How we had a perfectly balanced trip in South Africa
Updated: Feb 19, 2020
The brief was as follows: Fun, Safe, Adventurous for everyone, Restful, in Nature, Comfortable. Simple, right?
We chose South Africa because we wanted sunshine, variety in landscapes and most importantly no time difference. I started planning our 3 weeks sometime in the summer and finalised the last details (hotel briefings and transfers) at the start of December. I spent a lot of time researching the best options and destinations. There is a lot to do, the country is vast and you can easily waste time trying to do it all. We had one strong constraint; the kids being too small to take medication, we didn't want to travel in Malaria zones. That naturally limited the trip.
Step 1: 3 nights in Cape Town
We stayed in a secluded home. About 10 minutes from the beach in a quiet area surrounded by trees, with the most beautiful view. It is an architect-designed house, with a swimming pool, trampoline and tennis court and enough space to run around. It was the perfect arrival location to recover from the journey, explore the bustling city of Cape Town and see a few of the unmissable sights.
Step 2: 4 nights in the countryside
Time to get on the road and head East to the wine country. We drove via the beautiful village of Franschhoek where we stopped for lunch and a visit to the traditional Sunday market. Our next stop was the valley of Stanford. We stayed in a stunning estate. We had a little cottage with a bbq, a view on the horses and mountains and so much space to run around. Here we could enjoy being in nature, exploring the forest and visiting nearby towns.
Step 3: 4 nights at the Beach
Continuing East, we hit the coast and travelled to Knysna where we visited different beaches, organic markets and went on boat trips. Completely different scenery again. We stayed in a house in the hills overlooking the lagoon, with the nicest hosts ever.
Step 4: Time to safari
We couldn't really visit South Africa without doing a safari. However, with small kids, it needed to be really flexible and easy. After a lot of research, we chose to visit the Addo Elephant Park and stay in a lodge that had everything for families.
We could decide the time to go and the length of our game drives. We had our private ranger Christian that the kids got to know and love for his knowledge of cool stuff.
We stayed 3 nights in the lodge in the middle of the National Park. We could see elephants from our breakfast table and antelopes from our bedroom. Wow.
Step 5: Off to Johannesburg
After the safari, we hopped on the plane from Port Elizabeth and flew to Jo'burg. This was the time to reconnect a bit with city life, real world, noise and back to school. I wouldn't recommend visiting Johannesburg with children. There is not a lot that is safe for them. We stayed for 3 nights in a really cool hotel in a quiet neighbourhood. It was almost empty as we arrived out of season, so the staff was super attentive and playful with the kids. We got to visit a bit of the city and enjoy some culture, but not too much. This was the perfect transition to the long journey back to Amsterdam.
Now, here is what my husband has to say about it:
"Other than agreeing on the destination, I had no idea of where exactly we'd be going and what the plan was. The feeling of freedom from planning and the surprise, not knowing what was ahead, really built the excitement for the trip - Ignorance is bliss! It really was a perfectly paced and well balanced holiday. We got a chance to see many different sides of SA, disconnect from the world, have real quality family time and hang out together. We even had time to read books and relax, which is usually an impossible dream with our 2 little bundles of energy. Great way to start 2020!"