SA's wild places: 5 great family holidays

2017-03-24 18:23 - Scott Ramsay
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Family holidays should never be underestimated for the power they hold to create some good, relaxing times as well as lasting memories. Here photo-journalist Scott Ramsay shares his five top spots ideal for a family escape out in nature. 

West Coast National Park, Western Cape

The spectacular West Coast National Park is an hour’s drive north of Cape Town. The central attraction is the placid waters of Langebaan Lagoon, where the beach at Oudekraal makes for a superb braai, picnic and safe swimming. Because there is no dangerous wildlife (other than the odd puffadder!), the park is great for mountain biking and easy walking.

Enjoy a meal at Geelbek Restaurant, where large lawns make for a great lunch spot, and kids can play within sight of the adults. Stay at Duinepos Chalets, a collection of fully-equipped, self-catering cottages surrounded by fynbos and managed by the friendliest staff who can arrange for a baby-sitter if parents want some peace and quiet. Kids will love the tortoises and lizards which bask in the early-morning sun.

SEE: Secret beaches along the West Coast

De Hoop Nature Reserve, Western Cape

Just to the east of Cape Agulhas, this coastal and mountainous reserve has the best array of accommodation and camping in the Western Cape, and a list of activities almost as long as the number of fynbos plants.

Die Opstal alongside the birding-paradise of De Hoop Vlei includes campsites, self-catering rondavels, chalets and the luxurious Manor House. The onsite Fig Tree restaurant serves three meals a day, as well as tea and coffee, and there is a tennis court, swimming pool and a boules courtyard.

Kids will love the guided marine walk, which explores the rock pools and sandy beaches, as well as the southern-right whales during spring time. Remember to take your goggles and snorkel, because the rock pools along the shores are full of fish, sea anemones, mussels and starfish. Kids will love it!

SEE: Peace and Calm at De Hoop

Isimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal

This World Heritage Site in north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal is famous for its beauty and biodiverse wildlife, but because it’s located just to the north of St Lucia town, it’s perfect for families who love the bush but also appreciate the proximity of a hot shower and cold glass of sauvignon.

Stay at one of the numerous guest houses in town (like the well-respected Hornbill House), or head into the park to Cape Vidal campsite and chalets, between the coastal forest and the endless beach. This is a place to let the kids play for hours on the beach while you kick back and relax with a beer and braai tongs.

The Indian Ocean can be rough, so find a shallow lagoon to let the kids play in, and put up your brollie there. In the summer evenings, sign up for a guided turtle excursion with Kian Barker from Shakabarker Tours. There’s a good chance of seeing both endangered loggerhead and leatherback turtles as they emerge from the sea to lay their eggs. Then head out afterwards for a good meal and bottle of wine at St Pizza restaurant in the middle of town.

SEE: Rewilding iSimangaliso: Lions, cheetah and wild dog projects bloom in time for summer holidays

Marakele National Park, Limpopo

The Bontle campsite at Marakele ranks as one of the finest in South Africa. Located at the base of the Waterberg mountains, at the edge of an acacia forest, it looks out over the grasslands where white rhino graze and kudu trot past.

While Dad is starting the braai, and Mom is preparing the marinade, the kids have enough space in the campsite to play a game of late afternoon garden cricket. There are dangerous animals around, however, and the campsite only has a low electric fence, so keep an eye out for kids who go AWOL.

The drive to Lenong viewpoint at the top of the Waterberg is probably one of the most beautiful and scenic in Limpopo. Standing at 2 045 metres above sea level, you can tell your kids that you’re standing on some of the oldest rocks on Earth, dating back 2,5 billion years.

After they’re bored of your geography lesson, take them on a game drive with park guide Fhumulani Mikosi, who has developed a special trust with the white rhinos of the park. He’ll take you within touching distance of the second-biggest land mammal in Africa.

SEE: QUIZ: How well do you know your South African National Parks?

Cathedral Peak in Drakensberg, KwaZulu-Natal

There’s arguably no better base for a family mountain holiday than Cathedral Peak hotel in the Drakensberg World Heritage Site.

Situated at the base of the spectacular northern sector of South Africa’s biggest mountain range, the staff at this family-owned and managed institution are experts at looking after and entertaining the youngsters, while adults do their own thing.

There’s plenty for young and old to do.

Go on a free, daily guided hike in the spectacular valleys and mountains, visit rock art sites or play golf on the hotel’s 9-hole course. Try your hand at archery and horse-riding. And best of all, the small kids have their own dining and games room, where they are fed, entertained and baby-sat by trained staff. Down the road is the Didima Rock Art centre, which is probably the best of its kind in the country.

It’s a brilliant introduction to the rock art of Southern Africa, and it’ll give older kids a great opportunity to learn about the Bushmen, the first people of our country. 

SEE: 3 New Mountain Bike trails to try on the foothills of the Drakensberg 

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