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Planning a family holiday to South Africa

South Africa is the perfect place to take the kids. It’s teeming with experiences that will fill their heads with wonder, like horse rides through open country and sightings of the famous Big Five.

Choose from South Africa’s diverse habitats to find your ideal family holiday. Are you in search of wilderness adventure, or cosmopolitan thrills? Would you prefer to sleep out under the stars at a luxury camp, or in a five-star city-centre hotel? Whatever your wants, South Africa has the answer. 

A diverse itinerary

One way of witnessing the scope of this country’s many habitats is to choose a holiday that will take you all over. Our suggested Family Cape Adventure, Meerkats & Madikwe itinerary, for example, begins in cosmopolitan Cape Town, where you can summit Table Mountain, dine at the V&A waterfront and cruise to UNESCO-listed Robben Island – before swapping the city sights for the vast Kalahari Desert. Then you’ll join in a search for meerkat families and ancient rock art, before seeking out the Big Five in Madikwe Game Reserve. You can plot your own route taking in this country’s most diverse and wonderful family-friendly experiences at a pace that suits you; our South Africa specialists are on hand to advise and inspire your selection.

Shamwari

This private wildlife reserve, like those mentioned below, is completely malaria-free. And with dedicated "Kids on Safari" activities organised by the children's co-ordinator as well as the chance to see all of the Big Five, Shamwari Riverdene Family Lodge is the perfect place for families to experience a safari. For close-up experiences, you can also find the Animal Rehabilitation and Born Free Centres here on the reserve. 

Kwandwe

Kwandwe Private Reserve is situated in the Eastern Cape and offers 22,000 hectares of Big-Five wilderness for your family to explore. If you’re searching for exclusivity, you’ll find it here; there are just five lodges available to book, each complete with its own safari vehicle and private guide. We especially recommend the six-suite Ecca Lodge, whose position overlooking the reserve’s forested valleys gives you a real sense of seclusion in the wild. Your children will have plenty to do, as Kwandwe offers a host of entertaining and education activities, from scavenger hunts to kite building. 

Madikwe & Waterberg

Madikwe Game Reserve stretches over the picturesque Madikwe Hills which sit on the edge of the Kalahari. As a transition zone, it attracts a diverse range of animals including rare species; your family can enjoy spotting the ever-popular big cats, black and white rhino and over 350 species of bird. 

Further to the south sprawls the scenic mountains and forests of the Waterberg UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, home to archaeological discoveries dating back to the Stone Age. Stay at Ant’s Hill lodge here to enjoy complimentary riding lessons; horseback is the perfect way to get around this wild terrain. The guides are all experienced, and each knows just how to bring your surroundings to life. 

Many families like to combine a visit to Madikwe with Waterberg for the ultimate wilderness experience. From walking safaris and guided hikes to fun, educational activities for the kids, this is an excellent place for an adventure.  

The Kalahari 

You needn’t be a rugged survivalist to enjoy a visit to the arid Kalahari. Here you can find comfort and luxury coupled with discovery and fun. Tswalu The Motse and Tarkuni are two properties – a lodge and villa respectively – set on the edge of South Africa’s biggest private wildlife reserve, Tswalu. This is home to some of the country’s rarest and most adaptable creatures, from the black-maned Kalahari lion to the aardwolf. Only 30 guests will stay here at any one time, ensuring a sense of exclusivity and privacy. Here, your children have the chance to learn all about conservation and become a junior ranger. For adults, there’s an award-winning spa, while the whole family will enjoy dune picnics and traditional boma evenings. 

Cape Town

One of South Africa’s trendiest cities, Cape Town is a cultural capital, foodie hot spot and coastal charmer. For families, there’s plenty to do; enjoy a gentle trek up Table Mountain for stunning views over the city and out to sea; cruise to Robben Island to discover its part in this nation’s dramatic history; and journey along the Cape Peninsula where you can see penguin at Boulders Beach and chacma baboon at Cape Point. We can arrange a private car and driver taking you to and from the city’s best sights, so you can focus less on following the GPS and more on enjoying quality family time. For a little luxury right on the popular V&A waterfront, we recommend a stay at One&Only Cape Town. This resort-style hotel features a fantastic children’s club for four- to 12-year olds.