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Family holidays in South Africa

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Start planning your family tour in South Africa

South Africa is a huge country. As such you and your family will have no shortage of places to visit and memories to make during your time in this beautiful country. The South African philosophy of Ubuntu; the belief that human beings cannot exist alone and that the way that we treat others defines us, is everywhere. as such, you and your kids will be welcomed with open arms as you learn all about South Africa's beauty, culture, turbulent history and so much more. This truly is an eye-opening trip and is perfect for parents and kids looking to get out of their bubble for the family adventure of a lifetime, whether you're on safari, learning to kite-surf, taking a bike tour of Johannesburg or visiting the fascinating cultural sites on offer here.

Best things to see and do in South Africa with kids

What to see as a family

South Africa is home to so many incredible sights and sounds that you and your kids won’t get to see anywhere else, and there’s no better introduction to its beauty than a visit to Cape Point. Not only can you see the best views around, with a panoramic position over the ocean, you can also explore a lighthouse that dates back to the 1800s. The Cape of Good Hope is another must see that should make it onto your list. Pack up a picnic and take the gentle hike up to this beautiful spot to sit down and relax as a family in a setting that certainly beats the local park. Table Mountain is one of the country’s most famous natural sites and is an incredible place to walk, hike, climb and bike. Explore the trails that take you to the summit or take a cable car for a relaxing ride to the top. South Africa is also home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Take a trip to the shores to try your hand at surfing, with lots of surf schools specialising in teaching younger kids.

Plettenberg Bay is just one great choice. These white sands make the perfect place to relax and enjoy your surroundings and some beaches even have some native animal inhabitants that kids will love. Boulders Beach, for instance, is home to a free-roaming colony of African Penguins that never fail to attract those keen to meet these friendly animals. Other beaches are famous for their Whale watching and you can take a boat trip of shore to see the world’s largest mammals. There’s so much history here that it would be a shame to visit without learning a little about South Africa’s dramatic and at times violent past. Museums such as The Apartheid Museum will offer an interesting and interactive experience of South African history that is important for visitors to understand and children can learn important lessons from visits here. Robben Island also makes for a fascinating and important day trip. This place was formerly a prison for political figures and housed people such as Nelson Mandela.

What to do as a family

It would be rare to find a visitor to South Africa that wasn’t planning a Big Game Safari at some point during their trip. South Africa is often seen as one of the top destinations to see the Big Five in their natural habitats; lions, elephants, rhinos, leopards and buffalo. Here, you’ll be able to organize the safari tour of your choice, with some options cater especially for kids and very young visitors. Kruger National Park is just one of many options and is one of the most popular. Come here to see all the well known animals, as well as the Big Five of course. Addo Elephant National Park, as its name would suggest, is famous for its elephant herds, but is also home to many other animals that you’ll be able to see as you roam the park with your safari guide, who’ll be able to point out all the animals as well as tell you interesting facts and stories about each one. The Eastern Cape is the best place to visit for a safari if you are worried about malaria, since this area is considered as more malaria free than other parts of the country.

Sabi Sabi, a private game reserve, is yet another option and is the clear choice for families looking for a little luxury in the wilderness. After spending a day or two seeing all the animals here on a game drive, you and your kids will be able to relax in a high end accommodation and enjoy some downtime before embarking on your next South African adventure. For very active families, Blyde River Canyon is not to be missed. In South Africa’s answer to the Grand Canyon of the USA, you can bike, hike and climb in this incredible natural setting. Admire the impressive rock formations and sheer scale of this place. Cango Caves are another family favourite, where you can take guided tours of each cave and her tales and mythology as you explore. After a day of caving, why not visit one of South Africa’s top theme parks, the Gold Reef City park, with so many roller coasters and rides to choose from, this promises to be an action-packed day trip that the kids certainly won’t forget in a hurry. Head back into Cape Town via Constantia, a wine producing suburb of the city where kids can play and adults can relax and sample some of the local produce on a wine tour. Wine tasting is also a popular choice when visiting the Garden Route, a green and luscious part of the country. One last trip that young children especially love is a visit to Oudtshoorn - a huge ostrich farm. Here, you can pet the animals and learn all about this giant bird.  

Best time to visit South Africa as a family

Since South Africa is so large, it can be considered as a year-round destination due to its diverse weather patterns. When you decide to visit will depend on what you plan on doing and if you want to visit a lot of places all over the country, it would be wise to prepare for diverse weather too. Generally speaking, families looking to go on safari would be best to visit during the drier months between May and October. For a beach holiday, the summer months between November and March are a great time to visit. Younger children may find the summer sun a bit intense, so it’s important to take this into account if you do plan on arriving during these months. In Cape Town, you are likely to encounter rain during the months between June and August, since winter showers are frequent. Whenever you decide to visit, you will have an incredible trip.

Family holiday tips for travelling to South Africa

With a little research and knowledge you can ensure that you are as prepared as possible for your time in South Africa, here a few tips and tricks to ensure that everything runs smoothly on your family trip.

  • As with any popular tourist destination, you and your family may encounter pickpockets when visiting some of the more crowded sites, particularly in cities. These are easy to tackle by simply making sure that any valuables are kept safe and sound back at your hotel and that you don’t carry large amounts of cash.
  • Make sure that you speak to your GP before traveling here to ensure that you have had any vaccinations that you may need. Sadly, Malaria is a reality for much of Africa, so its important to take the necessary precautions.
  • Book ahead, especially if you plan on traveling during peak season, to ensure that you get the best family-friendly accommodation with amenities such as a swimming pool.
  • Make sure that you leave yourselves enough time to appreciate everything. With such a large country, it can be tempting to zoom around all the sites in the hopes of seeing it all. It can be worth slowing down to avoid wearing yourselves out and give yourselves time to enjoy each location.

When to go in South Africa?

South Africa is marked by two seasons: a hot and humid summer (November to March) and a dry cooler winter (April to October). The Western Cape region has winter rainfall from June to August. The good thing is that South Africa has something to offer for each season. Safari season is from April to October. From November to March, the beaches of the Western Cape are idyllic. If you come between June and September there is a fair chance you will see whales… And then there is the Kwazulu-Natal coast, perfect for bathing all year round.
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