Take the Kids on a Family Holiday to South Africa
There is an undeniable excitement about travel to South Africa.
Is it that I loved Tarzan as a child or that ‘The Lion King’ spent so many years on high rotation for our children? It’s probably both those things and more; all I know is the prospect of travel to the Rainbow Nation always renders me positively giddy.
The challenge, of course, is what to fit in with the time you have.
It’s a big country, home to places you have only dreamed of.
Our trip turned out to be our single best family holiday ever.
Why go to Europe and look at churches when you can go to Africa and have a
wild elephant rub its trunk on your bull bar? But we’ll get to that.
Captivating Cape Town
First stop: Cape Town.
It’s a decent day of travel to South Africa from the east
coast of Australia, so with three kids on board and a very excited wife, we opt to
Well, that was the plan at least.
We arrive in the early afternoon to a sublime
Cape Town day. There is sun, a
shimmering harbour and a gentle breeze pushing a few clouds about.
beckons in the distance, located on the edge of the city and rising 1000 metres
above sea level, offering the ultimate platform for an aerial view of one of the
great architectural cities of the world.
The wind is mild, the skies are clear and the cable car is running, so it’s time to
start our climb to the top. On the right day – like ours – the views to the ocean and
beyond are enough to keep any 12-year-old entertained. Then and there, my family
decide to make our Cape Town itinerary what we can see: Robben Island and the Cape.
Robben Island is a monument to the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.
Used as prison since the late 17th century, the island is best known as the
that held Nelson Mandela for 18 years as a political prisoner. The tour is
exceptional on so many levels, both educational and interesting; my kids become
enthralled by the real-life stories of the inmates who are now our guides.
If you want to do it properly, it’s a full-day tour to the Cape of Good Hope. And
trust me, you’ll want to stop.
Take your time driving Chapman’s Peak Drive – an
engineering marvel in itself – then stop to meet the cute penguins at Simon’s Town
and seals at Hout Bay, and have a wander at the trinket shops and craft markets along
the way. Historically, we’re not really a ‘go for a drive’ kind of family, but this
excursion stood tall as one of the best days of the entire trip.
Next, we were off to the stunning Cape Winelands, bordered by mountains crowned with
fluffy clouds, raking the edges of clifftops as if you’re watching a time-lapse
We take a full day tour from Cape Town taking in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek,
gorging ourselves on food, visiting an old car museum and – of course –
enjoying grapes in all guises.
We leave Cape Town knowing we’ve barely scratched the surface of one of the world’s
great cities. But onward, for nature called.
Tau Game Lodge. Searching for the Big Five
Our number one reason for coming to South Africa was to join a safari in search of the
Big Five. Choice abounds, but for us it is Tau Game Lodge
Madikwe Game Reserve, just south of the Botswana border.
Home to a huge waterhole
that works like a magnet for all forms of animal life from antelope and crocodiles
to elephant and zebra, our lodge comes with a thatched roof and all.
I soon learn that there’s animal spotting… and then there’s safari. What a gift to
see these beasts up close, to be close enough to smell the savannah on them, to
glimpse a lion lurking in the long grass mere metres away.
Seeing those predatory,
amber eyes watching you – assessing, disregarding and ultimately moving on – is just
amazing. With an exuberance born from passion, our young guide Jesse enthusiastically
points out footprints, explaining their movements and the reasons behind them.
On the way home one night we stop to look at the stars and a herd of elephants
surrounds us on all sides. I can only describe the experience as spiritual; the kids
say it was “epic”.
As was the sight of an old male lion feeding himself on the
remains of an elephant – the circle of life laid out before us.
Victoria Falls, The Adventure Capital of South Africa
Figuring the kids – and mum and dad – could do with a leisurely end to what was
never meant to be a go-go-go holiday, we intend to slow it down at Victoria Falls.
What I don’t realise is that the falls are practically the Queenstown of Africa,
the nation’s very own adventure capital.
But we’re not mad, so we wouldn’t consider jumping off an 80-metre cliff with a
rope around our waists, would we? Or ride a zipline or flying fox across the rapids
of the Zambezi River? Of course we would.
These moments of relative lunacy are not enough to dull the sheer magnificence that
is Victoria Falls. “Mosi-oa-Tunya”, The Smoke That Thunders indeed, for I can’t think
of anywhere else in the world where you can get so close to such unrelenting power.
We rest our weary and adrenaline-addled heads at the Lokuthula Lodges, complete
with warthogs mowing the grass, a generous pool, breakfasts perched above the
waterhole and the daily feeding of vultures. I mean, seriously, how much do you want
to spoil your kids?
And that’s what makes the trip so unforgettable; we are spoiling the kids, but
reaping the benefits ourselves.