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KwaZuluNatal is rare in South Africa for offering high quality safari with a tropical coastline nearby so is perfect for safari and beach holidays with minimal transfers between. The Coast stretches North from Durban towards the Mozambique border and gets wilder the further North you head. Along the whole Coast there is strong surf, sheltered beaches are few and far between, only the resort towns such as Ballito and Umhlanga have life guards on duty in designated areas.
Heading North out of Durban, The Canelands beach hotel in Ballito is an excellent small boutique guesthouse where you can relax around the pool, enjoy tidal pools and surf on the beach, and explore the local shops and restaurants. If you are feeling active there is a good surf school nearby and in season it is possible to organise seafari boat tours out into the bay to see Humpback Whales. Ballito is also a good base for a day tip into Durban where you can explore the bustling Indian Market or head to the uShaka Marine World Ocean theme park, which boasts the highest water slide in the Southern hemisphere. This property has an excellent location and for children they will add a good quality inflatable mattresses with proper bedding in the evenings for the children. For older children, it may be worth taking two rooms which are in close proximity but they do not have inter-connecting rooms.
Still in Ballito is the prestigious golfing complex of Fairmont Zimbali which has an 18-hole golf course, separate upmarket homes and two properties on site. Zimbali Lodge is set back and has 76 rooms, one swimming pool and 3 dining options but you will have full access to the resort facilities. Zimbali Resort has 154 rooms, 2 swimming pools, access to the non-swimming beach and weekend children’s club. The Ballito beaches are a few minutes away, there is tennis and squash on site and full concierge facilities. This is a good choice for those who want more of a resort set up.
Umhlanga Rocks is another favoured South African holiday town which is closer to Durban and has a great beach. The Oyster Box is a five star hotel with 86 rooms with some lovely touches.The hotel offers beach service, a holiday children’s club, cinema and fitness centre. For children they offer a welcome backpack, child-friendly turn-downs, essential popcorn, sweets, soft drinks and the DVD library for in-room viewing, child-friendly menus and a baby-sitting service.
Heading further North, The Elephant Coast and Kosi Bay area has some superb beach and forest lodges, with the more remote location, options here tend towards the eco lodge principals rather than big resorts with lots of facilities. At the top end of the scale, Thonga Beach Lodge is one of favourite beach recommendations in South Africa, Rocktail Bay offers a great range of guided activities, whilst Amangwane is a fabulous rustic option with simple accommodation, community involvement, kayaking and excellent snorkelling.
Time for a change? The summer holidays approach and we've been debating what makes for the perfect family summer holiday. We can't agree on much here, you grow to love your destinations so much that it is hard to give ground. We've been arguing Tanzania vs Morocco, Croatia vs Turkey, US vs Peru and getting nowhere. What we can agree with is change is as good as a rest, mixing it up and doing something different.
Safari Holidays are, without doubt, a once in a life time experience. However (now don’t laugh at us please) they can also be quite hard work at times. Routine at the camps is fairly structured and rigid; rise at dawn (first call at 0400am), 4 hour game drive, followed by breakfast, relaxation time and then another 4 hour game drive late afternoon. Dinner is usually served at around 7.30pm. After a few days on safari your children (and you) will be ready for a change of pace and it can be very welcoming to kick back and relax. The question is, where to go and what to combine your safari with. Many people’s first choice is to request a beach resort where they can enjoy golden sand, snorkelling and a gentle pace of life. Here are our suggestions for the optimum beach extension for your holiday.
The exotic tropical island of Zanzibar lies in the Indian Ocean and enjoys miles of palm-fringed golden sandy beaches and beautiful clear waters. With a range of accommodation from simple beach lodges to private beach villas to five star resorts, this is the perfect place to relax, sun-bathe and snorkel. Diving is also excellent here, with some excellent coral formations. Other activities on offer include ocean excursions, spice farm tours, the Jozani Forest with a variety of primates and exploring the narrow cobbled streets of Stone Town, the capital, which is a UNESCO world heritage site.
The South Kenyan coast does have more development on it in the Mombasa area, but there are some hidden out of the way smaller gems, up in Lamu, for example. Access is frequent with scheduled light aircraft flights and airlines from all safari options, some via Nairobi.
