Adventures by Mom – A South African Itinerary

I have gotten so many questions over the years about what we did with kids in this country or at that destination… I’ve also realized that when planning trips, one of the resources I seek out most is reviews from other parents on what their kids enjoyed, especially in foreign countries. Given that my kids have now visited 15 countries (I only count a country if we’ve stayed at least 3 nights), I feel like I have a lot of information to give back for those who may choose the same path we’ve chosen to expose their little ones to the world.

South Africa is our most recent vacation so it’s only logical that I start there. I hope to continue writing these comprehensive reviews for other spots, past and present. And as always, please feel free to ask if you have any questions! I’ve broken the review down into three posts per destination. The first being the itinerary, second being the accommodations review, and the third being the cost.

Without further ado, our South Africa itinerary…

Day 1: Depart Boston for Doha where we intentionally scheduled an overnight in a hotel in Doha to rest up. This flight was just over 12 hours. We arrived at 530pm on Qatar Airways. Qatar Airways now has a program whereby they’ll issue you a transit visa for up to 96 hours for free. That saved us about $68.

Day 2: Overnight in Doha (Crowne Plaza Doha). A few of us went to the Souq Waqif which we thoroughly enjoyed. We didn’t arrive until later in the evening and that’s just when the fun was starting. And it was quite close to the Crowne Plaza.

Day 3: We departed Doha for Johannesburg at 830am. Upon arrival in Johannesburg around 4pm, we stayed the night at the Intercontinental Johannesburg Airport to get caught up on sleep and to have some down time before departing the next day for our safari. The kids swam and we went to bed early. The location of the hotel could not be beat. (Intercontinental Johannesburg Airport)

Day 4: Depart Johannesburg for Hoedspruit. This was a one hour flight and before we knew it, we were touching down in safari country. We were promptly picked up by our Kapama River Lodge guide and reveled in the scenery on the 15 minute drive to the resort (more about the resort in the hotel review section). Once we had settled into our Family Suite, we grabbed some lunch and were off on our first of 4 game drives. (Kapama River Lodge)

Day 5: We had a morning and an evening game drive on day 5. In between the two, we enjoyed some rest, food, and hanging out at the pool. That evening, we had a dinner under the stars which was quite nice although the food was lacking. I’m a vegetarian and the kids are picky so we didn’t eat much. (Kapama River Lodge)

Day 6: We had a morning game drive, some lunch, and then it was off to the airport to head to Port Elizabeth. I’ll go into more detail during the hotel review but we chose to stay only two nights (4 game drives) at the Kapama River Lodge because of the cost. Safari’s are ridiculously expensive, especially for families. Two nights was the most we could justify in terms of cost. And in the end it worked out perfectly. We saw almost all we would have wanted to see and any additional game drives would have been mostly redundant. Upon arrival in Port Elizabeth, we rented a car and drove to our hotel for the evening before beginning our drive down the Garden Route towards Cape Town (we went West to East and it seemed like most went in the other direction). (Radisson Blu Port Elizabeth)

Day 7: We began our morning drive down the Garden Route to Plettenberg Bay where a few of us were scheduled to swim with seals. This was a fun activity and amazing to see the number of seals in the area. The water was quite cold but they provided wetsuits and we enjoyed observing the seals from the boat and the water. One note, my son does not enjoy up close encounters with animals. Several of us were able to stay in the boat and just observe while others swam. After the swim, we drove another 30 minutes to Knysna where we were spending the night. (Conrad Pezula)

Day 8: We started our day early with a visit to the Knysna Elephant Sanctuary which ended up being one of the highlights of the trip. We rode the elephants for about 30 minutes and then walked with them back to the sanctuary. It was really great being up close and personal. Another kid note: They had planned that my son would ride one of the smaller elephants but he was so scared that they allowed him to ride with me. Each elephant has a guide and a rider, but young kids were allowed as a third passenger on a few of the bigger elephants. Walks with the elephants do sell out and we booked months in advance so please keep that in mind. After the walk, we had breakfast and then went back out to the field to feed them while many volunteers observed them. It was a much longer experience than we had expected and took up most of our morning. But we enjoyed every minute!

