South Africa with family - many questions

Old Apr 24th, 2009, 11:21 AM
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South Africa with family - many questions

I would greatly appreciate any advice on my family’s trip to South Africa (as well as Botswana) this summer. We have kids ages 10 and 11 who are good travelers; we’ll be going from mid-June to mid-July. We fly into Cape Town and out of Jo'burg.

Here are my questions on South Africa:

1) Is the weather likely to be comfortable for kids to hike Table Mountain and Lion’s Head? (We have done strenuous hikes, and yes, I know we need to be prepared for sudden weather changes.)

2) Is it worth a day trip to Muizenberg Beach and/or the penguins on Boulders Beach? Is it easiest to do this trip by train or car?

3) Is the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve worth a day trip or overnight? Is the "Baboon Matters" hike as great as it sounds in the Frommer's guidebook?

4) Are any other Cape Town area attractions of special interest to age 10/11 kids? (Robben Island is definitely on our itinerary.)

5) How do the townships in Cape Town compare with the ones in Soweto? Can you recommend a particular tour in either that would appeal to our kids as well as us? Should we spend a night in one of the Cape Town township B&B’s (any favorites?)? Should we combine that with a township music tour?

6) The Cederberg Wilderness Area looks like a spectacular, off-the-beaten-path area for hiking. Will the weather be decent for kids to hike in June/July? Can you recommend a guide or a place to get information?

7) How great is Prince Albert? How long is the drive from Cederberg Wilderness Area or Cape Town?

8) We want to do some safaris, but this is not the primary focus of our trip. We’re thinking of two of Kruger NP, Chobe NP, and the Okavango Delta; which would you pick and would you prefer any other parks in South Africa, Botswana, or Namibia? Can you recommend lodges or furnished camps? We want places with great locations for viewing and great excursions and guides, but luxurious accommodations are not essential.

9) What do you think about Gold Reef City, the Johannesburg theme park? I know it’s inauthentic, but we do like rides, so it could be a fun diversion with some local flavor. Or it could just be tacky. (We will definitely visit the nearby Apartheid Museum.)

10) Can you recommend any hotels, B&Bs, apartments, etc. in any of these places? Midrange quality is fine; location is more important and we need space for 4.

11) Can you recommend any restaurants in any of these places with great authentic and/or unusual food? How is Lelapa (the slightly authentic tourist dinner in a Cape Town township) or Mzoli’s outside Cape Town?

12) Can you recommend any charitable organizations, schools, etc. that we could connect with? Most organized volunteer vacations are for adults and older kids, but if we could visit and perhaps bring supplies or help out a bit someplace, that would be a great experience.

13) Any other tips for connecting with South African people and culture? It can be challenging to do this, especially as a family, but we know those are the most memorable experiences we can have.

I welcome any other suggestions as well and promise to report back on our trip. Thanks in advance!

Bruce
Seattle, WA, USA
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 03:28 PM
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HI Bruce

Boulders penguins is an absolute must... remember to walk to the beach area, past the main gate, can't remember, but that would be something special. You can all by car, see Muizenberg, do Boulders and Cape of Good Hope reserve in one day. Don't even try to swim, the cold atlnatic current comes past there... you'll freeze your asses off! Baboons are no problem... these books over exaggerate! Remeber to have some fish at Houtbay for lunch, Snoek of course, it is on your way!

Cape Town has a winter rainfall season, so you can expect lots of rain when you come. The weather will determine weather you can do the Table Mountain Hike. I think the rides at canal walk might be better than gold reef city.

Go to the W&A Waterfront and also to the 2 Oceans Aquarium there. You must go and visit some winefarms. I would recommend Zeevenwagcht, Delheim (I think the oldest wine farm), Neetlingshof, Fairview.

Stellenbosch is a lovely place to see!!!

Cape Town's townships are mostly coloured people, they have a mixed bloodline of white and black. They only speak Afrikaans and it is extremely sad, but their struggle for freedom is not over yet. All the new jobs and changes for the psat 14 years were only made for black people, and not the asians or the colourds. They are still living in awfull conditions. They tend to drink alot. You can go visit district 6, many coloureds lived there, but were forced to move. In Soweto you can go visit Nelson Mandela's house ets. There are many places to see.

