South Africa’s Best Places to Travel with Children
South Africa’s Best Places to Travel with Children
THE LOST CITY
Stepping into another world becomes a reality once you set foot into South Africa’s Lost City, situated in the northern province. The majestic towers and buildings rise out of the South African bush and is a sight to behold. This is a favourite destination for parents travelling with children because of the variety of activities in the vicinity. It truly feels like you’re in a forgotten world with the décor of an ancient city, showcasing South Africa’s wild life.
The Valley of Waves inside the Lost City is a water fun park with rides and slides ranging from the Temple of Courage to the Scorpion and Tarantula rides. Activities around the Valley of Waves allow for children to discover walkways with caves, small waterfalls and a Spider Web Sway Bridge within the botanical garden.
Children can experience echoes and amplified sounds at the amphitheatre on the same grounds. At night time, the whole family can continue the fun by going to Sun City, which is another extension of the Lost City. Activities include, finding your way through the half-ruined Mayan looking maize. This may take anytime between 25-30 minutes and don’t be surprised if your children want to do this one over-and-over.
At the Animal World Aviary, children can pet animals and birds during feeding time. Another favourite is a visit to the Kwena Gardens Crocodile Sanctuary, where children have the opportunity to touch a juvenile crocodile. For more information on this wonderful destination, please visit the Palace of the Lost City.
TWO OCEANS AQUARIUM
Our next child friendly destination brings us to the southern tip of South Africa, to Cape Town. It is a city rich in cultural history and famous for its prominent Table Mountain. Another feature of this town is that it borders two oceans, the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Children are given the perfect opportunity to learn more about the oceans by visiting and possibly diving at Cape Towns’ Two Oceans Aquarium.
The children get to see an array of sea life here and the conditions are perfect. This aquarium hosts ragged toothed sharks, giant short tail stingrays, mussel crackers, yellowtail, cob and logger head turtles – just to name a few. The acrylic tunnel walls open up to an undersea world for children.
Older children can sign up to do ‘job shadowing’ for two days at the aquarium! This allows them to step behind the scenes and is a fantastic educational experience where they will observe and help out where needed. You must contact them and book in advance as there are only a limited number of students taken each week.
Two Oceans Aquarium also offers shark diving to children over 12 years old, but they have to dive with parents. The diving qualifications can be done on-site if pre-booked.
Cape Town’s Two Ocean Aquarium is a great place to get children interested and passionate about marine life. If you can’t wait to get your feet wet, visit Cape Town’s Two Ocean aquarium.
The Garden Route is a wonderful scenic destination and full of adventure for children. Situated in the Western Cape of South Africa, you’ll findRadical Raptors on the N2 - the only highway in this area. This is a bird of prey rehabilitation centre, which educates the public and next generation to the plight of these powerful and majestic birds. They convey their messages through interactive flying displays of trained non-releasable birds. This experience is so rich and rewarding for children, because they can see, touch and hold the birds during fly-by. There is ample time to take photos and this will make for a truly unforgettable experience for the whole family.
The Tsitsikamma forest within the Garden Route offers an exhilarating activity where children and parents can join the canopy tour - allowing you to ‘foe-fie’ slide as it’s called in South Africa - 30 meters above ground in a safety harness. Children will also learn about the ecology of the forest and may get to see elusive animals unique to this area.
KNYSNA ELEPHANT PARK
South Africa is known for the Big Five wild animals that consist of the lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. There is a special place within the Garden Route that brings man and elephant together. At theKnysna Elephant Park, children have the unique experience of interacting with these rescued elephants. Activities with these gentle giants include going on walks, riding and feeding them. These elephants are in a controlled environment with expert guides, where they can move freely.
The most extraordinary experience children and families can have is a sleep-over with this family of elephants. This takes place in a snug environment, where the elephants feed and sleep in their boma. The boma consist of rooms, with an elephant lounge, elevated high above the elephants. This allows for safe and secure observation of these large animals in a peaceful environment. Isn’t it wonderful to know that there is room for your family if you’re interested in meeting Sally the matriarch?
KLEIN KAROO OSTRICH FARMING
Moving onto a drier landscape within South Africa, parents will most likely wonder what this dusty, vast open space area has to offer them. This unique area, the Klein Karoo lies at the heart of South Africa’s local and international ostrich farming.
Visiting one of these ostrich farms allow for children to experience ostriches up close and personal. The show farms allow the brave to ride these flightless birds and children will enjoy watching the races on show farms. Children may also have the chance to get involved in assisting to take care of the birds with the help of a guide.
