Teens, with their need for round-the-clock distraction, are often the most difficult age group to satisfy on holiday.

Last year, The Telegraph in the UK published an article titled ’50 Great holidays for families with teenagers’. The four African options that made it on to the list offer clues to where teenage interests lie.

They included an overland trip between Victoria Falls and Windhoek, a Tanzanian beach and bush combination, climbing Kilimanjaro, and an expedition of canoeing and camping on the Zambian side of the Zambezi, with some volunteering in a game management area. All incorporated heavy dollops of adventurous activity.

Zambia does seem to be a good fit for teens. The country, says Angie Karan, Co-founder of African specialist Dare to Explore, may be a little off beaten track and not that strong on luxury product, but its high on adrenaline with canoeing, boating safaris and swimming in unusual places like Devils Pool at Victoria Falls.

Looking further afield, Karan says adrenaline-pumping experiences popular with teens include bungee jumping on South Africa’s Garden Route, dune boarding in Namibia and Mozambique, quad biking on the Makgadikgadi Plains in Botswana and gorilla trekking in Uganda and Rwanda (available to teens over 15 years).

Tourism KwaZulu-Natal (TKZN) names Karkloof Canopy Tours as a strong contender for teenage attention – a tree-top sliding experience, suitable for children from the age of seven.  The Kosi Bay and Maputaland area is another, with adventure trails, fishing, canoe trails and snorkelling on the activity menu.  Dolphins and turtles are some of the creatures to view in season.  

The province’s leading seaside resort, Durban, has a heaps of teen appeal.  Durban Tourism’s Mayasree Moodley suggests the Wavehouse at the Gateway Theatre of Shopping with its exhilarating water rides, thrills on wheels and live entertainment.

Animals win with young ones

Family members below the age of 12 years do not only require activities matching their junior interests, their special requirements extend to food and beverage, rest time and safety.

Attractions that showcase animals predominate among those that appeal to youngsters, as the trade recommendations below demonstrate.

Tour operator, Live the Journey, offers a fund of ideas for families with younger offspring that covers walks in nature reserves, swims in rock pools, bike rides and more.  According to Head of Inbound, Kim van der Westhuizen, the operator can set up farm school visits where families interact with locals in sack races and other fun pursuits, even painting school buildings as a ‘giving back’ gesture. 

Other ideas for families include wine tasting for adults and grape juice tasting for the youngsters, available at a growing number of vineyards in the Western Cape; ‘small five’ or skeleton hunts while parents go on a ‘big five’ safari; a day out on a dam with boating and fishing; sharing stories at the day’s end around a fire, heating marshmallows or preparing bread on a stick.  Van der Westhuizen also makes mention of the Montagu Tractor trip combined with traditional potjiekos lunch at the Protea Farm.

In Durban, Kids’ World at uShaka Marine World is a paradise of jungle gyms, sandpits and entertainment for young ones, while The Animal Farmyard in the Valley of a Thousand Hills demonstrates animal feeding and care.  Further out in KwaZulu Natal, TKZN suggests Piggly Wiggly Country Village with its Candle Dipping Shop and putt putt facility; the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve, centred on the Howick Falls, with its educational game experience; and the Midmar Resort in Howick for fishing, boating and sailing. The African Bird of Prey Sanctuary and Butterflies for Africa, both in in Pietermartizburg, are also highlighted by the provincial tourism board. 

In Cape Town, GM of The Last Word Constantia, Tessa Ellis-Brown suggests The Two Oceans Aquarium, Boulders Beach with its penguins, the World of Birds at Hout Bay, picnics at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens and the Bike Park at Constantia Uitsig as strong options for smaller kids.

Suitable for children from the age of 12, Marks Camp at Lalibela in the Eastern Cape offers the Fauna and Flora Walk, some two hours of absorbing bush knowledge from a knowledgeable game ranger. The walk emphasises the importance of the ‘smalls’ in nature – plants and plant life, insects and birds that all play a significant role in the ecosystem.   The experience allows children to explore the sensory side of the landscape, to touch, smell and feel the real bush.