6 Dec 2013
Technically South Africa was one of the first destinations I ever visited – when my mum was three months pregnant, she and my dad took a trip out there to see my uncle and aunt.
So perhaps you can date my fondness for the country back to that point. Although most of my relatives have moved on, I’ve visited a couple of times and would happily go back to visit with Minnie.
Because it’s a great destination if you’ve got kids. Although it’s a long-haul flight, the time zone is a maximum of two hours ahead of the UK (depending when you travel) so jetlag is less of a problem.
And a choice of airlines means a choice of decent flight times too. While I associate Emirates with Middle and Far Eastern destinations, I’ve discovered they also fly to South Africa – so you get the added bonus of its Young Flyers programme, with monster-filled kids’ packs, special magazines and baby meals.
It’s also one of the easiest countries for a self-drive safari. There’s a low risk of malaria across most of the country (except near the Zimbabwe/Mozambique border), which often limits travel with children.
Hire a car in Johannesburg and you can drive to Kruger National Park – we broke the trip in Nelspruit, staying at Hippo Hollow on the Sabie River in Hazyview where there are hotel rooms and babysitting, as well as tented lodges along the river.
The park itself might be busier and more commercial than other safari options across the continent, but the almost guaranteed chance to see lions, elephants and rhino (and leopards if you’re luckier than me) is hard to beat. Even seeing wildebeest in the wild is an incredible experience.
Or base yourself at the cape. The winelands can be trickier to combine with kids though if you can, do, to sip fabulous wines in the sunshine overlooking the vineyards where they’re grown.
From the dassies (or rock hyrax) on Table Mountain to the penguins on Boulder Beach, there’s still plenty of wildlife to spot around Cape Town.
Or gaze out to the ocean from the Cape of Good Hope, once thought the most southerly tip of Africa, and the windswept rocky beach of Cape Point.
For older kids, a trip to Robben Island or a township tour including Cape Town’s moving and fascinating District Six museum is a must, to explain South Africa’s troubled history.
Stick to one led by a local resident, that gives profits back to the community – most visit Langa, the oldest township in South Africa, and Khayelitsha, the country’s second largest.
Then multicultural Bo Kaap, with its brightly coloured buildings, settled in the 18th century by Cape Malay muslims, is fantastic to amble around or try one of the kid-friendly cooking tours to make bobotie.
And that’s only the beginning. There’s beaches galore, whale spotting at Hermanus, the stunning countryside of the Garden Route, the Addo Elephant National Park, Zulu culture around Durban, and fabulous food almost everywhere…
One trip really isn’t enough.
Compiled in association with Emirates