With school holidays and the European holidays in full swing, the whole family is looking for things to do at the moment –
Paddling in the mangroves
Machangulo Beach Lodge in Mozambique recently added stand-up paddle boards to its repertoire of water sports. This is a fun activity that the entire family can enjoy and the lodge’s co-owner, Chris Nolte, suggests combining it with a snorkelling picnic or a dhow sailing cruise. The mangrove forests near the lodge are an idyllic location to explore on the paddle boards. The lodge is reached by boat transfer from Maputo to the Santa Maria Peninsula.
Horse ride and picnic
A new activity for families at Legend Golf & Safari Resort and in the Entabeni Safari Conservancy in the Waterberg is horse riding. Two packages are on offer, combining a one- or two-hour ride with a picnic lunch. Prices are pegged at R495 (€31) and R795 (€49) respectively, beverages excluded. Rides are accompanied by a trained guide.
Berries and ‘buses’ on the Garden Route
At Fancourt, on the Garden Route in the Western Cape, eco-friendly tours are available on the recently introduced Eco-Rider, a two-wheeled battery-powered machine, with the ability to clamber over all types of terrain on the golfing estate. The activity is already popular with families, and is done under the guidance of a local guide.
A day trip on the Outeniqua Power Van, a rail bus travelling from the Outeniqua Transport Museum through one of the most scenic routes in George against the backdrop of the Outeniqua Mountain, is another novel means of exploring the beauty of the Garden Route. Nearby, and ideal for families, is Redberry Farm for some strawberry picking. Visitors can also explore the large hedge maze, relax in the onsite tea garden, purchase home-made delicacies from the farm stall, while children enjoy mini train rides, bumper boats, and pony rides.
Teenagers and younger children can socialise in the Teens Lounge or Kidz Club. Even babies are given special care at Fancourt, receiving their branded soft towels and face cloths.
Picking up bush skills
A meaningful conservation experience is now on offer in a remote corner at Gondwana Game Reserve on the Garden Route, where a tented eco camp has been established for 10 people in five tents. It comes with private staff who see to catering and tent service, and a dedicated field guide and vehicle for the duration of the stay.
A six-day/five-night stay option enables guests to participate in wildlife and veld management, learn bush skills and volunteer in the local community. There are also specific weeks where a family programme is hosted.
Says owner, Mark Rutherford: “We ensure the activities are not too long or too strenuous for the little ones, to keep them motivated and happy. Family projects are developed for all age groups to be able to actively participate. While the regular, more adult programme (16 years and up) brings in elements of wildlife monitoring and research, for the younger crowd we will substitute this with activities like fishing, treasure hunts and nature craft to keep it fun and interactive.” The reserve has the Big Five species, and is blanketed in fynbos.
The seemingly monotonous Cape Karoo has much to keep a family fascinated and occupied. In the desert village of Prince Albert there’s a surprising range of activities. Sue Milton-Dean and Richard Dean of Renu-Karoo are veld experts and offer guided walks covering geology and botany in the Wolwekraal Nature Reserve. Judy Maguire’s Koekemakranka Tours peel back the many cultural layers of the Karoo, from the earliest Khoi and San groups. Prince Albert is also the home of the Showroom Theatre, which attracts performers in classical, contemporary, dramatic and comedic arts. Stargazers will enjoy Astro Tours’ introduction to the celestial Big Five and, gastronomically, Karoo lamb is said to be the most tender to be found anywhere.
Adventures in Oribi Gorge
The Oribi Gorge in southern KwaZulu Natal is an adventure hotspot, with a Wild 5 to boast of. Extreme experiences include the wild swing over Lehr’s Falls, plummeting the depth of a 55-storey building. There’s also a 110m abseil, a foefie slide (zip line), 85m suspension bridge, white water rafting on the Umzimkhulu river, paintball, teambuilding and guided hiking and birding trails.
Roughing it in the ‘Berg
The Drakensberg is considered South Africa’s premier terrain for hiking. Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife gives visitors the opportunity to camp overnight in a cave, making for a closer encounter with nature. There are plenty of caves to choose from, sleeping between two and 12, and they must be booked ahead. Campers will need to carry their own overnighting equipment.
Freewheeling down mountains
The Monster Mountain Scooter, a non-motorised, Swiss-designed vehicle used in the Alps in the summer, has made its way to South Africa. Operating as separate franchises, it is now on offer in three locations – the Drakensberg, Cape Town and Knysna. Described as an off-road scooter on steroids, the downhill mountain sport requires little skill except being able to ride a bike. It is suited to a wide range of ages, and kids below the age of nine can ride with an adult.
Each franchise is bookable online and has a wholesale platform with STO rates. Cape Town-based Director and Owner, Christiaan van Rheede van Oudtshoorn (Oudts for short), who introduced the freewheel activity to buyers at Indaba, says it is particularly popular with Dutch who are avid bike riders and enjoy trying their hand at mountainous terrain, in contrast to the flatness of their own country.
Wine for the adults, juice for the kids
The wine estate Spier has done an excellent job of providing family activities with animal attractions, picnic grounds and more. But it’s not the only Western Cape wine farm to offer family fun.
At Middelvlei in the Stellenbosch vicinity, there are donkey rides, juice tasting for kids (as the adults indulge in the fermented kind) and the chance to braai their own baguettes as the professional in-house chef barbecues for the family. In the same location is Delvera, known as the ‘outdoor village in the vineyards’. It offers pottery, pedal go-carts, hiking and biking. Allée Bleue at Franschhoek gives a twist to a kids’ picnics – they wrap their goodies up in a checked cloth and sling the bag on the end of a stick, sending little ones off on an adventure exploring the farm. Jason’s Hill in the Breedekloof Valley near Rawsonville has sandpits, swings and rolling lawns, while at Van Loveren in the Robertson Wine Valley, children can do their own food and drink pairing, matching grape juice varieties with sweet treats.