Rob takes his family on safari in South Africa for the first time – April, 2016
I have often talked about and witnessed children of all ages on safari in Africa, however it was still an enlightening experience to take my two boys, Edward (9 years) and Jamie (7 years) on their first safari.
We began our holiday in the central Garden Route, staying at Robberg Beach Lodge in Plettenberg Bay overlooking the sweeping expanse of Robberg Beach. The journey out did take 24 hours door to door but it was very manageable and we arrived in decent spirits. We had five nights ‘on the beach’ hoping for good weather – early April had the potential for lovely hot weather though it is the start of the southern African autumn. We experienced some beautiful hot weather and some very mixed weather when a cold front came through. However the Garden Route has never been known as a ‘beach only’ destination and there is plenty to do and see – lots of walking, sight-seeing, scenic drives, animal parks, horse-riding, golf courses etc. I also had a little work to fit in!
We enjoyed a wonderful but blustery walk around the Robberg peninsular, a rocky headland that is home to a seal colony and some wild beaches and coves, and a beautiful morning at Storm’s River Mouth. Robberg Beach Lodge was a good base in a lovely location. It is very child-friendly in terms of welcoming children, but it is not a resort property with extensive social areas or facilities so I would describe it as a very good base in a great location rather than a traditional family hotel.
From Plettenberg Bay we travelled along the coast towards Port Elizabeth before driving north into the greater Karoo desert and spending four wonderful nights at the exclusive Samara Game Reserve. As a relaxing, malaria free family safari destination, Samara was fantastic! Our guide Tendai made a real difference, not only a decent guide but also incredibly patient and enthusiastic with the kids. It was exactly how you would like a family adventure to be, with engaged children and a fun ‘can do’ atmosphere. We explored mostly by vehicle, including a wonderful day up into the Camdeboo Mountains, but also on foot. Game-viewing was excellent, though lion, hippo and elephant are not present on the reserve. We had superb up close viewing of rhino, giraffe, buffalo, eland, waterbuck, kudu, springbok, bontebok, black wildebeest, gemsbok, cheetah, bat-eared foxes, genet, meerkats, vervet monkeys (always a favourite with kids), black eagles and even an aardvark! One of the real highlights was the chance to walk (with the boys) to within about 15 yards of a wild cheetah that is habituated to human presence and therefore does not run away.
Our accommodation at Karoo Lodge was very comfortable, with all of us staying in one of their Karoo suites. We did make the mistake one afternoon of not locking our room, only to find 17 monkeys having a party in our room when we returned! ‘They hang on the door handle and then use their weight to swing open the door’ we were told. Smart monkeys! There was a nice pool area with a table tennis table, and also a (rather run down) tennis court, so there was plenty for the boys to do when they weren’t off making clay models of the animals they had seen or completing their bush journal with Tendai. It was a wonderful four days.
We ended our holiday in the Eastern Cape where we stayed in the Lalibela Game Reserve. The lodge we selected, Kichaka, was excellent with lovely accommodation and a great setting. Food was good too. The guiding was not orientated to children as much as Samara, but by this stage we were happy to sit back and look for the key species we had not already seen – principally hippo, lion and elephant (all of which we saw). Seeing lions on a kill was thrilling, but simply finding them was a relief for me – after all, I really couldn’t have brought the boys back home from safari to tell their friends that ‘they didn’t see a lion’!
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