1. Richards Bay for beach and bush
The harbour city of Richards Bay, ideally placed for access to the Elephant Coast, the Hluhluwe Umfolozi Big Five Game Reserve and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park, ticks all the boxes as a family destination.
Sharon Hunink, Sales and Marketing Manager of the Indaba Lodge Richards Bay, likens a stay here to a “retro beach holiday” – think back to childhood, buckets and spades and ice-creams. “But”, she qualifies, “with WiFi of course.”
Kite surfing, paddle boarding and Zulu cultural village tours (Shakaland is in the neighbourhood) are all possible from this lagoon city, which is also a springboard to the Anglo-Boer War battlefields. At the nearby St Lucia Estuary there’s whale and dolphin watching. A Blue Flag beach at Alkantstrand is a perfect family spot, and the TuziGazi coastline lends itself to miles of tranquil walking.
There are also big-game fishing excursions on offer, game drives and volunteering opportunities at local wildlife rehabilitation centres such as the Thula Thula Rhino Orphanage and youth centres.
The 66-room Indaba Lodge Richards Bay, with facilities suited to multi-generational families, is two hours north of Durban in the suburb of Meerensee.
2. Re-enacting the past at Constitution Hill
Constitution Hill is one of the most impressive homages to South Africa’s ‘freedom struggle’ and constantly strives to develop tour products that appeal to specific audiences and interests. Marketing Co-ordinator, Phetsile Nxumalo, recommends three tours for families.
The Time Travel Tour, inspired by the arrest of youths during the Soweto Riots of 1976, contains an element of re-enactment. Visitors are registered as prisoners and provided with prison garb to wear. Men and women are separated and ‘marched’ through the precinct by their wardens-come-guides, and along the tour are given tasks specific to their gender. At the end of the tour, the two groups come together for a tour of the Constitutional Court.
The Walk with Madiba Tour traces the steps of Mandela who was incarcerated at Constitution Hill on two occasions. It includes a viewing of his cell at the Old Fort, as well as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s cell at the Women’s Jail.
The Constitutional Court Trust’s collection of artworks, donated by prominent artists and other benefactors, is showcased on the Art & Justice Tour. The art’s value extends beyond the aesthetic – it is a collection of South African and international heritage that contributes to education, critical debate and research on the roles of the Constitution and the court.
3. Two-wheeled exploration of golf estate
With grounds almost the size of the principality of Monaco, Fancourt’s sprawling property begs to be discovered. The golfing resort has devised an unusual means exploring the scenic estate, with the use of eco-riders – two-wheeled machines powered by batteries and using a gyroscope for balance.
With all the lakes, rivers and dams throughout the Fancourt estate, bass fishing is another popular pastime with opportunities for novice and experienced anglers. There are also a number of hiking trails, starting at the Witfontein Nature Reserve.
When the sun sets, night golf with illuminated balls is an option, as is floodlit tennis.
4. From ‘scratch patching’ to shark encounters
Racontours is a new Cape Town tour operator that tailor-makes all its tours. As such, says MD, David Bristow, “we are the go-to touring company for families with children of all ages”.
Bristow says itineraries can include ‘scratch patching’ for semi-precious stones, tree-top or mountain ziplining, animal encounters of all kinds, mountain biking, canyoning, abseiling, horse riding and nature walks.
Ocean experiences, from shark-cage diving to kayaking or deep-sea snorkelling, can be arranged as well as surfing, with lessons for beginners.
Racontours will set up visits to a fossil park or swimming beaches and will build in child-friendly eateries that will satisfy adults too. “Our guides are all specialists, super family-friendly, competent and responsible,” says Bristow.
The Last Word Constantia offers its guests the opportunity to book Racontours’ excursions.
5. Whales, meerkats and strawberry picking among Fancourt’s family options
Recently introduced at Fancourt in the Eastern Cape, are a wide variety of family-friendly activities that the hotel can arrange on behalf of the guests.
Among them are excursions to Botlierskop Game Reserve, with guided game drives, bush walks and horseback safaris. There are also Meerkat Safaris at Buffelsdrift Game Lodge, bringing guests up close to these fascinating animals, and Ocean Safaris at Plettenberg Bay offers the possibility of encounters with majestic whales in the bay. At Redberry Farm in George, strawberry picking is on offer, along with the largest hedge maze in the Southern hemisphere.
6. Rich cultural encounters
Not many people know that one can spend a night in the PheZulu Safari Park, a Zulu cultural village in the Valley of a Thousand Hills outside Durban, says Mayasree Moodley, Public Relations Officer for Durban Tourism.
PheZulu offers both well-priced self-catering chalets for up to six people, and a four-room lodge.
In addition, guests can also take an hour’s game drive in the valley. The drives are conducted on the hour between 09h00 and 15h00 daily. They are accompanied by experienced guides in covered 4x4 vehicles. Passengers can expect to see buck, zebra, giraffe and a variety of bird species.
Other attractions and activities include a tour of the village, a Zulu dancing show, and a snake and crocodile park.
“En-route to the Kruger Park or other Mpumalanga lodges, families love to stop over at Shangana Cultural Village near Hazyview,” says Nic Nel, Owner and Managing Member of Rhino Shuttles. “There they get an authentic experience of Shangaan culture, from the traditional African lunch and a show of dancing and singing to the colourful markets where they can shop for handmade souvenirs. Trained guides lead guests down to the villages on daytime tours and a visit to the sangoma. Other fun activities, like interactive drumming, can be enjoyed, while nothing beats sitting around a blazing fire in winter during the evening festival at the royal kraal.”