Gold Reef City is something nice. Don't expect any big rides. To US standards, they are tiny. That being said, there is lots of info on how finding gold influenced our country.

We live close to Kruger National Park on a farm. We have Avocadoes, Bananas and Macadamia Nuts. You are more than welcome to bring your family to our farm half a day or so and see what we do. And I will make you a nice South African lunch in a South African home... I think the kids would love that!

We are part of Sizabantwana Childrens Benefit Organization... you can google it and see all the info. We are currently looking after over 400 aids orphans. If you would like, I can organise for you to visit one or more of our centres. And if you want to contribute to an organisation, we are always looking for support.
www.sizabantwana.com
Close to us, is a beautifull place on the Sabi River called Summerfields Lodge and Spa. I don't know what your budget is, but if you want to really treat your wife, you could book in there for at least one night. Go have a look at www.summerfields.co.za and if you book, you will do it through Anri, you can tell her Adele Prinsloo reffered you.

Do you want to sleep in the Kruger?

Hope this helps
Adele
[email protected]
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 06:39 PM
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Girl from Africa,

You might just have a crowd joining you for lunch with an invitation like that. Do you ever combine the avacodes and macadamia nuts (2 of my favorite things) in one recipe?

Btburger, I know you from elsewhere. Wise move to venture over here. I think you'll get some good advice. You've already gotten a lunch invite!
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 10:31 PM
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altravelynn we sometimes use the nuts in dukkah, a spicy seed mixture, you can google a receipe, and sprinkle it over a mashed avo sandwic or just avo salad, great source of protein and gives some crunch.

A real treat for an appetizer if having some french laof, cut, so you have rounds, place on your table a bowl woth a mixture of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Then guests dip breag firts in vinegar/oli mixture and then seed mix, DELICIOUS!!!!! Make sure you have extra bread, you'll need it.

We also make Macadamia nut pie, lige pecan pie, I just like it mich better

You can really all come to lunch! I LOVE people and love spoiling them!!!
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 10:40 PM
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A few kliometers form Summerfields is Induna Adeventures, there are many activities the kids would like... rafting, horse riding, kloofing etc www.indunaadventures.com
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Old Apr 24th, 2009, 11:00 PM
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And then a few kilometers futher and elephant sanctuary at www.elephantsanctuary.co.za, the Hazyview branch. There you can feed, touch and ride these beauts.

Close to Hoedspruit is Moholoholo Rehabilitaion centre, amazing. I have never seen wild dogs in the wild, but saw some there, you can touch a cheetah and we were lucky to see baby rhino and hippo as well www.moholoholo.co.za

You can also consider a hot air balloon ride at sunrise one morning... for Americans, it is affordable, for me, extremely expensive! http://www.adventurezone.co.za/what_...oonsOverAfrica

Then some of the lodges in our area have boma evenings, with traditional South african food, and a show with traditional dancers in a boma with a huge fire. Might be nice for you to see. I can recommend a hotel at one of Krugers Gates, which would provide you with this experrience http://www.proteahotels.com/protea-h...uger-gate.html From here you can also book escouted night/game drives in the park, or even a hike one morning with Kruger's Game rangers, they are really something!

www.kapama.co.za Kapama game reserve is close by and you could stay there.

In Hoedspruit there is also a cheetah project www.wildlifecentre.co.za and an endangered species centre combined

Let me know if these don't interest you and what does. Then I can do a mind-shift and help you more in the right direction. Give me some guidelines.
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Old Apr 25th, 2009, 02:42 AM
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Girl from Africa has given you some great advice. Just to elaborate;

1) The weather on table mountain changes by the minute, so pay close attention to the forecast. There were lots of people hiking up on the weekend, but be aware that there can be heavy cloud cover/fog and that it can be cold (you will be there in winter), wet and windy. You may look into climbing the smaller, less forbidding Signal Hill.

