You took your kids where??
Lets talk South Africa. Short answer, yes, we did take our two toddlers there and why wouldn’t you?
We will get a few things out of the way… is it safe?
Yes, and like any country is has its good and bad areas, and like any country thats unfamiliar, you have your whits about you and be sensible.
The first half of our trip was quite unique to us as we ventured over there for my sister wedding. We spent a week meeting new family, wedding prepping and travelling to Magoebaskloof for the actual event. What we want to cover here is the more “holiday” side of our trip and just how we managed with a 1 and 2 year old.
We chose to fly to Cape Town, hire a car for 2 weeks and road trip along the Garden route.
So where did we go and where did we stay?
First stop, the absolutely stunning, vibrant, full of life Cape Town. We stayed at the Afribode Adenian beachside apartments which we booked through bookings.com. We were close to shops, a supermarket, play ground and a short drive to the V & A. Its a safe, picturesque neighbourhood and right across the road from the beautiful waterfront. We spent 4 nights here and could of stayed longer.
So what did we do here?
- Strolling your way around the V&A is a must. Great shops to find some African Nik naks to take home, street performers (we sat for a good hour watching the tribal drummers perform modern pop songs) a modern shopping centre filled with everything from your well known brands to small leather goods, food, food and food (make sure you get to the farmers market food shed and try the samosas) and also our favourite part, the large shed filled with hand crafted artisan gifts. The V & A will keep you entertained for a whole day.
- Take a drive through the colourful Bo Kaap. Just looking at these beautiful, brightly coloured houses will bring you joy. If theres a spot to stop, jump out and get creative with your photos. Our toddlers were just loving calling out the colours and of course we got asked why our house (caravan) wasn’t painted!
- Kirstenbosch national botanical gardens was amazing. Its definitely a must do when visiting CT. It was one place we could really let the kids run and explore, with so much room in the gardens and a beautiful tree top boardwalk, they burnt off some much needed energy and we were able to take in the sights.
- Take the drive to boulder beach. We really mean it, do not miss the opportunity to see the penguins so close and even wade in the crystal clear water with them. Please remember though, these are wild animals and they do not like being touched. The littles ones will just adore the penguin waddle as well as getting their toes wet.
- Of course there is Table mountain. Unfortunately for us, it was not open on any day we were there thanks to terrible weather but pop it on your list. We chose to drive up another mountain to get a taste for the views. Its mind blowing what a beautiful city CT is.
- Because we had a car, and we highly recommend you do to, we chose to spend a day doing a drive around to Muizenburg, a gorgeous little surf town with some pretty bright beach boxes. We also stopped in Fish Hoek (well worth it), this is when we visited Boulder beach and the penguins, then we continued our drive right down to Cape Point and strolled to the lighthouse. The national park was filled with wildlife and the littles one loved spotting the turtles.
We chose to do the big drive inland through Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, although we stopped to check out the views and the beautiful towns, doing a wine tour isn’t exactly kid friendly. It was a long drive, the kids slept most the way but we were happy to make it to our air bnb in the suburbs. Lucky for us, we had the most amazing hosts and even spent an afternoon with them and their friends, eating, drinking and sharing travel stories while the kids played on the lawn.
What else did we do in Oudtshoorn?
- Being know for their ostrich farms it was only natural that we went to visit a farm and get to know some ostrich. We choose to visit the Safari ostrich farm where we were able to feed and interact with the ostrich and view a real working farm. The tour was an hour and the kids loved it, we always worry with tours and little ones sitting and listening for so long, but we were driven through the ostrich pens on a tractor and they loved the fact they followed us along.
- Cango wildlife park was our next stop in Oudtshoorn. what toddler doesn’t love running around a zoo checking out the animals. This wildlife park is one of the better ones we have been to, its less cages for the animals and more boardwalks over the animals to view them. Tom took the opportunity to go croc diving, scary but awesome.
Just an added note -
Outside of Oudtshoorn is a place called Chandelier game lodge. They rescued 2 baby giraffes and they now live at the lodge. These giraffes are free to roam around and that also means right up to the cafe balcony. For $5 Aud you can grab a few bottles of milk and feed these beautiful creatures, you can also pat, play and spend time with them if they stick around. They just adored our boy, and as he ran up and down the deck they chased him, played with him and even head butted him softly. Was such an incredible experience.
We stopped in here on our way to George.
Moving only an hour away from Oudtshoorn, we made our way to the small town of George. Staying only 2 nights here in a beautiful, big air BNB house, we gave the kids plenty of time to run around the yard and relax.
So what did we do in George?
- What toddler doesn’t love strawberries? We know ours do and what a fun day out for them to go and pick their very own. We ventured out to Redberry farm, paid our way and got picking. Finding the biggest, reddest, juiciest strawberries entertained the kids for a good hour or so. We also recommend staying for lunch, there is a great playground for the kids and a fantastic menu. We tried the burgers as well as locally brewed beer and cider. After lunch we choose to take the train ride through the farm, also a highlight for the kids. Of course we had to indulge the local made ice cream just to top the day off.
