at the end of the day.
* Boat tours of the harbour are always a hit, especially if there are dolphin or seal sightings, and parents will love the gorgeous sunset views over Table Mountain.
* Lastly, cable car rides up Table Mountain never fail to impress the little ones, while active teens may appreciate hiking up the mountain, and then hitching a cable car ride down.
Where to Stay:
One&Only Cape Town: This property gives a resort-like feel in the heart of the city, with the largest swimming pool in Cape Town. Their KidsOnly Club features a 100 square meter arts and crafts space; movie and video game lounge; quiet reading area, and a computer area with the latest technology.
While wine and children don’t immediately seem like an obvious match, what South Africa’s wine country does have that will appeal to our city-dwelling kids, is space. Located less than an hours’ drive from Cape Town, many of the vineyards have dedicated play areas for kids, so parents can engage in a guilt-free tasting or two.
* The DelVera Agri-village is located near Stellenbosch, and children can run and play on the vast lawns; feed and pet the donkeys; and even test their speed on the village’s go-kart track.
* Middelvleim Wine Estate enables little ones to join in a tasting (non-alcoholic of course!), as well as play in the huge sandbox, feed the farm animals or ride kick bikes – while parents partake in their own tastings!
* The Giraffe House focuses on African wildlife, with a range of animals, birds and reptiles, and aims to teach kids and parents alike about the continent’s diverse wildlife and conservation efforts. Families are encouraged to bring their own picnics and make it a day, enjoying an al fresco lunch on the house’s vast grounds.
Where to Stay:
Babylonstoren: A working farm location that is ideal for families, children have free reign through the expansive network of gardens full of farm animals. There is ample accommodation that is suitable for kids and the property enables a great deal of privacy.
Stretching for just under 300km from Mossel Bay in the west to Plettenberg Bay (Plett) in the east, the Garden Route is one of the world’s most famous self-drive journeys. While the list of activities along this vast route would fill an article in itself, we’ve highlighted some of our favorites.
* The Puzzle Park, near Plett, is comprised of a large wooden maze with various riddles, as well as a series of puzzle challenges in the forest that challenge your creative and strategic thinking.
* The waterpark Adventureland is located between Knysna and Plett, and features a series of water slides for all ages, as well as a play park for the littlest ones with swings, trampolines and a jungle gym, and a guided quad bike trail through the forest.
* Birds of Eden - located near Plett and right next door to Monkeyland - is the largest aviary in the world, and families can walk at their own pace along the elevated walkways to experience the indigenous forest and waterfalls throughout the park.
Where to Stay:
Grootbos Nature Reserve: With different accommodation options to choose from (the suites are ultra spacious!), the reserve is a haven for children with a variety of different activities on offer such as 4x4 safaris and pony rides.
A huge protected area in South Africa’s far north, the Madikwe Game Reserve enjoys a unique location on the edges of the Kalahari and takes a pioneering approach to people-based wildlife conservation. The conservation organisation that runs it puts the needs of its people before those of wildlife and conservation, believing that if efforts are going to succeed in the long term, local communities and individuals must see benefits from conservation and related activities. The reserve does not allow day-visitors, instead opening only to those who are staying at one of its lodges, making it less crowded and hectic than other areas. One of its biggest selling points for visiting families is that it is malaria-free, which comes as quite a relief to parents. Still not convinced? It is also a prime spot to view the Big Five; is one of the best places to see wild dogs; has an incredible diversity of bird life; and is only a 3.5-hour drive from Johannesburg.
Where to Stay:
Morukuru Farm House: Part of the Morokuru Family, Morukuru Farm House is a private home within a fenced-in area, so it is safe for children to wander around and play as they wish. Kids are welcome on game drives and there are plenty of other activities to keep them entertained including a large outdoor pool.
Located 5 hours’ drive from Johannesburg, on the way to Botswana, the Waterberg Wilderness Reserve is part of Limpopo province and is one of the most unspoiled, picturesque and wildlife-rich areas in South Africa. Renowned for its seemingly infinite plains, mountain gorges, sparkling streams and rolling bushveld hills, the Waterberg is perfect for the active family, featuring beautiful walking and mountain biking trails. Landscape aside, the area is prime for game viewing, particularly for leopard and brown hyena, and there are over 250 species of bird.
Where to Stay:
Ants Nest: A true bush home, Ants Nest has a wonderful swimming pool to cool off in after a morning or late afternoon game drive. The stable of horses and ponies are very well trained with extremely good temperaments, and are suitable for all ages and abilities. This place is about as child friendly as it gets with a trampoline, nannies, separate kid’s meal times and a chef who will cook just about everything under the sun.
Often bypassed by visitors, the Eastern Cape has plenty to offer including a ruggedly beautiful coastline known as South Africa’s “Wild Coast”; traditional African villages; craggy mountain ranges; and game reserves full of wildlife. Most commonly accessed by flights into Port Elizabeth, the entire province is malaria-free making it particularly child friendly.
* Kids will love boat rides along the coast and the ensuing ocean encounters that can include various species of dolphins, sharks and whales.
* Addo Elephant Park is home to over 450 elephants, black rhino and Cape buffalo, as well as quite a type of flightless dung beetle that is found almost exclusively within the park. A fun game is having the kids try to spot these unique insects against the parched red earth as you drive through the park.
Where to Stay:
Riverbend: This is one of the few safari properties that cater to children of all ages (most especially the younger ones), featuring adapted game vehicles, high chairs in the dining areas and babysitting.
One of the largest game reserves on the continent, Kruger National Park likes in South Africa’s far northeast corner and is just a few hours’ drive from Johannesburg. Within the park, the roads are easily navigable and the general game viewing is excellent – there is never a shortage of wildlife and Big Five sightings here! A lot of the safari lodges have been designed with families in mind, with dedicated game drive vehicles, babysitters for the younger kids, and special activity programmes that keep children safe, happy and busy. However, while the biodiversity of the park is a huge draw, the area is not malaria free; therefore we do not advise travelling with children below the age of five. Also, the southern area of the park is more child-friendly than the north, as the entrance and exit points are closer together and game is more plentiful, resulting in shorter, more exciting game drives.
Where to Stay:
Chitwa Chitwa: This haven is one of the few luxury lodges to accept children of all ages, and we recommend the Charlsy Suite, which is perfect for families with two interlinking rooms joined by a comfortable living area. Children from the age of six and up are permitted to join game drives with the adults, and dedicated activities can be arranged for the younger ones.
To book your next family getaway, contact Lightfoot Travel at +852 2815 0068 (HK) or +65 6438 4091 (SG), firstname.lastname@example.org. Lightfoot Travel is a luxury tour operator offering expert travel advice and inspiration, tailor-made itineraries & full booking services.