2) I just wrote a report on my day trip that covered Boulders Beach, Baboon Matters and Cape Point/ Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. I had initially thought about stopping in Muizenberg but in the end it wasn't worth it. Very sandy wind blowing, and you can see the brightly colored beach houses from the road as you drive past.

3) Baboon Matters was one of the highlights of my entire trip. I would love to go back for another visit.

4) The South Africa Museum may be of interest to your kids.

5) From what I understood there are different areas of residence for the colored people and the blacks. When I heard of townships, people were usually referring to where the black people lived. There is an extremely large township (several sqauare miles in size) on the outskirts of Cape Town. A tour should be relatively easy to arrange, lots of different themes from which to choose.

13) You're correct in assuming that it can be challenging to connect with locals. It was more challenging than I anticipated, and any connections were purely serendipitous.

Overall I found it very easy to enjoy myself in South Africa, I'm sure you will too.
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Old Apr 25th, 2009, 06:52 AM
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YES YES YES.... south african museum is a must, but make sure you have lots of time, there is a planetarium there as well. Just outside is where our Parliament is, and you can feed the squirels there as well.
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Old Apr 25th, 2009, 08:57 AM
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Hi

Outreach/volunteer work:
Get in touch with a set up called Uthando... they act as a representative for various little charities and more established ones. They can tailor a daytrip for your family to visit the organisations you resonate with. Do your research on the site and pop them an email. www.uthandosa.org

The cedarberg is GREAT - its very off the beaten. They have started a slack packing route where you move around on daonkey cart or hike and stay with local families tucked away in the mountain
see this article http://travel.iafrica.com/outdoors/hiking/1159360.htm
www.cedheroute.co.za

Prince Albert is a gem... go go go its a little town with lots of soul. visit the cheese dairy, the port makers house and stay at Rozenhof.

Rent a car and drive.

Have a wonderful time.
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Old Apr 25th, 2009, 08:59 AM
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Femi's report on shark visit, baboons, etc.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...uth-africa.cfm
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Old Apr 25th, 2009, 09:08 AM
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Girl from Africa,

What are your favorite Sabi Sands reserves and camps/parks? That could be helpful to Bruce and family or you could start a new thread.

When you answer can you focus on wildlife and reducing expenses? Thanks in advance, and thanks for the recipes.
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Old Apr 25th, 2009, 09:29 AM
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Thanks Lynn.
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Old Apr 25th, 2009, 11:44 AM
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I am sorry, but I won't be able to tell you what the Sabi Sands are like because I have never been there... Most of the Game Reserves are too expensive for us ordinanry folk to visit, as they only cater for oversees people. You must realise, for me going to the States it is roughly 10 times more expensive, than it is for you to come to South Africa.
But don't fear when I am near, I have contacts!!!! My sister in law doesthe interior decorating for many of those lodges, so I will be bale to find out.

As far as the game goes, it is always a matter of luck, as they are all park of one big park, even though they call themselves the Timbavati or Sabi Sands... You need to decide what type of animals you wish to see, then look in which eco-zone they are found, and go look for them. Some parts of the park, like Berg-en-dal are known for rhinos and Letaba for the elephants. You can't expect the animals to come to you, you must go look for them.

I'll go get some info on the lodges in that area... and let you know soon, so please, stay tuned... till later!
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Old Apr 25th, 2009, 11:49 AM
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Yikes... sorry for the mistakes.

Just want to say Bruce, please rent a car, our public transport is a rumour, you REALLY don't want to go that route, unless you perhaps us the Blue Train, really expensive!

And then, we just camp or stay in the challets, or rondawels as we call it, in the Kruger... but I am going to find out for you.
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 09:53 AM
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If you go to Simons Town for Boulders Bay and the African Penguins & for Baboon Matters and the baboon walk & for the breaching sharks* on a boat trip by African Shark Eco Charters, you should check out Just Nuisance.
http://www.simonstown.com/tourism/nuisance/nuisance.htm

It is a statue along the water and easy to find. The story is detailed in a nearby building and you can read it here. It's captivating and heartwarming for kids and adults. It's a 5-15 minute activity.

