If you want a destination that has it all for families, South Africa comes high on the list. Between its welcoming people, wildlife, spectacular landscapes and vibrant cities, you can have practically every once-in-a-lifetime holiday here.
South Africa is surprisingly good value for family holidays
This giant of family travel is easy to get to with no jet lag to knock kids out of sync as the time difference is a gentle one hour in summer, and two in winter. The strength of the British Pound against the Rand means South Africa is also fantastic value for money for families, so important when you have to keep everyone happy with meals out, ice creams and fun activities for all. And May to September happens to be low season in South Africa, fortuitously coinciding with the British summer holidays, meaning families can enjoy even lower prices.
But South Africa does reliably good weather all year round and it’s a particularly sunny option if you’re seeking Vitamin D fuelled getaways in the Easter break, May and October half terms, and of course the summer holidays.
Safari the Big Five during UK summer holidays
South Africa has many outstanding attractions for families. Number one has to be its memorable safari experiences with the Big Five at large and plenty of other highlights to enhance children’s life experiences and knowledge. Happily for UK families, South African safaris are more affordable during the UK school summer holidays, and also much less crowded at this time.
South Africa is home the world’s greatest game reserves
The quality of safari lodges here is second to none. MalaMala Game Reserve for example, which borders the Kruger National Park, is the blueprint for a luxury family safari experience. In existence since 1927, this massive thriving reserve is a magical place for children where they receive a MalaMala backpack on arrival with interactive checklist, bird and mammal colouring books. Rangers assess the age, enthusiasm and independence of children and collaborate with parents on activities such as tracking animals; learning basic survival skills; preparing bush breakfasts and using walkie talkies to name but a few.
MalaMala’s passionate guides liken going on a game drive to playing a game, as you never know what you’re going to see out there in the bush. Safety is their main concern, and after that, it’s giving families an awesome experience, and getting up close to animals such as big cats including lion and leopard.
Family safaris are more than just game drives and wildlife
It’s easy to combine safari with city experiences in iconic destinations including Cape Town, known locally as the Mother City. Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is located in the Eastern Cape where kids activities include campfire cooking, treasure hunts, fishing and nocturnal safaris, as well as spotting the iconic Big Five. On arrival, kids receive an Eco-nect Guide including animal checklists, themed games and activities and a pledge to ‘live green’. Families can offset their holiday by planting Spekboom, vegetation native to this area and one of the top five carbon-storing vegetations on the planet.
Try urban adventures, vineyards and beaches in Cape Town
Another must-do activity for families just a two-hour drive from Cape Town is spotting Humpback and Southern Right Whales from Hermanus, a pretty town on the Garden Route in the Western Cape from June to November.
Cape Town’s highlights for families include the iconic trip to the top of Table Mountain by cable car where kids can spot colourful flowers and plants and enjoy a family picnic, or head down to the coast to Simon’s Town to meet the famous African Penguins on Boulders Beach.
The Garden Route is one of the world’s greatest road trips
Children will also adore The Foodbarn at Noordhoek Farm Village, a fine dining restaurant which welcomes kids with open arms and serves up delicious dishes in a relaxed and characterful barn. Families can make an afternoon of it exploring the craft shops, tucking into freshly baked artisan bread, handcrafted ice cream, raw juice, sushi and coffee from the local roastery or heading to the village pub, The Toad for a hearty lunch. There’s a children’s playground and large green open spaces for kids to let off steam.
And if parents want to indulge in South Africa’s world-class wines with kids in tow, head to Spier Wine Farm in the sun-drenched Cape winelands where mum and dad can sip Pinotage or Chenin Blanc, while kids take part in grape juice tastings sessions, learn about the vines and grape growing.
Discover Cape Town, South Africa’s oldest city
Whilst in Cape Town, families can hook up with local guides on engaging tours that bring alive city districts such as Woodstock or the nearby Khayelitsha township. Community-driven artists from Khayelitsha show families how street art can have a positive impact on townships. And kids on this colourful tour can literally get their hands dirty whether it be painting or gardening whilst they soak up the vibrant art, which gives them an authentic experience, and the chance to give back – even just a little.
Arty kids can also unleash their inner Picasso at Artjamming, a fun, hands-on art session on Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, Durbanville and Somerset West, as well as further afield in Johannesburg. Very little ones will love the Messy Play classes where infants and toddlers can enjoy the textures and smells of paints, clay, sands and play doughs.
Planning a holiday in South Africa
How to get there
Direct UK flights to Cape Town take from 11 hours, 35 minutes