Living (Sri Lanka)
South African safaris are the most accessible on the continent for families. It’s a country that offers some of the best – and least taxing – opportunities for up close sightings of the Big Five – including the highly endangered black and white rhinos – but when you’re out in the bush, make sure you take time to create some memorable experiences beyond the game drives.
This country boasts some of the continent’s best private villas and lodges, which are perfect for families in the current climate, and allow you to get up close and personal with the country’s most beautiful animals. Lounging around by the pool or taking dinner on the terrace, you’ll always get the chance to enjoy armchair wildlife as creatures gather around waterholes or investigate their new neighbours. The colourful Jaci’s Sabi House, in the Sabi Sands Reserve, is a top private safari experience. You can be drifting in the pool and spot a family of warthogs tiptoeing across the scrub only 40m from you. Sleeping up to six, a stay includes twice daily game drives led by an on-site guide, and meals prepared by a private chef.
South Africa’s malaria free Waterberg region is teeming with sable antelopes, nyalas, oryxes and Livingstone’s Elands. At Limpopo Province’s Ant’s Nest homestead, the kids will wake up to rhinos grazing on the front lawn. Little ones can discover the bush’s creepy-crawlies on bug walks and reptile handling experiences. There’s no strict itinerary and you’ll have the chance to try a unique riding safari – no experience required. Cantering over sandy tracks and high ridges, you can get up close to rhinos and other bush creatures like giraffe and zebra, who aren’t spooked by the horses.
It’s not all about wildlife though: one of my must-sees on safari is the starlit South African sky, best viewed from a candlelit dinner or campfire. At Chalkley Treehouse, in the Lion Sands Game Reserve, couples sleep under the stars on a raised platform built around a majestic 500-year-old leadwood tree. A mere 10 minute drive from the Lion Sands Lodges, the tree house – equipped with a comfy bed and picnic dining – is in the middle of expansive bush that’s lit only by lanterns and the skies above. You’ll fall asleep to the huffs and growls of animals roaming nearby.
And you can’t miss a South African sunset. Each one is properly appreciated on safari and celebrated with a sundowner. After clinking G&Ts, it’s off on a night drive. Spotlights offer sightings of nocturnal animals such as leopards, hyenas and jackals. You might even witness a lion hunt. The new &Beyond Tengile River Lodge in the Sabi Sands Game Reserve offers some of the best game viewing in South Africa, best experienced during an evening safari drive. The area is famed for its leopards but the lodge’s stargazing experiences are not to be missed, either.
When you’re heading home, try one last night at the luxury Oyster Box Hotel. It’s the perfect place for all the family to kick back with gorgeous Indian Ocean views and an award-winning spa. It’s just north of Durban, close to the airport.
THE DETAIL Original Travel itineraries can include stays at Jaci’s Sabi House, Ant’s Nest, Chalkley Treehouse and the Oyster Box Hotel. Mahlatini has a 13 day South Africa safari itinerary including a stay at &Beyond Tengile River Lodge.
(Visit originaltravel.co.uk and mahlatini.com)
Greg Fox is the cofounder of Mahlatini safari experiences and has over 20 years’ experience in the field.