* I don't remember if I mentioned earlier that June-July is prime time for the Great White Sharks. Here are some details. I did a week's worth of trips in mid-July. Fascinating! And I didn't even go into the cage.

http://www.fodors.com/community/afri...o-charters.cfm
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 12:10 PM
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btburger - you have now received 13 responses to your question. It is probably time to re-direct the forum with your latest thoughts and the total budget (exclusive of flights from Seattle to South Africa). Once we (the forum) know your budget, I will be happy to dedicate some time to your questions. I have traveled to South Africa 25+ times and I have taken my family several times. Most recently I took my kids when they were 12 & 10 (last year). I went every other year from age 1-18 so I do know a few things from a child's perpective as well. Anyway, I need your budget to provide meaningful advice.

If you have not bought tickets, I suggest the red-eye to New York and the morning direct flight from JFK-JNB on SAA. If not, my second choice for clients from Seattle is the KLM flight to JNB via Amsterdam. In this case, you will need to buy tickets around South Africa seperately.

Craig Beal
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 12:54 PM
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Is the weather likely to be comfortable for kids to hike Table Mountain and Lion’s Head? (We have done strenuous hikes, and yes, I know we need to be prepared for sudden weather changes."

Lion's Head is a fabulous hike - wonderful views - the trail spirals around the mountain to the top - so views of Robben Island, the city bowl, Devils' Peak, Table Mountain, the Atlantic Coast and Table Bay as you climb. Ladders and chains are needed to scramble up the final rock faces, but you are then rewarded with stunning 360° views. Well worth the climb - pack a lunch and make a day of it!

Is it worth a day trip to Muizenberg Beach and/or the penguins on Boulders Beach? Is it easiest to do this trip by train or car?

You must take the kids to Muizenberg Beach for surfing lessons at Gary's Surfing School. The lessons are for 2 hours and are dirt cheap - even though the fee includes the board and a wet suit. After the lesson is over, you get to use the board and wetsuit at no cost for the rest of the day.

It is an easy drive from Cape Town to see the penguins. When coming from Muizenberg, take the second entrance to the penguins. If you end up at the boardwalk, you are in the wrong place. Head further south to the second entrance where you can get right onto the beach and swim with the penguins.

Is the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve worth a day trip or overnight?

Definitely worth a day trip! Park at Cape Point and do the hike up to the new lighthouse. The walk out to the old lighthouse is also very worthwhile. Then, do the hike from Cape Point to the Cape of Good Hope - an easy hike with fabulous views. Be sure to make the side trip down to Diaz Beach - it involves a lot of stairs but it is a beautiful beach (the one you see from the lighthouse) and well worth the effort. Have a picnic lunch at Diaz Beach, Platboom Bay or Buffels Bay - all in the Cape of Good Hope reserve.

How do the townships in Cape Town compare with the ones in Soweto? Can you recommend a particular tour in either that would appeal to our kids as well as us?

Haven't been to Soweto so can't compare but one of the highlights of our year in CT was our trip to a township.

After much debate and considerable research, we selected Inkululeko Tours, a small tour company whose guides are township residents and who encourage their guests to get out of the vehicle and interact with the people. I would highly recommend them. If you would like to read my (lengthy!) description of our tour, I will happily email it to you.

We want to do some safaris, but this is not the primary focus of our trip. We’re thinking of two of Kruger NP, Chobe NP, and the Okavango Delta; which would you pick and would you prefer any other parks in South Africa, Botswana, or Namibia? Can you recommend lodges or furnished camps? We want places with great locations for viewing and great excursions and guides, but luxurious accommodations are not essential.

Given the ages of your children, I would be tempted to do a self-drive into Kruger. The park facilities are wonderful - self-catering cabins that are well suited to a young family. Have a look at www.sanparks.org. The park is an easy drive from Joburg so you could put the Kruger visit at the end of your trip. You can do your park bookings online.