We had planned to spend considerable time at Monkeyland and Birds of Eden but we just got to visit for a short time as the Elephant experience went much longer than expected. For lunch, we ate at Bramon Wine Estate which was spectacular. The bread was out of this world and the ambiance was great. It rained for about an hour during our lunch and that was the only rain we saw in our two weeks there. We could have gone back to Monkeyland or Birds of Eden after lunch but it had been an early morning and the kids were getting tired. So, we headed back to the hotel for some rest and later that afternoon made our way down to Noetzie beach. This is a public beach but kind of hard to reach and as a result there were maybe two other people there for the hour we hung out. We did not swim but did put our feet in the water. And it was a beautiful beach. If you stay at the Conrad, complementary transportation is provided by the hotel. (Conrad Pezula)

Day 9: We were back on the road in the morning, off to Franschhoek. This was a long scenic drive through miles and miles of farm fields. This was our longest drive of the vacation and we decided not to make a detour to Cape Agulhas which would have added a lot of time to the drive. We did stop in Swellendam for lunch. This town was lovely. We were only there for a short time, but found it very appealing. We reached Franschhoek in late afternoon and checked into our AirBnB.

Day 10: We spent the day doing tours and tastings of a few wineries in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. During the planning phase of our trip we had debated which one we should stay in and were pleased with the fact we chose Franschhoek. It is a quaint, quiet wine town whereas Stellenbosch is a city. We are definitely not city people so this was the best choice for us. It seemed that there were lots of kids in tow on wine tours as many wineries had kid play areas. So we were able to enjoy food and wine while they played. It really was a great day had by all. (AirBnB)

Day 11: We were off to Cape Town with the intent of stopping by a few missed wineries en route. That planned got derailed a bit so we got to Cape Town earlier than expected. We decided to just drop off the rental car and spend a leisurely afternoon by the pool. The kids very much enjoyed this plan! (Radisson Blu Vendome)

Day 12: This was a full day tour of Cape Town and the surrounds. We went with Cape Fusion Tours led by Ryan and it was perfect. He is really good with kids (has kids of his own) and we got to see and do so much. We went through Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak pass, Scarborough to Cape Point, and the Cape of Good Hope. We also went to Boulders Beach to see the penguin colony and to Kalk Bay where we had lunch at the Harbour House restaurant. The view and food were lovely although they do cram the people in there. We finished our day at the V&A Waterfront which was nice for a short visit but shopping really isn’t our thing so we felt no need to go back. Most of the nicer hotels in Cape Town are in the waterfront area but we were fine with not being in this area as I’m not quite sure what more we would have wanted to do there. (Radisson Blu Vendome)

Day 13: This was a 6 hour tour of Cape Town from a food perspective (again with Cape Fusion Tours and Ryan). We went to 8 or 9 restaurants along the way. Suffice it to say that we were stuffed by the end. And it was A LOT of walking but I was so proud of how the kids handled it. There was some complaining but they did great. We stopped frequently so that was helpful. And the food was amazing. It was a great way to see all the city has to offer. I really like Cape Town. Sadly, we never made it to Table Mountain. The wait times were long at the end of the tour and we didn’t feel like the kids had that in them. So, we chose to spend the evening back at the pool and early to bed since we were headed home the next day. (Radisson Blu Vendome)

Day 14: Time to return home. Our flight departed Cape Town mid-afternoon and we journeyed through Johannesburg and Doha before arriving back on Day 15 in the middle of the afternoon. We got to our house at dinner time so it was a quick bite to eat and then off to bed. We were tired but full of wonderful memories from an amazing trip. I will definitely be back to South Africa again.

This was probably my favorite vacation yet. I seem to have a habit of saying that, but this was truly spectacular for both kids and adults. I think it’s going to be hard to top. If you want to see more from our stay, don’t forget to follow Our Frugal Life on Facebook or Instagram! Stay tuned for a review of our South African accommodations!

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