World leaders and thousands of others mourning the loss of former South African president Nelson Mandela are expected to pack the beloved leaders funeral next week in South Africa.
Dozens from the media will be there also, sending back images of this land of contradictions: Beautiful scenery, yet tremendous poverty among South Africa’s black majority. 26% of it’s people are living on less than $1.25 a day, according to a United Nations survey.
Yet, it is still one of the best travel destinations in the world, and the great thing about tourism, is that it can help lift an area’s economy and benefit the locals.
Yes, South Africa may be intimidating because you probably don’t know as many people who have been, and it is far away if you are living in the United States. You’ll probably want to spend a couple weeks there if you are going that far, and for parents, that means one of two things: You either don’t go because you can’t leave the kids that long, or you bring them.
I say bring them. I am not unaware of the high violent crime and murder rates there… it’s just you have to look at WHERE this is happening. There is large disparity between haves and have nots in South Africa, and most of the crime is happening in the poor townships where travelers shouldn’t go. There is also a high rape statistic, but again – mostly in the poorer areas of town, and few assaults are on tourists. Nonetheless, you should remain vigilant like on any trip.
Here are my Top Five things to do with your children in South Africa:
1) Take a safari. There are dozens of some of the nicest safari lodges in South Africa. Here is a website listing some of them: www.departures.com/articles/luxury-african-safaris . What’s also amazing is Kruger National Park. There are safari lodgings there as well, and you can even take self-guided tours to see the wildlife – this park is known for viewing opportunities of the Big Five. It is also one of the best maintained parks in all of Africa.
2) Cape Town – Gorgeous, natural beauty. Sparkling beaches against the backdrop of Table Mountain. Explore some of the waterfront towns, hike Table Mountain for some incredible views, partake in water sports like sea kayaking. You can even whale watch from the land. Venture out to Cape Peninsula and see a lighthouse. There are many top notch hotels and restaurants in Cape Town.
3) Take a luxury train trip on Rovos Rail. It is a wonderful way to see the country, in a luxurious setting. The journeys range from 48 hours, to weeks long – if you bring children, I would suggest a shorter excursion, as it is an adult-like atmosphere on the train, and not many kids can still that long. Older children will be fine – and there is a railroad golf safari that might be worthy checking out if you have golfing children – South Africa boasts some of the world’s best golf resorts, and getting off the train to golf gives kids a chance to walk around and be active.
4) Knysna, on the Garden Route – Knysna is a great town along the Garden Route – a long coastal drive in South Africa that is compared to Pacific Coast Highway in California. Knysna offers family friendly Bollard Beach… an elephant park where kids can hand feed the pachyderms… and gorgeous forests where you can mountain bike. This might require you renting a car – but you might want to look in to a car service so you can enjoy the view and let a driver deal with some of the local drivers who have reputations for being a little crazy on the road.
5) Durban: Beach town known for it’s surf. The beaches have nets to protect from sharks. There is also a promenade with shops and cafes and an aquarium. You should also check out Victoria Indian St Market – the area has a large Indian population, and here you can get a taste of this culture and it feels like you’ve stepped into another world. Lastly, you can visit the Umgeni River Bird Park with more than 800 birds, and various shows.
Happy Travels –