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Why South Africa is great for a family vacation

Written by
Byron Thomas, Tessa Van der Walt, Angela Thomas & Jonny Humphreys

South Africa is a great destination for all families - everyone, regardless of their age or interests, can find something enjoyable to do.

Malaria-free safari parks are great for younger kids, while hiking Table Mountain and wine tasting in the Winelands appeal to older generations.

With so much on offer besides just going on safari, these are our reasons why South Africa is great for a family vacation.

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Malaria-free safaris

The main reason why people travel to South Africa is, of course, to go on safari. As a country that’s home to many naturally malaria-free parks, it’s a great safari destination for families. Both Madikwe and Tswalu are malaria-free options near to the Kalahari, so adults and little ones can be amazed by the African wildlife in equal measure. Both are pretty off the beaten path, but they offer out of this world safaris. 

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Madikwe is the country’s fifth-largest game reserve, stretching over 75,000 hectares that are brimming with wildlife. Kids are sure to be entertained here, with the varied wildlife including a large population of majestic elephants, 300 types of beautiful bird and over sixty mammal species. There’s also plenty of other activities to keep the whole family occupied – rock climbing, abseiling, fishing and bird watching will satisfy the tastes of even the most fussy family.

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In the ‘green’ Kalahari grasslands, Tswalu is one of the most untouched reserves across Africa. The lack of extensive accommodation options means that there are only ever a maximum of thirty guests in the whole reserve. Tswalu is the park to go to if you’re looking to go on a private family safari, as you’ll get your own complimentary private vehicles, guide and tracker if you stay in the area for three nights or longer.

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Tarkuni House is the lodge of choice for families, as the private residence – accommodating up to ten people – can be rented out exclusively. Staying here is the ultimate luxury safari experience; families will have their own private chef and butler to cater to their every need. Upon arrival, Tarkuni provides guests with a private consultation, so travellers can get the most out of their stay here. You can spend the night at a Malori sleep out, track cheetahs, visit the local community or enjoy a champagne breakfast in bed. With so much on offer, a stay at Tarkuni is fun for all the family.

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Twelve Apostles Mountain, Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

Beyond safari

The Whale Coast

As well as the infamous ‘Big Five,’ South Africa is renowned for its marine mammals. The aptly named Whale Coast is the best place in the country to go whale-watching, with pristine beaches and charming coves to enjoy as well. This coastal wonder is easily accessible, at just a two hour drive from Cape Town, so even families with young kids are able to reach it easily. 

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Considered the ‘whale-watching Mecca of the world,’ the 2,500 hectare Grootbos Reserve is a great place to stay for anyone wishing to explore the area for longer than just a day trip. After the family has spent time together whale-watching, travellers can continue the fun on a number of other excursions. Diving with Great White sharks, horse riding on wild Atlantic beaches, spotting whales and pods of dolphins, trekking through valleys and tasting regional wines are all incredible ways to pass the time.

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The Winelands

South Africa’s Winelands are predictably home to the country’s best wine, and there are also plenty of other things to do here if you’re not yet of age. This area is where many of the original Dutch settlers first made their homes, so pretty towns and villages adorn the local countryside. Known as the ‘tip’ of Africa, Cape Point is an incredible landscape located at the very edge of the Winelands. Looking out over tempestuous waters and backdropped by rugged mountains, Cape Point makes you feel as though you are at the very edge of the world. 

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After you’ve wandered around Cape Point, head to Cape of Good Hope – the most south-westerly point on the African continent. Here, visitors can spot unique birdlife such as African Black Oystercatchers and Cape Sugarbirds, see small animals such as the Cape Mountain Zebra and Bontebok or simply wander through the Cape of Good Hope National Park.

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After a day exploring, a real highlight for younger kids is a visit to Boulders Beach. A colony of African Penguins resides on this pristine white beach, and it’s fascinating being able to see them in their natural habitat. Well-placed wooden walkways allow visitors to see these delightful creatures up close, without invading their privacy too much. A wonderful way to round off discovering South Africa’s highlights is enjoying time relaxing and swimming together on a semi private beach.

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If your family members are wildlife enthusiasts, make sure you don’t leave the Winelands without visiting the Cheetah Outreach centre in Paardevlei. This historic centre has a large viewing platform with stunning views of the Helderberg Mountains and the cheetahs, jackals, meerkats and bat-eared foxes roaming amongst them.

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The Elephant Coast

If you’re after complete relaxation, then a stay at the Thonga Beach Lodge on South Africa’s Elephant Coast is a fantastic way to experience a different side to this diverse country. Relaxing in unspoilt coastal wilderness, discovering an underwater world or enjoying various cultural excursions are just some of the ways guests can fill their time. With everything from scuba diving to turtle tracking on offer, this hidden part of South Africa is a must-visit for any marine life enthusiast.

 

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Cape Town

On any family vacation to South Africa, the country’s bustling metropolis shouldn’t be overlooked. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, with Table Mountain rising above it and the crisp waters of the cape lapping at its shores. Whether your family is an adventurous bunch or like to learn about the culture of where you’re visiting, Cape Town has it all.

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For foodie families, a great way to get introduced to the culture and cuisine of this impressive city is on a private Cape Town eats walking tour, where travellers will wander through back streets alongside an expert local guide. The in-depth, behind the scenes tour allows you to get a real taste of the country, through traditional food tastings, South African street food and visits to artisanal coffee shops.

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Of course, no trip to Cape Town is complete without a visit to Table Mountain, but adrenaline junkies and active families are able to see it from a different perspective. To reach the summit, travellers first have to take an aerial cable car that ascends up to the upper cable station. Then, hikers can tackle a gravity-defying walk to Maclears Beacon, the highest point on the mountain at 1,087 metres, before returning on a different route for a variety of vistas. On a clear day, this two-hour hike is entirely worth it – walkers are rewarded with sweeping views over the expanse of Cape Town and its suburbs.

 

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Families who love getting involved in the local community can also go on an uThando tour. UThando is a non-profit organisation that raises funds for and champions a number of community initiatives across South Africa. On this tour, families visit music and dance projects, as well as get a glimpse into local culture – an experience that is both informative and inspirational.

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UThando dancers, South Africa.

Feeling inspired? Our expert travel designers are always on hand to help you plan your family trip to South Africa.

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