Soaking up South Africa... with the family
Showing my children around the lesser-known villages, spotting wildlife with them and delving into the history and culture was really magical. It was a breath of fresh air to see them enjoying the outdoors. This trip truly put me back in touch with my roots and re-awakened my senses to all the wonderful things this country has to share.
As has been much publicised, South Africa is leading the way for countries that may face water shortages in the future. The aim of the current #WaterWise campaign is to make tourists around the world more water conscious and to recognise that the positive economic impacts you have when you travel far outweigh your demands on local resources. Day Zero has been averted for 2018. The people of South Africa unified to conserve water, to maintain their way of life and talk about their common drive to avoid any drastic measures.
The first stop on our family holiday was in the valley of the Riviersonderend nature reserve. Away from the main tourist routes, we were lured to the quaint ‘dorps’ – villages – beyond the winelands and coast. The farmlands surrounding Villiersdorp and Greyton have a slower pace of life, where fruit farming revolves around the seasons. The natural beauty and peace astounded us along with the warmth, hospitality and friendliness of those working the land.
We stayed at the Elandskloof Farm Cottages, a collection of self-catered cottages that were the perfect place to reconnect as a family in the countryside. My children swam in freshwater dams, caught crabs and enjoyed kayaking. They played outdoors together in the sunshine, not once reaching for their iPads. At one point my son asked me what his ‘boundary’ was and my heart wrenched. I told him to run free with his friends and cousins and that he could determine his own limits (although, not to scale the mountain behind us and to be back before dark) – you can’t put a price on that freedom!
You can also stay at the Rouxwil Country House, a working farm with sheep, ducks, eland and springbok roaming the fields. The views from the veranda are breathtaking. On our farm tour, we found the state of the art farming methods fascinating and learnt about the challenges farmers face. We were mesmerised by the abundance of blue cranes – the national bird of South Africa – that live on the farm and the surrounding Elandskloof river wetlands. With as few as 26,000 individuals remaining in the wild, these birds are extremely vulnerable. For the local Xhosa people, they are culturally important and are called Indwe. After battles, their feathers were traditionally given by the chief to discern men of distinction. The meals at Rouxwil are sumptuous as O’nel, the owner, is renowned far and wide for her culinary skills of fresh and local cuisine.
Whether you choose to stay in the heart of the town or on one of the vineyards, Franschhoek has a wealth of accommodation and is a popular stop for those visiting the Cape. While there, we also visited Franschhoeks’s Huguenot Museum, dedicated to the area’s first settlers in the 17th and 18th centuries. The displays give a rounded account of the history of the French settlers, who first planted the vines that grace the surrounding mountain slopes.
We opted for the self-catered Orchard Cottages on the Boschendal Estate so that we could venture out and sample the many exemplary restaurants in Franschhoek. Boschendal offers wine tastings and picnics on their well-kept lawns, with hammocks strung between the trees and bean bags scattered around. Alternatively, you can dine at the Werf, their restaurant in the revamped cellar of the Manor House. The deli farm shop is well worth a visit. They serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea all week and hosts a pizza night on Sundays. Our cottage was called Fortune, which had two bedrooms and a shared bathroom with an expansive veranda where we enjoyed the birdlife, read and relaxed. The children loved having a swimming pool, which kept them entertained for hours!
The Cape Coast Peninsula
Driving the scenic route via Stellenbosch towards False Bay and Fish Hoek, rather than the quicker motorway, we stopped off just past Simons Town at Boulders Beach. The beach is renowned as you can spot the endangered African penguins that live on the beaches, surrounded by large granite boulders that give its name. My penguin-loving children were absolutely delighted to be able to walk among them on the beach and get up so close.
Our next stop was the quaint village of Kommetjie to the south of Hout Bay on the western side of Cape Peninsula, which I chose for its blend of beach, mountains, nature, sea and surf. There are boardwalks through the fynbos – South African shrubs – from the beach to the rocky outcrops near the Slangkop lighthouse. The eight-kilometre stretch of white, sandy beach is striking alongside the clear, blue waters. Being in a bay, the sea was calm and the views back towards Table Mountain made it magical as the sun set. As a family, I wanted us to enjoy some sunny beach time, although I knew the water of the Atlantic Ocean would be icy cold. This did not deter my children and a host of locals who were walking their dogs, wading into the shores or paddle boarding.
I chose our accommodation wisely, The Last Word Long Beach is a property of exceptional taste and leads directly onto the beach. With only six suites, the service is fit for royalty. We will always be remembered as the Brits who brought the rain! Following a sunny day with temperatures nudging the 40’s, an unseasonal storm blew in with a fantastic lightening show and the long-awaited rain. We got thoroughly soaked joining the locals in a rain dance!
Fully relaxed and rejuvenated, Cape Town was the final stop of our holiday, our ‘must do’ list at the ready. We stayed in the heart of the city, just off the trendy Kloof Street, which is the place to be seen in Cape Town. Another favourite is Bree Street, just a short walk away, with its creative and fashionable locals that have an air of anything is possible.
Centrally located, we were able to catch up with friends, venture up Table Mountain and visit the Waterfront easily. We stayed at the self-catered More Quarters, dine out in one of the many amazing restaurants. The home-from-home stylish stay has a service to rival the top five-star hotels in the area. Nothing was too much trouble and we felt welcomed into a family. There are quaint backstreets that links More Quarters with the utterly fabulous Cape Cadogan boutique hotel, where we were welcomed to enjoy a swim in their small but refreshing pool.
We kept busy in Cape Town. First on my list was a visit to the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), which opened in September 2017 and features art from Africa and its Diaspora – South African emigrants. My children had other ideas and wanted to see the Two Oceans Aquarium, where they marvelled at fascinating giant species and collections from both the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean. A humbling experience is visiting Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was held as a prisoner for 21 years; it’s inspirational and fills you with gratitude. While there are many places to dine, we enjoyed eating like a local, visiting the Lotus food truck and Bo Kaap Kombuis to taste the delicious Cape Malay cuisine.
Zeitz MOCAA Gallery
You can’t leave Cape Town without taking in the view from Table Mountain. It’s best to be flexible and wait for a clear day, then head out early. As we were with the children, we took the cable car, but for those that are active, I’d recommend hiking up and getting the cable car down! After an early start, we relaxed on Clifton beach, a popular haunt for celebrities, so if you don’t want to brave the cold sea you can just people watch.
Cox & Kings' South African Family Adventure is perfect for those wanting an African adventure with the family. Alternatively, speak to one of our Africa experts to organise a tailor-made itinerary.Share: [Sassy_Social_Share]
- Tags: Adventure, Africa, Art & Architecture, Beach Holiday, City Guide, Cox & Kings Staff, Culture & History, Family, Family Holidays, Food & Wine, Landscape, South Africa, Wildlife