Goukamma Nature Reserve, near Knysna
Want to feel like intrepid explorers? A canoe trip along the meandering Goukamma River to the estuary mouth is the chance to make your own discoveries. Seated in stable canoes, you will paddle past dense indigenous forest where grysbok and bushpig snuffle among the leaves. The river is patrolled by African fish eagles and among the reeds you might spot malachite, giant and pied kingfishers. Challenge the kids to see how many different species they can find. On a fine day everyone will abandon ‘ship’ for the warm water of the estuary. After a relaxing swim and snacks on the riverbank, it’s time to paddle back.
Cost: Rent canoes from the reserve office. R30 a day for single canoe, R50 a day for double canoe. Paddles and life jackets provided. Children must be accompanied by adults.
Contact: Goukamma 044-383-0042 www.capenature.co.za
Albert Falls Dam, near Pietermaritzburg
With lush green lawns right on the water’s edge, Albert Falls is the perfect place for a picnic. Thanks to the setting, this very English pastime gets an African spin: thorn trees provide shade from the sun, braai stands cater for meat lovers and zebras, not sheep, graze nearby. It’s a relaxed spot and the picnic area is spacious, so kids are free to run around after a soccer ball or Frisbee. Dad will also want to bring his toys as Albert Falls is famous for being one of the world’s best bass fishing dams. Remember to stop to get a permit at the gate. If angling’s not your thing, gazing at the shimmering water is a sure way to relax.
Contact: Albert Falls 033-569-1202 www.msinsi.co.za
Table Mountain National Park, near Cape Town
The two-hour hike to Elephant’s Eye Cave in the Silvermine section of the park has all the ingredients for a fun day out. It’s relatively easy, the views are impressive and there are curiosities to keep the kids interested. The fire lookout hut is used by foresters scanning for veldfires. From here it’s easy to make out the shape of the elephant’s head with the cave forming its eye. The cave itself is cool and dripping with ferns, a good place to catch your breath. On your way back, stop off at Silvermine Dam for a braai at one of the pretty spots along the water.
Contact: Table Mountain 021-712-2337
Tweede Tol in Limietberg Nature Reserve, near Wellington
Forget about fancy resort pools, the large rock pool in the Witte River is the stuff of kids’ dreams. The water is silky soft and clear enough to see all sorts of aquatic creatures darting around. Kids will love clambering over the boulders and jumping from them into the water. Day visitors are allowed in on a first-come first-served basis, so best get there early. Better yet, pack your tent and stay over at Tweede Tol. From the camp site it’s a short walk to a water wonderland where a series of little waterfalls cascade into a rock pool. The jump from the top of the cliff into the pool is about five metres and is a rite of passage for older offspring.
Contact: Reserve 023-355-1607 CapeNature Central Reservations 021-483-0190 www.capenature.co.za
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, near Mbabane, Swaziland
Kids will love the laid-back atmosphere and close game encounters of this Swazi park. Warthog families have the run of the rest camp and from the restaurant deck you can watch hippos wallowing in the waterhole. Of course, on a mountain bike you can see so much more of the area and its animals. There are several trails that criss-cross the veld, taking riders from open grasslands to lush forest. The single-track is mostly soft earth and the climbs tend to be gentle, just right for eager young cyclists. Mlilwane is the setting for the Imvelo MTB Classic race, so the local zebra, nyala and blesbok are quite accustomed to seeing people cycle past.
Cost: Guided mountain bike trails from R130 a person. A bike can be hired at reception for R120.
Contact: +268 2528 3943 www.biggameparks.org
Source: Wild Magazine