Taking my own family back to South Africa on safari each year, I am constantly amazed at all the new, exciting and adventurous activities on offer in this magnificent country! From stand up paddling, to quad biking, mountain biking – a family safari is not just about seeing wildlife – although that is the main draw.
We return to South Africa each year visiting grandparents, sisters, friends, cousins and after we have completed our social spell, we then go on our own exploration as a family. South Africa never fails to amaze me. It truly is the most breathtakingly beautiful country to visit and in my eyes, probably the finest country for a family safari. It simply offers so much – in terms of experience and diversity.
We have explored the breadth of the country from north to south, east to west. It’s extraordinary and whilst growing up in the country, we used to always head off to the bush and the beach which was on our doorstep – since moving away, we now explore the entire country and I am constantly amazed at its incredible beauty which never changes! Why is it nobody ever explore their own country fully whilst living there? It truly is a world in one country.
So – pride of place must go to the safaris. What I love is that one can either choose from a non-malarial safari as I did when my children were younger – to wilder areas such as the Kruger where you had to take malarial tablets. But that truly is not an issue because they simply don’t have any side-affects.
The guides on our safaris have always been just superb! They interact with children with such ease, (the crucial point to a success of every safari!). They make it fun, whilst all the time proffering fascinating information and facts about dung beetles and their role in the ecological system, termite mounds and how they keep their mounds to an ambient temperature, which leaves they use for toothbrushes to clean their teeth and which leaves they use as toilet paper!
We would ask all about their folklore and their customs and they are only too keen to share this with you – expanding our children’s knowledge along the way. It is always so hard to leave – many of the smaller camps and lodges we visited became our extended family – and it was a wrench not having these wonderful people with infectious smiles as part of your daily life! The wildlife, of course, was top class – and of course we saw all the big five.
My favourite place is a huge reserve on 23 000 hectares with just one lodge – so you have the whole reserve to yourself! Now – that is spoiling!
We then went to Cape Town my home and this is where we had some serious fun! Three tours in particular really do stand out! The first was a morning tour – where we went stand up paddling. This is a great sport for all the family! We were driven to Hout Bay – along that gorgeous coastal road with the drop and the ocean beneath you. We had a morning on the paddleboards – the ages ranging from 6 through to 15 as well as the adults and we all had a great time – lots of laughter from all! We then did a treasure hunt along the promenade, ending up at the Green Biodiversity garden.
Our guide had all this planned for us and we learnt about Rhino conservation (a project close to my heart), Nelson Mandela and ancient secrets in the biodiversity garden. We all learnt so much and had so much fun – so much better than being stuck in a car for half a day! We then went up Table Mountain in the afternoon.
Another tour, which is an all day tour is taking mountain bikes, surf boards, stand up paddles, you name it – and whatever sport you and your family do – they can arrange it all! We went with our guide to the very best beaches and had a whale of time (excuse the pun!). She even brought a gourmet picnic for us to have on the beach! It was such a magical day and our guide was great with the children, so knowledgeable and enthusiastic – and best of all, everybody had fun!
With the children well and truly occupied by our guide, another tour which really stood out, was one I did with my mother and sister. We visited James Fearnie’s charity Uthando, which is my favourite South African charity. I really do feel that everyone visiting South Africa should factor in half a day here. It’s in the township of Khayellisha – right next to the airport.
James and Nxobile show their visitors all their projects – they have around 43 of them – from vegetable gardens, showing everyone how to become self-sufficient, to giving them a starter bag of seeds, to jewellery making courses where they get to sell their jewellery, to courses for offenders who have spent time in prison and then as part of an habituation programme, offer them a skill, to a wonderful project which encourages talented under privileged children to dance and have a future in this art.
The most touching one for us was a centre for the elderly, where they could meet and talk to other people in a vibrant atmosphere – never alone. They also have outings a couple of times a year for these people – which is just fabulous. It is an uplifting experience that I believe everyone should have.
I haven’t even really scratched the surface here – but suffice to say – that I cannot think of another country that offers so many different outdoor activities, with wonderful weather – and good value for money too. But of course, school holidays are July, August, December, April, February and October. South Africa comes into her own in each of these months.