The Tanzania coast is less developed with some great barefoot options; this is perfect for a couple of night’s pure relaxation with a few activities on offer. Access is frequent with scheduled light aircraft flights from all safari options, some via Dar es Salaam.
Mozambique has really only started to come back onto the map in the last 15 years with development starting in the south and growing from there. These lodges have a very similar operation to safari in some respects. It is generally simple to barefoot luxury lodges, with well-spaced individual ‘rooms’ onto the beach. One dining area with sometimes gathering in the evenings for cocktails and social meals. Diving is excellent and unspoilt. The focus is water sports and depending on the location some nearby historical visits particularly in the north or simple fishing villages. Generally these are quiet and relaxing resorts. There are two mid-size resorts which have more hotel style accommodations, one in the north and the other in the south.
Southern Mozambique has an excellent service from Johannesburg to Maputo, Vilanculos and Imhambane. In addition to this there is a flight from the Kruger to Vilanculos a couple of times a week. The capital Maputo is only a 3 hour drive from Kruger which is another gateway to a variety of beach destinations.
For Northern Mozambique, from Johannesburg there are regular flights to Pemba and Nampula. There are however excellent scheduled light aircraft connection from Tanzania and Kenya, enabling you to combine an East Africa safari with this.
Mauritius has a good selection of beach hotels but generally with a variety of pools and sun lounging spots on the properties. There are often good children’s clubs, tennis courts, spa facilities and wide variety of water sports. Usually a choice of dinning locations, beach and room service and evening entertainment. Focus here is really being in resort and just sitting back and relaxing, you can do a day trip into town and visit a nature reserve or take a day cruise.
From Kenya, there are 3 flights a week with good timings but you would need the night before in Nairobi which is no great hardship as there are many great things to do such as the Giraffe Sanctuary and Elephant Orphanage which gives great interaction.
From Johannesburg, there are 3 flights a weeks, again with good timings. There are very good value hotels in the airport complex, so you can make the most of the final day of your safari without having to rush to catch a flight.
Seychelles has a wonderful collection of granite and volcanic islands, great for staying at just one place but lends itself particularly well to island hopping. Accommodation ranges from simple Seychellois guest houses, medium-size hotels to five star resorts.
Sadly there are only flights from Johannesburg a couple of times a week which would work well with Southern African safaris.
There are many of the Middle Eastern airlines who are now flying in, and in some respects with the island hopping this would be a lovely two week holiday on its own.
KwaZulu Natal, on South Africa's Indian Ocean coastline has some wild stretches of beaches. We have a couple of lodges on the beach, offering a mixture of relaxation and safari-style activities. We can also arrange guest houses in close proximity to the beach and large resort hotels. The one thing to bear in mind with all South African beaches is that they are for the most part relatively strong currents but beautiful stretches of coast line.
This area is best reached by self-drive exploration of the surrounding area. The scheduled flights come in from Durban or Richards Bay from Johannesburg, plus connections into Durban from Cape Town, Port Elizabeth and even the Kruger.
Cape Town is not a ‘traditional’ beach consideration as accommodation on the beach is non-existent but due to the weather and variety of activities and lovely restaurants this can provide a lovely down time ending to a trip. Camps Bay has a lovely beach with trendy restaurants nearby but it is Atlantic Ocean. The Southern suburbs of Cape Town from Noordhoek to Muizenburg is Indian Ocean, St James beach even has a tidal pool, these beaches are more popular with locals and dining options although good, not as 'trendy' as Camps Bay for example. Guest houses, small boutique hotels and variety of larger hotels available. The one thing to bear in mind with all South African beaches is that they are for the most part relatively strong currents but beautiful stretches of coast line.
With regular Johannesburg flights this is easily accessed from Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia. Same for the rest of South Africa such as Port Elizabeth, Durban and Kruger.
The Garden Route has lovely beaches all the way from Wilderness to Port Elizabeth, which is effectively the length of the route. Tends to be long stretches of coast line of Indian Ocean. No properties with direct access to the beach but lovely guest houses and hotels al along mostly with pools. The one thing to bear in mind with all South African beaches is that they are for the most part relatively strong currents but beautiful stretches of coast line.
Access from Cape Town, George and Port Elizabeth with an excellent domestic flight routing around South Africa.
Ok this is not the beach but after an intensive South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia safari it is perfect stop to relax but still have lots to do. Brilliant safari style lodges generally on the Zambezi River with swimming pool and central dinning or a couple of hotel style resort.