Have fun planning! Robin
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 03:23 PM
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Safari_Craig: Yes, I'm bowled over by the number and quality of reponses that I've received. I am still digesting them and will follow up if I have other questions, but please don't interpret my silence as disinterest -- this information is incredibly helpful to me (and doubtless to others).

Regarding my budget -- we are flexible. We will pay any reasonable amount for a great experience, guide, or location, but not for pampering -- we want comfort but not super-luxurious lodges (unless they're worth it for their location).

Thanks!
Bruce
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 04:41 PM
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For June or July with the rand favorable to the dollar, I would think you'd want to start making some moves and locking in some spots. It appears your budget is flexible which helps.

Maybe an agent could help with at least part of your trip, especially as things may be booking up. For South Africa, I've done my own booking and also used an agent. Here are some that have been used with success, in no particular order

Go2Africa in South Africa
Southern Desitnations in South Africa
Eyes on Africa in Chicago (I used them for SA and all was great)
The Africa Adventure Co in Ft. Lauderdale (I've used them for a variety of places, including Southern Africa and all was great)
Fish Eagle in Houston
Premier Tours in Philadelphia

Good luck!
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Old Apr 26th, 2009, 06:05 PM
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Bruce,

Thanks for the feedback. I will try to answer the original questions first:

I would spend a good bit of time in the Western Cape. You can do several excursions from there. In additional to the places you mentioned:

Spend two full days in the wine country. I recommend Franschhoek. Perhaps the family swuite at the Rusthof Country House would be good. From there you can enjoy a bit of wine, but also bike and horseback ride, hike, etc with the kids.

Spend a full day in Hermanus observing the whales and maybe doing a boat excurions.

If you want to go to the Cederburg mountains it will be a bit cold but may be worthwhile for more hiking and amazing scenery. The drive is about four hours from Cape Town. Consider Bushmans Kloof for 2-3 nights. They have great kids programs.

Spend at least six days in Cape Town and be sure to visit the township there instead of in Soweto. There are only a few townships that are safe for you to visit so the experience will be a bit touristy. Go to the Peninsula, visit boulders beach (penguins), do more hiking. Visit Robben Island. Twelve Apostles is a bit out of town (fifteen miles south) but they have good kids programs. If you go to the Cederburg, you may even consider driving all the to Namibia and staying in the Fish River Canyon. If you want a well located self-catering two bedroom apartment, consider the Village and Life apartments at the waterfront. Cheap in June and July...

Skip Gold Reef City.

I think you should start everything off with a safari before Cape Town. It would be best to go to the Sabi Sands first in my opinion. Then, after all the time in the Western Cape, do one more safari before going home. Split the safari experience.

But, if Botswana becomes an option for you, then you should go there first as the rates for June will be 40%-50% less than the rates for July. If cost is a factor, then you should definitely go to Botswana upfront even though it is normally a highlight that I save for the end of a trip!

The entire time you are traveling, you will be experiencing the culture and people of Africa and I hope this experience satisfies your desires for that aspect of travel.

For the South Africa based safari in the Sabi Sands I recommend MalaMala Main Camp or Londolozi Foudners. If you go to KZN I recommend Phinda Mountain Lodge.

Regarding the operators listed in the post above, they are all competitors of my company and here are my comments:
Go2Africa - based in Cape Town
Southern Destinations - never heard of them
Eyes on Africa - GREAT company. James Weis participates on this forum as jweis frequently. He is the owner.
Africa Adventure Company - Owned by Mark Nolting. He is one of the three recommended Safari Specialists in Conde Nast for 2008. He also authors the book Africa's Top Wildlife Countries. I met Mark in New York a few weeks back and he runs a great operation.
Fish Eagle - Bert Deplesis is the owner. VERY knowledgeable. Nice guy. I have only spoken to him on the phone a few times.
Premier - the owner, Julian Harrison, is one for the other three Conde Nast experts. Julian also edits Fodors Southern Africa travel book. I have met Julian as well. I highly recommend his company.

You forgot these guys! Ultimate Africa is based in Seattle. Ian Proctor is the owner. Good company to work with face-to-face.

Craig Beal
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