On the menu here you will see an Ostrich Egg-&-Biltong Frittata – delicious to try, if the children are up to it. Apart from learning about this bird, the children will be able to see the array of products produced from ostriches, including leather products, feather products and decorative eggs. A favourite activity here is the personalisation of ostrich eggs. Children are shown and given the opportunity to decorate an ostrich egg, this way they can have a little of the Klein Karoo in their own home.
PILANSBERG INTERACTIVE DRUMMING
In the African bush, sounds of wild animals and drum-beats in the distance, once traveled across the plains. This was a period not so long ago when culture was celebrated and drums were used for communication and during celebrations. Today you can take part in this age-old South African tradition by playing the drums with your bare hands. Children and adults will be amazed by the various sounds that these drums can produce, just by changing your hand position, movement and rhythm. This is a ‘freeing’ experience and the kids really have fun with it. It is also a great way to release stress and allows you to express emotions through sound. If you can’t wait to play the Djembe drum, then look check out Pilansberg.
Interactive drumming usually takes place in what is called a drum circle. Don’t be surprised if you feel exhilarated and out of breath after playing in a drum circle. It is great fun to have. If you want to be part of the entertainment then visit Klitsgras or Drumming South Africa for drumming available in other areas.
ISIMANGALISO WETLAND PARK
What would you say if I told you there is treasure to be found in the iSimangaliso Wetland World Heritage Site? The only thing is, this treasure is on the move and you can only find it during the night. We are talking about the Loggerhead and Leatherback turtles that come to shore to lay their eggs.
You have the opportunity to book a Turtle Tour and witness a Leatherback turtle - that can weigh up to a ton - laying up to 100 eggs! The best time to track them is at night, during the months of late November to December. During February and March you’re more likely to see the turtle hatchlings. Witness their hazardous journey past seagulls and other predators as they make their way to the safety of the sea.
KOSI BAY TRADITIONAL FISHING
Away from the hustle and bustle of cities, you’ll come across a more natural, quieter area of Kwazulu Natal, called Kosi Bay, which is part of the iSimangaliso Wetland Park Heritage Site. It is here, where the Tsonga people use their primitive traditional fish traps, in the freshwater lakes surrounding this area. They use reeds to build their fish traps - also known as fish kraals, which are constructed in a way that the bigger fish are channelled into a particular area, where they can be speared or caught by hand. The smaller fish can actually get out of the trap, ensuring the survival of the species and continuation of this practice.
If you’re a keen fisherman and you’re ready to ‘catch some dinner’, then this is the perfect opportunity for you. You’ll have the chance to catch the fish, then clean and cook it in the traditional way. If you want to join in this age-old fishing practice that is more than 1,000 years old, then be sure to pay a visit to Kosi Bay to meet the Tsonga people. Just a note of caution, Kosi Bay is a high risk area for malaria and preventative measures need to be taken when visiting.
SHANTY TOWNSHIP LIVING
South Africa is full of townships as a result of the apartheid area. Today these informal settlements are common to almost each and every town. Millions of people live in houses that is called ‘shacks’ or known as ‘Shanty’. These houses are built out of corrugated metal sheets, plywood and plastic sheets. Inside they are usually equipped with paraffin lamps, radios and an outside fire.
Shanty Town in Bloemfontein offers and overnight experience to sleep in a shack and to experience township living. This experience is completely safe and child friendly. When nature calls, you’ll have to use an outside toilet referred to as a long-drop. Children will never forget this unique experience. Shanty Town is situated inside a private game reserve and therefore very safe.
Children will have the opportunity to learn how donkey geysers work - that is how the water is heated up by the burning of wood. There are braai facilities where children can learn to braai - also known as barbeque. Just a note of caution, we don’t recommend staying overnight in any other informal settlement for safety reasons.
EASTERN CAPE BUSH RANGER ACTIVITIES
Need a break from all the electronic gadgets of today? Children - do you love the colour green, the feeling of wind through your hair, open blue skies and being surrounded by lots of wild life? You can have it all here! Imagine having the time of your life while being shown first-hand, the way of life here in ‘the bush’ and taught about African wildlife.
At the Samara private game reserve, children have the opportunity to learn everything there is to know about life in ‘the bush’ – all while in a safe environment. They can learn to do spoor identification, which entails identifying what type of animal the spoor belongs to - like identifying the spoor of an antelope from a lion. Pretty neat! Nearby you will find Bushman paintings and children will actually be able to go and translate the paintings themselves. They tell age-old tales that is unique to the Bushman.
Another favourite activity is orienteering – where children learn the essential skills of using a compass.