Road and light aircraft flights off safari. Scheduled flights from Johannesburg, Namibia, Kenya and more coming in with the planned airport improvements.
Lake Malawi is a lake with beach like features, so we think this is a lovely option with some small properties, old fashioned resorts and barefoot luxury lodges.
A brilliant light aircraft flight from South Luangwa in Zambia. Kenya Airways flights from Nairobi, good regular flights from Johannesburg to both main hubs.#
It can be a bit over-whelming knowing where to start when visiting a city like Cape Town - there is just so much to see. We pride ourselves on having a truly unique offering in Cape Town, which we couple with lovingly hand-picked accommodation. There are so many different ways of getting under the skin of Cape Town and we have taken great pride in selecting some of the best experiences with the best guides. There is no real substitute for spending a day with a local guide. Not only are you helping to support the local economy, but you are also getting a chance to speak to someone who has grown up in South Africa during a most turbulent time who will be able to add some genuine insights into the country, which will help to set the scene once you head off on the rest of your holiday. With the lack of jet lag and the prospect of a good night's sleep on the plane on the way over, there is no reason why you can't get out and about on your first afternoon, discovering the best of what Cape Town has to offer. Please have a browse through some of our favourite experiences and let us know which ones you would like us to include in your itinerary.
A short guided cycle tour is a lovely way to see the waterfront and stretch your legs after a long flight, recommended for a first afternoon in Cape Town. The pace is gentle and is a lovely introduction to what the waterfront area has to offer. Cycling is mainly on the flat and is suitable for all ages.(Children's seats & bikes available for all ages and abilities)
Robben Island, the prison where Nelson Mandela was held, is on many wishlists for visitors to Cape Town. However, we offer our own twist on this as our guide is Lionel Davies, who was himself in Robben Island at the same time as Mandela. Lionel will take you around the island and will give you a deep insight into what it was like being imprisoned there and will also share stories of the part he played in the anti-apartheid movement.
There is no better place to get a sense of Cape Town than from the top of Table mountain amidst the lush fynbos, indigenous to the region. Most tourists venture no more than 5 minutes from the Cableway, however we recommend getting away from the crowds. There are several options to choose between, depending on how active you want to be. For those wanting a gentle guided walk, there is a lovely 2 hour circular walk on the plateau to Maclears Beacon, the highest point on Table Mountain. The trail passes stunning viewpoints and marsh and fynbos bush. For the more adventurous, we recommend a more challenging trek climbing Table Mountain via Skeleton Gorge or from the Twelve Apostles (around 6 hours) and taking the Cableway down. And if you want something challenging and want to really get away from everyone, then we suggest our three day Table Mountain hike, camping along the way.
If you like wine and the finer things of life, then we suggest spending a day visiting vineyards and artisanal producers with our guide Pamela, a passionate foodie and local resident. You can get stuck into some fine wines and enjoy delicious great food in incredibly beautiful surroundings. Pamela knows the vineyards inside out and, for our family visitors, has picked out those with space for the kids to run around; from the jungle gym and famous hot chocolate at Warwick Estate to the gorgeous gardens and fruit orchards (where the children can help themselves to fruit) at Babylonstoren. Pam does all the driving, so you can just sit back and enjoy yourself.
It is all too easy to travel through the Cape region in comfortable lodges and not have any sense of how the majority of the country lives. On the basis that exposure breeds understanding and awareness, we think it is a good thing to learn about this magnificent country's turbulent past and present and fascinating culture. If this is done sensitively, it can hugely beneficial to both the township residents and also the visitor. We work with a couple of fantastic projects in the townships, a gentle bike tour through the township of Masiphumelele and a township cooking class, where you learn to cook local staples such as Pap, chakalaka, samp and African stew in an inspiring cooking school that is teaching the catering trade to locals in the townships.
For those interested in food and cooking, we recommend spending a day with our resident Capetonian foodie, Pamela who will take you on a tour of her favourite eateries in town. South Africa is a melting pot of numerous cultures and her tour will give you an insight into all of these and will also explore you to their different cuisines. You will walk the streets of Cape Town together, stopping to taste a mixture of traditional food, South African street food and to visit some artisan foodie and coffee shops. If you prefer something more hands on, then we can arrange a cookery course for you with a local chef who will teach you all about Cape Malay food.
