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14-16 day South Africa Travel with a 6 year old

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We are planning to travel to South Africa in May with our 6 year old daughter. We want her to be able to participate in the safari and game drives. We have started to plan our itinerary but it really is a bit overwhelming. There are so many things that sound wonderful. And so many choices in accommodations. Please help with a doable itinerary. We want to do it all but we know that just isn't possible. We are interested in safari (2-3 if possible, at least one luxury), Cape Town, winelands, Oudtshoorn looks interesting for the kiddo, and we would like to fit in Victoria Falls as well (maybe one of the safaris there).
Our budget is mid range I would say. We are not opposed to self drive with some transfers. Have considered the mid level train for travel as well.
Any help with a plan would be great as well as suggestions for accommodations.
Thank you.

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    Hi --

    Your 6 year old will have a blast. We first went on safari/vacation to South Africa when our girls who were ages 2 and 4. We have now been back several times to SA, plus have visited Tanzania, Kenya, Namibia and Botswana with the kids. There is a tremendous amount to see and do in Capetown and surrounding areas for adults and kids alike. There are also many safari lodges in Kruger/Sabi Sand with specialized children's programs. For those who do not have them, if it is an option, book a private vehicle. This way, you will not be stressed if your child is not quiet or you must rush back for a bathroom break.

    Enjoy. It will be quite a family adventure!

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    This May? You might have trouble finding availability at some of the more popular lodges - they sell out early.

    With a 6 year old, read the child policy carefully. Many lodges don't allow little kids on game drives and some don't allow kids to eat in the outdoors. Check carefully. "Mid range" isn't very helpful because safari lodges can be very expensive and the affordable ones are still expensive for some. "2-3 safaris?" 2-3 days? 2-3 different lodges? I prefer staying at lodges for at least three nights to get a real feel of the place and experience as much as possible. I would check on availability at Gomo Gomo first. It is a very affordable lodge that is kid friendly. Here's a map of all the lodges near Kruger:

    http://assets.sunsafaris.com/Map-of-Kruger-Camps.pdf (Senalala, a newer lodge, is not on there yet).

    You could also do a self drive safari in Kruger National Park or Addo Elephant Park. Many parents find it much easier because at the lodges you go out before dawn for the morning drive and have a full breakfast when you get back, about three hours later. The afternoon drive stays out after dark and dinner is after you return. Not always the easiest schedule for kids. And cranky kids on a game drive.... Ugh. Unless you can afford a private game vehicle to allow your own schedule, which can be pretty expensive, many parents choose to self drive. That way you have your own schedule and don't have to deal with some of the stress. Yes, you'll see tons of wildlife on your own and it can be pretty exciting searching for creatures with your child!

    In 14 days I would do Cape Town, Vic Falls and Kruger or Addo. I'm not a big fan of Vic Falls, but I understand - "you're so close!!" I just think it's expensive and time consuming to reach. It's a terrible drought year so no clue what the water level will be like. You could start in VF, fly CT, drive the Garden Route and end in Addo or one of the nearby private reserve lodges, fly home through Port Elizabeth. Or start in CT, fly VF, fly Kruger. I would probably choose the Garden Route/Addo option because it's easy to drive, the Garden Route has lots of fun stuff to do, lots of good lodges near and in Addo and no malaria risk (except in VF). The malaria risk in Kruger in May is very small, but still a risk. It's easy to fill up 14 days in CT, winelands, the Garden Route, Addo.

    Have fun. You're going to love it!!

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    Hello kristah!

    So exciting! Our youngest was 5 when we took him on his first safari! He absolutely loved it and has vivid memories of that first trip still to this day!

    I think so much depends on your daughter's interests, her attention span for game drives, and her ease with transitions and traveling logistics, such as road transfers, multi flights etc. Your itinerary will take all those things into account and you'll have the most amazing trip ever!

    Combining Cape Town and Safari is a great idea and a very popular route for families. If your itinerary/budget forced you to drop one of your ideas, I would pass on Vic Falls. It's a great venue but I think the activities there lean slightly more towards older children/teens. Having said that though, our clients with younger families have enjoyed their stays. Cape Town certainly offers more for the younger set. Between its natural beauty and day trips to see the penguins, picnic in the vineyards of the Wine Lands or to go to the top of Table Mountain and look for the "Dassies" (small animal with skeleton structure closest to an elephant!), it's all such great fun!

    For safari, you will need a lodge that not only takes children as young as 6 but also allows them on game drives. Even so, some lodges that take children are still not as family-friendly as others. Additionally, unless you have a low budget, I would recommend you go to a lodge with game drives rather than self-drive in a Nat'l Park. There's so much to learn in the bush as you watch the animals and you can only get that from the ranger in your jeep. You will not only learn why the animals are doing the things they are doing but they will teach you about so much more such as the ecosystem, the medicinals in the bush, etc etc..

    As christabir says, May is rather short notice and availability could be tough. I'd recommend that you either work with a safari planner to target specific lodges or you find lodges from posters who have actually been to them and can "vet" them as being family-friendly, having great rangers, and are able to meet your needs as a family. Logistically, I would streamline as much as possible and plan for transfers that match your family's travel style and level of ease and comfort.

    Great fun in the making. Happy to help!

    Best
    Dianne
    Africa Direct USA

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    Wow. I have to echo the comments here as to how tight it is to plan travel in May. I jumped on SAA airline fare sale and booked my BIL and his wife along with myself and my husband for arrival in JNB on 12 May and departure 15 May. I am working with several planners and finding it difficult to fit in what we want to do in that time frame :-( This will be our third trip, but about our 5th safari experience, and we are comfortable with driving in SA! We've done Cape Town 3 times and driven the Garden Route twice, so we were hoping to concentrate on Kruger and Kwa Zulu Natal and possibly the coast near St Lucia.

    Fingers crossed we both get our plans happily set soon!

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    Hey uhoh - have a great time in KZN. It's my favorite part of S Africa. We drive JNB to Kruger, south through Swaziland which has a few nice wildlife parks (but we do golf and casino in Mbabane!). Then Tembe and Rhino River Lodge (RRL is my favorite place - do the rhino conservation outing!), Hluhluwe-iMfolozi and the surprisingly beautiful Mkuze. Find time for St Lucia and the iSimangaliso Wetland Park - we stayed at the NDiza guest house, self catering. I really enjoyed all the activities available - www.stluciasouthafrica.com. We've done that itinerary twice and it's terrific. While you're there, do me a favor. There are two houses in Mtunzini I want to buy. Check them out for me. :)

    If you want/need help let me know. I adore KZN. There are a lot of places that planners don't suggest that will have availability. Can't wait to move!

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