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For the perfect non malaria family safari, head to South Africa

Albee Yeend
By Albee Yeend
12 Sep 2017
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The great thing about taking children to South Africa is that there is no jet lag to contend with plus the bonus of night flights.

Start off your family safari at Leobo Reserve for a three night stay, which is a three hour drive north of Johannesburg. There is also small landing strip at the farm, suitable for light aircraft so we can fly you directly to the lodge or even by helicopter too!


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Leobo Private Reserve is rented on an exclusive basis only, so you won’t share it with any other guests and it’s your playground for the duration of your stay. The reserve is a 20,000 acre estate based in the beautiful malaria free Waterberg Mountains and overlooks South Africa’s lush Palala Valley.

It is home to the award winning ‘Observatory Bush Villa’ – probably the most stunning and unusual safari house in Africa. What makes Leobo so special is that there is no fixed timetable - game drives, activities, meal times – they can all be planned around you, which means that you can go on game drives whenever you like, day or night – whenever suits you.


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It is one of only a handful of sole-use private reserves in South Africa allowing guests full access to the entire reserve and all its facilities. The managers Taryn and Tom and their wonderful team will give you the opportunity to enjoy a life experience that you’ll be talking about for years to come. The Observatory Bush Villa (accommodating six adults and three children) consists of four rooms in the main house, two main en-suite rooms and a separate room for the little ones with a triple bunk bed, and then an additional bedroom for a nanny or an extra guest.

If the four rooms aren't quite enough for you and your family or friends, then there is additional space available in The Lodge, which can house up to 18 guests and, again, is completely exclusive for guests staying at the Observatory. The estate is rich in archaeological history and Bushman paintings as well as a mesmerising stretch of bushveld savannah interspersed with natural, crystal-clear streams.


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Activities on offer include horse riding and they have five incredibly well schooled responsive horses. They also offer the Polaris, which is a larger, more manly quad bike, as well as several other quad bikes. There is fishing (both fly and angling) for yellow fish and bream, they have walks, nature drives to see the plains game - there are zebra, giraffe, wildebeest, aardvark and a number of other species on the property but no predators or larger animals.


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There is also kayaking on the rivers, which are ever present and after all that if you wanted to just relax and be pampered for a while they have an onsite masseuse who will expertly release all your troubles. There is also a special sleep out tree house – located just yards from a dam – this is the Hippo camping experience with a four man tent positioned above the hippo dam and from here you can feast yourself on a typical South African braai around a roaring fire pit whilst listening to the hippo below.

Most of all Leobo is perfect for families - even though there is a lot of adult fun to be had, Leobo Reserve is built around the enjoyment of families - indeed the owner himself has four children. Your children will love being on the reserve and will experience and learn so much - from seeing the tracks of a giraffe, to feeling the velvety-soft leaves of the “loo paper” tree; from walking on a rock-hard ant hill, to holding a lizard. They can swim, relax, play, watch the stars (whilst dressed up in space suits!) or do what they want, but they’ll never be bored for a moment.


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From Leobo, you will be driven or flown to Johannesburg, where you will fly to Cape Town and stay in Hout Bay, at Hout Bay Manor for three nights. This was built in 1871 and is renowned as one of Cape Town’s most graceful landmarks and comprises 21 individually designed en-suite rooms and a sophisticated fine dining restaurant.

Hout Bay Manor has preserved the history and heritage while infusing the interiors with Zulu and Xhosa chic décor to celebrate the vibrant pulse of South Africa. The owner’s love for Africa, its people and culture is reflected in the use of bold colours and superior fabrics, complemented by exquisite, unique pieces that have been used to create ‘a jewellery box of gems’ to offset the mellow ambience of the original interiors.

The Sangoma suite is perfect for families with two interconnecting rooms. There is plenty to do during your stay here. You could visit Table Mountain going up in the cable car which will reveal the incredible views of the city and ocean below. On reaching the top, you will move away from the crowds, tracking a dassie (local rock rabbit) and breaking for a well-earned hot chocolate and delicious pastries.

Returning to sea level, you can hop on your bikes, cycling along the Sea Point Promenade on a treasure-hunt and using a map to follow in the footsteps of a San Bushman, Cape Town’s earliest inhabitants. The treasure map points to clues along your 3-5 km Atlantic Seaboard course, and helps to bring to life the stories of the Cape in a most engaging way.  

Stopping at art installations en-route, you will listen to the story of Mandela, whilst gazing out towards Robben Island where he spent so many years imprisoned. Staying safe and off road you will head into Green Point Park for a fun insight into the unique Cape flora and fauna before lunch.