We drove slowly along the coast from George to Knysna, there is so much to see along the way. We stayed right in town in a secured, little 2 bedroom apartment. We knew Knysna would be a base for us to explore the surrounding areas.
So what did we do in knysna?
- Visit Thesen Island for some seriously good food, drinks and a pretty damn good playground right in the centre of the restaurants. Being able to sit, eat and drink while the kids play is a huge, relaxing bonus. Also on this little island is some good shopping, think small boutiques, unique items and beautiful stores.
- Drive to Storms river, this is a must. There are a few walks to do here, but the main walk will take you right to the suspension bridge and the most amazing, almost scary views over the river. If your kids are little like ours, we suggest popping the kids in a pack and carrying them along this track. It is a big walk, with some steep sections and a very narrow staircase but don’t let this put you off at all. We popped our 1 year old in a pack and our 2 year old walked the entire way there with a bit of spotting and help, and half the way back. The cafe right next to the car park is also recommended, really good food and really cold beer.
- Knysna elephant park is hands down one of the best experiences we have ever had. We were taken out to a big field on a tractor train, surrounded my zebras, we stopped right where a group of elephants were. We were given buckets of food to feed them, which the kids thought was funny, as they grabbed the food with their trunks. We then went for a walk in the field with a guide, an elephant and just us (we had met my mum, sister and brother in law here, so 5 adults and our two littles). We were able to walk side by side with her, touch her, watch her so closely. The kids were also able to walk with her, the felt her trunk and watched her every move. It was truely a beautiful, intimate moment. We spent an hour with the elephant. When she was walked back for another feed, we continued walking around the field watching the zebras before getting on the train and heading back. We want to come back.
- Feeling like a day on the beach, we headed to Buffalo bay. Turning off the highway you will pass a little sign for coffee, head over the train track and stop there, friendliest locals and best coffee. We just parked in the main car park at Buffalos and spent a few hours playing in the sand and sun. Easily spent the day here, beautiful scenery and beach and a great day for the kids.
- It was time to really see the scenery around Knysna. We drove right around to The Heads for breakfast at the east heads cafe, then a stroll along the rock pools to find some hidden treasures. The rock pools were filled with starfish (sea stars) and tiny little fish darting about. Following the road around, we drove up the hill to the lookout, and went for a walk along a Clifton boardwalk. There were quite a few places to stop and check out the amazing water views. There is a tiny little beach down the bottom of the cliff if you want to venture down, it was a bit to cool for us this time. We also drove along Leisure island, where if it was warmer, we would of stopped for a few hours of swimming.
Choosing to drive along the coast back towards Cape Town, we enjoyed the views along the water the whole way to Hermanus. It was love at first site driving into this gorgeous seaside town. Unfortunately we had run out of time and it was a quick over night stop here for us. We had chosen a beautiful little cottage style accomodation from bookings.com that was right opposite the water.
So what did we do in Hermanus?
- Well seeing as we had one half day and we had a long day driving we took the advice of our hosts and walked the cliff path into town. The path winds its way along the water, there are plenty of spots to stop and take photos along the way. Its the perfect spot to visit during whale season which we unfortunately missed. Its quite a long walk especially with little ones but its worth doing to burn some energy. The town of Hermanus is filled with boutique stores and great places to eat.
After Hermanus we made the short drive to Cape Town to fly back to Johannesburg then back to Australia. We could have honestly spent another month in South Africa, we feel like we have just scratched the surface of what SA has to offer.
We were treated with so much respect, they adored our kids and we felt safe and at ease the entire time.
Now I know after reading all of this you are wandering why there is no mention of a safari and thats because the time of year that we went was high malaria season. Our kids are to young for the malaria vaccine so we were not willing to risk their health. Not all game parks in SA are in malaria areas, we are aware of this but my family were all headed to Krugar which is in the malaria area so we chose to fly to Cape Town instead. Now not all game parks, in fact, not many at all allow children under the age of 6 on a game drive. This is due to the cheetahs and some other big cats seeing our little ones as prey and also the fact that its near impossible to keep toddlers quiet if asked which is not ideal when dealing with wild animals.
When we were booking our trip, we knew that we were going to walk with the elephants, we also knew we would see some big cats at Cango so we were ok knowing that. When we arrived in Johannesburg we were told about a self drive park just outside of the city, so while we had a day spare, we went over. It was brilliant, and we were able to see so many animals up close including lions, wild dogs, buffalo, wildebeest, cheetahs, hyenas, Zebras, Giraffes so many plains game and other animals to mention. Driving through on our own terms was brilliant, we loaded the kids up with snacks and drove slowly through. If you fly into Johannesburg and have a day, a trip out to The Lion and Rhino nature reserve is a must. So that was an added animal bonus, as was our giraffe encounter, so all in all, while we didn’t do a traditional game park, we have been up close and personal with countless animals and created amazing memories and photos for the kids. Don’t let your kids age determine whether you visit South Africa. There is something for all ages.
Besides, we will be back, and back really soon. Cant do everything the first time around or there is nothing to see the next.