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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.

South Africa Marina

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 start gently.

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.

Table Mountain 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.

south africa kids

Robben Island

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 jail 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 movie.

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.

south africa kids

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 in the 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.

South Africa with kids

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.

west coast australia

This article featured in volume 48 of Holidays with kids. Enjoyed it? Subscribe to see more!

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