With a child-friendly ethos, game galore and plenty of organic food to enjoy, the Kwandwe Private Reserve in South Africa is the perfect place to introduce your children to nature at its most glorious.
On the malaria-free Eastern Cape, hippos were nothing but a distant memory until a man called Angus Gillis bought a former goat farm 10 years ago and set about transforming it back into an animal’s paradise. Since then, more than 7,000 animals have been returned to the reserve to make it their home, including the 'big five': leopard, lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino.
This success has made it possible for Kwandwe Private Game Reserve to open two lodges, one with six rooms and one with nine, plus two sole-use villas. All in all, the reserve can accommodate 44 guests at any one time. On this expansive 20,000-hectare property, you'll find peace, quiet and uninterrupted animal viewing opportunities are in ample supply, as well as quality family time.
The beautiful scenery of Kwandwe alone is enough to make you and your children feel relaxed on your family break. Animal sounds are abundant and kids will be excited and bounding out of bed when they hear exotic birdsong at dawn.
It’s no surprise that many of those who visit – the Earl and Countess of Wessex among them – keep coming back.
Who is it good for? Kids aged eight and above will get the most from this experience and game drives are especially great for teens. Unfortunately children aged five and under cannot go on the safari, however, children of all ages are welcome to join the ‘Striped & Hooves’ adventure, a daily one hour morning game drive after breakfast with or without their parents to view ‘non-aggressive’ game such as giraffe, zebra, monkeys, warthogs etc at no additional cost.
Twice-daily game drives, bushwalks and extras including Rhino Monitoring and Big Game Walking are just some of the activities on offer at Kwandwe. Out and about on the reserve, you’ll come across lions, black and white rhinos, cheetahs and hippos all thriving and largely untroubled by the human world beyond. Why not step out of your comfort zone and try an exhilarating night drive where you can see more unusual animals, such as the elusive porcupine, aardvark and bat-eared fox.
Especially for kids, there are countless fun activities including the unfortunately named ‘poo safari’, fishing, pottery, pizza making and bedtime stories. All children receive a ‘Rangers in Training’ backpack, which include a craft pack, magnifying glass and a booklet to help them identify wildlife.
For families with older children, Great Fish River Lodge is perfect, and it’s one of the chicest lodges in Africa. Rooms are light, bright and creamy white, with large teak beds, vast bathrooms and terraces decked with wood and canvas furniture. From the balcony – and your private pool – you’ll have a sensational view of the Great Fish River where you’ll spend hours watching the hippos, Egyptian geese and crocodiles.
Alternatively, Ecca Lodge, the second of the four small accommodation options within this large private reserve, welcomes children of all ages and offers complimentary childminding.
Food: After a hard day's safari the delicious, fresh three-course dinner menu, of which the Ostrich is a highlight, is a real treat. There's also a special menu for children.
Price: Great Fish River Lodge takes children from the age of 12yrs and above. A family comprising 2 adults and 2 children, aged between the ages of 12 and 16, staying in double suites would cost from £1,030 per night, all inclusive.
To stay in Ecca Lodge with a family of four comprising 2 adults, 1 child aged 0-5 and 1 child aged 6-16 sharing a suite would cost from £735 per night.
How to get there: South African Airways offers return flights from London to Port Elizabeth, South Africa, via Johannesburg, from £779 per person.
Travel time: From London it's a 15-hour flight to Port Elizabeth, then a 30-minute flight to Kwandwe airstrip, or a 1 hour 45 minute drive, all transfers can be arranged by reservations.