Family Travel In South Africa
Director of sales, Elizabeth Story, shares the highlights of a recent safari with Kensington Tours
I’m lucky enough to have hosted a number of familiarization trips around the world with Kensington Tours. This time I decided to use the expertise of the company to plan a birthday trip for myself and my daughter Leyla.
We flew into Johannesburg, and our VIP meet and greet service got us out of the airport with our luggage in hand in under 20 minutes. Our driver was waiting and we headed north to Madikwe, which is close to the Botswana border. This area of South Africa is ideal for family safaris and for those who don’t want to take malaria pills as there is little risk in this part of the country. It is a four hour transfer by road or you can take a small bush plane into Madikwe Game Reserve.
Madikwe comprises 185,000 acres of bush and 31 different camps. Unlike a safari in the Kruger National Park, you can off-road in this area of South Africa. This allows closer tracking of the animals.
We had chosen one night at Lalapa and two nights at Jamala. Both excellent choices, slightly different in what they deliver. It is very difficult to see Lalapa from the road as it is so well camouflaged in the trees. Our knowledgeable Kensington Tours destination experts often recommend the camp experience for families because it can be ideal for children. Jamala has the advantage of a watering hole where one morning at least 70 elephants clustered to drink and amuse us. We also woke up to a few lions outside our bedroom window on our last morning which was an added bonus. If you have clients that don’t feel they want to wake at an ungodly hour each day, this makes an excellent choice as during a morning just sitting enjoying the view, elephants, giraffes, zebra, lion, water buffalo, rhino, impala and guinea fowl all came to drink. The rangers who conduct the game drives at both camps have so much knowledge and are so passionate about wildlife that we learnt a lot about animal behavior. It surprised me how close we could get to wild animals but always felt safe thanks to the rangers’ knowledge of an animal behavior. Our rangers could smell certain animals and tell from footprints which animal was heading where and how fresh the tracks were. When we came across a male rhino we stayed and watched and we wondered if the animal knew we were there. Our ranger said yes as his tail was curling, which indicated he knew exactly where we were. It was mating season and this rhino was tracking two females who didn’t seem very interested in him. But he let us know to keep our distance in case we fancied our luck with the ladies!
Madikwe is the sort of area you just don’t want to leave, watching animals in their natural habitat is humbling. However, we didn’t want to miss our train from Pretoria to Cape Town and so we said a sad goodbye and jumped into our transfer car to Pretoria where we boarded Rovos Rail for our 2 night journey to Cape Town. Rovos is still family owned, the name coming from Mr. Ronan Vos. The family pay close attention to their clients’ comfort and this is an experience taking you back to an age where gentleman wore tuxes and ladies gowns for dinner. Rovos has recently relaxed their dress rules in order to attract the younger generation, so you can now leave your tiara behind. The train makes two stops along the way. First to a diamond mine, which I found interesting, and the second to a sleepy town where asthma sufferers used to visit and sometimes stay — must be something to do with the dry air. After four meals a day, we were happy to pull into Cape Town. This experience would not suit every client but for train enthusiasts or those that just want to be looked after and have a lazy two days avoiding planes and airports, it’s ideal.
We spent 4 days in Cape Town and it was not enough. Kensington Tours destination experts typically recommend a minimum of six days. Our first day was spent with local guide Anine on the most remarkable food tour. From oven fresh croissants to street food and local gin to local cuisine cooked in a market, followed by ice cream and more, there was no need to eat again that day. Our accommodation for two nights was More Quarters, comfortable apartments in an area with lots of local stores as well as restaurants. This would be ideal for families.
We spent our second day heading out to Stellenbosch and Franschhoek on a wine tour. Wine country in South Africa is as beautiful as the wines we drank.
We then moved to The Cape Grace, a stately five-star hotel on the waterfront. This area is ideal for those that like to walk around at night. There are plenty of shops (local as well as tourist), boutiques with South African designs and lots of restaurants.
On our third day we went out to Boulders Beach to see South African penguins (my daughter’s only request). South African penguins are very small and very cute and many had just had babies. When a penguin only has one parent, who of course has to fetch food, the community gathers and the youngsters form a creche to keep each other safe until the parent arrives back with food. Penguins don’t smell particularly good but they certainly are amusing. Simonstown is also a pretty, sleepy town with lovely views of the sea.
The fourth day was our last and the day we fly home (on a 5 p.m. flight). So I had thought we would have time to hike up Table Mountain but it’s a three-hour hike and then a cable car down and we would have had to meet our guide much earlier than we wanted to get up. Given we had a 10-hour flight ahead of us as the first of three flights home, we opted to hike Lion’s Head instead. This proved to be technically more difficult but we are fast walkers and we were up and back in under three hours.
I found Cape Town to be a very artistic city. I particularly enjoyed fitting in a visit to Street Wires, where local woman make a living to support their families by making amazing bead busts of the native animals as well as other creative designs.
This trip demonstrated to me how important good guides are and how much more you can learn with a customized, private-guided trip.
Kensington Tours offers a range of safari offerings to suit a variety of budgets. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a customized quote or contact email@example.com any time for assistance in learning more about the 90 countries worldwide that Kensington Tours services through custom, privately guided travel.
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