Author: Julie Plummer
Date of Trip: June 2013
My family and I went on a recent two week trip to South Africa. We did not go on a organized tour but traveled by ourselves and made our own travel arrangements. Traveling was my husband, two children (6 yr. old boy, 8 yr. old girl), and me. We are from Maine and have always wanted to go to Africa and show our children the African animals. Let my start by stating that every experience we had in South Africa was positive. Starting from hour 1 to 14 days later.
The people were the most polite, helpful and loving people. They were gracious to us everywhere that we went.
Here is our itinerary below: Cape Town 6 days, Gansbaii 1 day, Kruger National Park 6.
We flew on South African Airlines from JFK to Johannesburg and then took another flight to Cape Town. The travel went very smoothly, the children (who normally do not travel well, due to airsickness, boredom) did very well. They each had their own TV to control on the plane and were entertained the entire way. When we arrived to Cape Town our hotel was waiting with a nice luxury van and took us to our hotel (The One and Only Cape Town). We were picked up by a very nice local man (who worked for the One and Only) who was dressed in a suit, gave us each cold bottles of water and had warm towels to wash our hands and face with on the ride to the hotel.
The One and Only Hotel in Cape Town was one of the nicest hotels we have ever stayed at. If at all possible, I would highly recommend spending the extra money to stay there. It is in the absolute best location for the Victoria Waterfront (where there is shopping, children’s activities, boating, restaurants, bars). Everything is within walking distance of the One and Only. We also used the amazing spa at the One and Only. The food was outstanding, wine outstanding and free child care for most of the stay. We only used it for a few hours but the children liked it.
We visited Table Mountain. It was a beautiful sunny day in CT and our family had one of the most amazing days together that we have ever had. We just spent the day looking at the ocean and mountains. The children loved riding 3500 feet up in the Cable car and we enjoyed the lovely wine at the top.
Another day, we took a two hour van ride to Gansbaai to see the Great White sharks with captain Mike Rutzen. He is a famous guy who swims with the sharks and has been on Discovery channel and National Geo. Our children got a bit seasick on the boat (husband was green too) lol, but we had a nice day just the same. We saw two Great Whites but only their fins and splashing around. We did not see the breeching and decided NOT to get into the cage to see them underwater. It seemed a bit dangerous to us with the children (even though my 8 year old begged me to do it). This shark trip was geared more for a hardier family. It was hard for us (2 hour drive in van at 4am), seasickness, $$ expensive and didn’t really see what the pictures had depicted (i.e. sharks breeching out of the water).
The next day, we flew out of CT to Kruger National Park (Nelspruit Airport) on SAA. We stayed at the base camps in Kruger. First 2 nights at Skakuza, third/fourth night Lataba and then Ber-gen-dal. We rented the straw roofed bungalows. The kids loved them! They were clean, hot showers, bug free, very comfortable beds but basic (maybe like a Hotel 6 in the USA). We stayed there because we like the campground experience for the kids. Kruger was amazing. We saw animals every few minutes. We never needed our zoom lens or rarely even our binoculars because the animals were either in the road directly in front of us or at the side of the road. It was one of the highlights of my life to be so close to herds of elephants, hippos, giraffe, lions, cheetah, water buffalo, owls, fox, dozens of colorful birds, eagles, wild dog, lepords (saw 2 with cubs), zebra, impala just to name a few. I took the most amazing photographs (1003 images to be exact). I used the Nikon L820 (red camera) it cost around $250. The camera was perfect for the trip.
In conclusion, South Africa has stolen my heart. I love that place, I love the people, the spirit of SA, the wine, the food, and seeing the African animals at Kruger was one of the highlights in my life. I think SA is a perfect family vacation as long as you are aware where you can go that is safe.
The internet scared us to death about the crime in SA so we were very careful and did exactly like the internet suggested as far as safety. We did not run into any problems nor did I ever feel like a crime could happen to us. Being from Maine, I knew we were an easy target in that we come from an almost crime-free town and might have the naive look. When we arrived, we immediately felt at home and it looked like it was a typical city.
I would highly recommend going to SA for a family vacation. We had a great experience and I found it to be a fantastic place. I want to go back again in my lifetime.