From silver-white beaches to wildernesses of exotic animals, visiting southern Africa offers plenty of activities and fun for the whole family.
Visiting South Africa and Swaziland should feature highly on anyone’s to do list, even families’. The country is full of huge national parks and has vast wildernesses in which it is possible to see a wide array of animals. It may also surprise you to know there is excellent infrastructure for visiting tourists. The roads are big and easy to drive on, while there is an abundance of well -stocked shops. For history seekers, there are historical sites at every turn.
Many people shy away from South Africa’s vast wilderness if they have children, as the whole prospect can appear daunting. But, in fact, the south African territories are an excellent destination for any child and provide an opportunity to see a completely different culture. As with any destination, there are certain top sights in South Africa and Swaziland which should definitely not be missed.
Top sites in South Africa and Swaziland for families
Drakensburg is a vast mountain range on the border of South Africa and Lesotho. It is popular with backpackers who enjoy taking the winding mountain trails between Underberg and Khotso. There is a variety of walks to suit people of all abilities. There is also the option of taking a horse trek higher into the mountains. The spectacular views are well worth the ride and the Basutu ponies are excellent with children.
Exploring silver-white beaches
St Lucia is on the coast and allows you to dip your feet in the warm Indian Ocean. The area has all the typical facilities needed for a family holiday: restaurants, fishing tackle shops and a traditional market. Children will particularly enjoy bartering for some of the local beadwork animals, made in the traditional Zulu way. The beaches are fantastic for swimming and a snorkel is essential to appreciate the colorful fish. The coast is full of silver-white beaches and it is common to see humpback whales breaching.
Make sure to include some of the most famous beaches in your itinerary:
- Boulders Beach in Cape Town;
- Hobie Beach close to Port Elizabeth;
- Gonubie in East London.
iSimangaliso Wetland Park
This natural park has everything you could need for children to explore and have an adventure. It is on the coast right next to St Lucia and encompasses dunes, lakes, grassland and forests. The highlight of a visit is the opportunity to take a boat ride and get close to hippos and crocodiles.
South Africa’s wilderness
The Mkhuze Game Reserve provides the whole family with the chance to sleep in a safari tent surrounded by natural vegetation. This ensures that the local wildlife continue about their business oblivious to your presence. From the comfort of your tent, which is fully equipped, you can watch, admire and photograph animals in their natural habitat. This is truly an amazing experience.
Miliwane Wildlife Sanctuary
Here the wildlife wander right past your window, even when you are staying in something as noticeable as a colonial style bungalow. The Miliwane Wildlife sanctuary is in Swaziland where there are very few of the dangerous animals. This means that it is possible to take a horseback safari and get within spitting distance of many wild animals.
Malolottja is probably one of the most beautiful spots in the whole of Swaziland. It has rolling hills and deep valleys with an impressive mountain range as the backdrop. There are also many hiking trails that can be undertaken by anyone with a moderate level of fitness. There is a large zip wire park that allows you to fly between the treetops and enjoy a different kind of fun. Families with kids can admire the wonders of Swaziland and enjoy the fun, and thrilling activities available, making any trip to southern Africa a memorable experience for the whole family.
Tips for families traveling to South Africa and Swaziland
It is possible to travel to South Africa and Swaziland under your own steam; this allows you to choose your own routes and destinations. For those who prefer to know in advance where and when they will be, it is possible to book through one of the many reputable holiday companies. You can also strike a happy medium by arranging a tour for part of your stay, as there are many knowledgeable and friendly guides connected with all the nature reserves. Most of them will know of places which you would never find on your own.
Some tips to help you get around, such as:
- Rent a car – families that want to explore South Africa’s vast territory should rent an off-road car. This way you’ll have all the time in the world to see national parks, and venture into the wild
- Avoid lodging in the big cities – accommodation in the heart of Cape Town can be expensive; families should consider facilities in the outskirts of the big cities. They’re more peaceful and more convenient too.
- Try out the South Africa cuisine – don’t leave South Africa without having tried some of their local dishes. Some like braaivleis and pap are quite famous and also delicious.
- Travel with a map – forget apps and GPS; if you buy yourself a traditional paper map, exploring the country (and its main cities) will be a lot easier, particularly in areas where you might not receive a good connection.
- Visit Swaziland in the winter to be part of one of South Africa’s most important cultural events, the Umhlanga Festival.