At Boulder's Beach on the Cape Peninsula, there is a colony of penguins that you can go and visit. However, rather than waiting on the beach to spot these creatures, we suggest taking to the seas and viewing them from the comfort of your own kayak. Heading away from the beach past the harbour, you will paddle to Boulder’s Beach. If you’re lucky, you may see the penguins swimming alongside you in the water, or hopping on to the beach. The double kayaks are very stable and perfect for those with no paddling experience. After viewing the penguins, you will stop on the beach for refreshments and a swim before heading back.
If you really want to let off some steam, then we suggest spending a day off the beaten track with one of our mountain biking guides. There is a variety of rides on offer, depending on your level of experience and how adventurous you are feeling. We guarantee excellent views, great climbs and beautiful surroundings. You can choose between an epic ride up the lower slopes of Table Mountain, leg busting climbs through Tokai forest and free-spirited off road riding in Silvermine Nature Reserve. These are private departures, so you can go at your own pace, but you do need to be experienced to take part.
We can tailor-make any of our itineraries so if you would like to include any of the above experiences in your holiday, please let us know. Here is a selection of some of our most popular Garden Route holidays:
|S Africa (Kruger)|
|South Africa (Cape)|
= Excellent = Good - = Off-Season but possible)
Whether you want your visit to coincide with the herds of wildlife or whether you want to avoid the herds of tourists is very much a personal choice. It pays though, to come pre-warned:
Masai Mara in July / August: Up to 100 safari vehicles have been known to congregate at one sighting in the Masai Mara during July and August. The reason? The annual migration when vast herds of wildebeest congregate within a relatively small space and dice with death as they attempt to cross the Mara River. It is an incredible spectacle and well worth a visit, however, there is more to safari than sheer numbers and the Mara is magnifcent year round. If you do want to take in the migration then you need to know that it will mean long days sitting and waiting by the Mara River waiting for an elusive crossing to play out. Our favourite recommendation for those keen to witness this spectacle is Entim Camp which has a spot on position in a private spot on the banks of the Mara river.
Cape Town & The Garden Route during Christmas and New Years
Christmas and New Year coincide with the height of summer in the Cape when South Africans from Johannesburg and overseas migrate en masse to the Cape. We usually recommend clients avoid this period unless it is the only time of the year they can possibly make work.
Wildebeest crossign the Mara River during the Annual Migration
February Half Term: Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa's Cape and Garden Route areas.
With usually only a week to play with, the scope for exploring widely is somewhat limited. However this is a great time for some winter sun and safari in Kenya or Tanzania
Easter & May Half Term: South Africa's Cape, Garden Route, Kruger & KZN areas, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia
In Southern Africa the summer season is coming to a close but there is still usually good weather even in the Southern most areas of the Cape. Eastern Africa is usually avoided due to the long rains, however we have managed to source some incredible value safaris for families in Kenya and Tanzania during the May Half Term, and the rains, although daily, do usually clear up for some sunshine each day.
Summer Holidays: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa's Kruger and KwaZulu-Natal areas, Namibia Botswana and Zambia
Come July, Kenya's Masai Mara plays host to arguably the most spectacular wildlife event of the year, the annual migration of massive herds of wildebeest, zebra and accompanying predators. This is also one of the best times of the year to be in the Kruger and KwaZulu-Natal regions of South Africa. The Cape region of South Africa is in winter, with Cape Town in particular buffeted by strong wind and rain.
October Half Term: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa's Cape, Garden Route, Kruger & KZN areas, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia
Again, with only a week to play with it pays to choose carefully. Although it is heading towards the short rains in Kenya and Tanzania, these usually involve only a very short period of rain each day and are not worth worrying about. Southern Africa all works well at this time of the year.
Christmas Holidays: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa's Cape and Garden Route areas
Christmas and New Year brings optimal weather, but peak prices and crowds to Cape Town and the Garden Route and much of East Africa. Still if you want to get away for something special at Christmas it is hard to beat a safari and beach combination.
The rains of the green season put many people off, but for those whoare willing to adapt, the green season offers significant discounts. During the green season in Bots, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania, expect to get between 30 and 70% off the standard peak rates for higher end camps and lodges. The rain tends to fall in heavy bursts that clear quickly to leave plenty of the day left to be out on Safari.