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After lunch it’s time to explore the city’s uplifting urban art projects, District Six and interactive sites like the Apartheid Benches which bring to life the history which has shaped South Africa’s nation. (Terrific stuff for teens). Families with younger children can head to Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens for an afternoon of running rampant within the estate.

Follow a treasure map which leads between tree-top canopy walk-ways and prehistoric cycad gardens (complete with dinosaurs). Jump over stepping stones, climb Van Riebeeck’s historic hedge and barrel down lawns in search of Claud the Clawless Otter. 

Slowing things down, end the day at the beach and, while parents sip sundowners with their feet in the sand, tired, happy children burn away the last of their energy, making use of the on-board toy box to play beach games with their energetic guide.


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Also during your stay in Cape Town, we would highly recommend a tour with Uthando, which is our chosen charity in South Africa and serves as an umbrella for a wide range of highly effective community projects across the country. In order to showcase these and also to offer a glimpse into the work being done to uplift the disadvantaged in South Africa, they offer daily scheduled excursions visiting the sprawling townships around Cape Town.

The Uthando tours offer a unique and authentic introduction to the social problems confronting so many millions of South Africans, while also illustrating the innovative and inspirational ways in which they are being handled by these marginalised and destitute communities.


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Very importantly, the projects are not treated as tourist attractions and the tours are designed in such a way as to educate, inform and inspire while also respecting the dignity and privacy of the people concerned. The projects are, after all, places where people live, work and in most cases, just survive.

On any given tour three or four diverse community projects are visited and projects include urban agriculture; animal welfare; youth development through the medium of art, dance, choir singing, classical music, drumming or sport; special needs education; assistance to refugees; the environment; economic empowerment through skills development; arts and crafts; prisoner rehabilitation; care and protection for children, women and the elderly and much more.


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From Cape Town, you will fly to the Eastern Cape, to Port Elizabeth, where you will go on safari for a three night stay in the exclusive Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, staying at Uplands Homestead, which is a lovingly restored farmhouse dating back to 1905. Elegantly luxurious, the property retains all the charm and grace of an “Out of Africa” experience.


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This exclusive-use house has three beautifully appointed en-suite rooms, a contemporary, farm-style kitchen, outdoor dining and a large pool and gazebo. A dedicated chef and butler takes care of guests every need. On arrival, your children will receive ‘Ranger in Training’ backpacks with a very useful magnifying glass, a container for gathering bugs, a craft pack made by the local community centre and a leaflet for identifying wildlife.


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On the children’s final day they are presented with a ‘Ranger in Training’ certificate signed by their game ranger. The children can also partake in treasure hunts or after breakfast Kwandwe’s one hour ‘Horns and Stripes’ morning game drive to view non-aggressive animals such as zebra, giraffe, warthog and monkeys, plus day and night game drives, bush walks, fishing, picnics, and a range of other optional extra activities.


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For your final destination, you will transfer by road (or light aircraft) to just outside Plettenberg Bay, to stay at Kurland for three nights, which is a luxury country house located on a beautiful polo estate. Owner managed and family-friendly, this attractive property nestles between mountains and sea, facing lush indigenous bush.

Kurland is situated at the foothills of the Outeniqua Pass and the Tzitzikamma Mountains and is surrounded by paddocks and meadows of the vast 700 acre private estate. There are 12 individually appointed suites which have fireplaces and all the comforts of home. Overlooking the glittering pool, garden or paddocks, each has a private patio or courtyard and some feature plunge pools. In particular the Luxury and Superior Suites have loft rooms for children.

You can unwind on your veranda gazing out over lovely vistas or explore the estate grounds on foot, horse-back, bike or quad. Kurland is, without being over-dramatic, a small piece of heaven! In our opinion, this is one of the finest small boutique hotels in South Africa. It is utterly child-friendly, which is rare in an establishment of this quality.

Kurland tends to get fully booked during the school holidays from one year to the next by families who appreciate its unique approach to child-friendly, yet superb, hospitality. This is truly a perfect place for a decadent yet relaxed family holiday.


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Whether one is simply reclining at the pool, being pampered at the spa, going for long walks, buzzing around on the quad bikes, mountain biking, reading (lots of books!), playing tennis or going for a ride (this is home to Kurland Polo, one is surrounded by horses which one is encouraged to use), there is again plenty to do. Kurland is about 15 minutes from an exceptional beach, (with a lagoon, so one doesn’t have to brave the surf) and there is simply plenty to do on this coast: Birdland, Monkeyland, Natures’ Valley and all the attractions of Plettenberg Bay. There are other good areas such as the Tzitzikamma Nature Reserve where you can walk, bungee jump or enjoy a great, fun treetop ‘canopy tour’. One could happily spend two weeks at Kurland…