In April we decided to fly up to Kruger with the children for five nights, during their mid-April school holidays. This would be a first visit to Kruger for the kids, and they were very excited at the prospect of taking a short flight to go and see lots and lots and lots of wild animals!
Being in the travel business, my husband and I travel easily, pack lightly, move quickly when necessary, and remain as flexible as possible. None of these things can be said of our children, unfortunately, so I was a bit wary prior to the trip. They are, after all, still young for long arduous trips (five and three) but they are enthusiastic and definitely Up For Adventure! Once the idea was mentioned to them, there was no going back…
Getting to Kruger was easy. The quick flight to Nelspruit and smooth drive in the rental car were pleasant. The countryside in this part of South Africa is lush, green, scenic, and very different from the Cape (which at this time of the year is particularly dry by comparison). After driving through the Kruger gates, we began our search for wildlife, and because my older son is obsessed with numbers, we found ourselves counting and recording each and every species we came across! This actually became quite a lot of fun as we made note of everything from elephants, zebras, giraffes, and warthogs to bats, butterflies, wasps and lizards. No bird, mammal, reptile or bug was spared from our list! We stopped counting impalas after seeing at least 700, but the most fascinating was the dead one we found under a thicket, caught by the leopard we were trying to spot! The children were transfixed; amazed by nature at its most brutal.
Our drives through Kruger were long and slow, but our kids hung in there, rarely getting impatient or bored. Plenty of snacks and pee breaks were planned, and we were pleasantly surprised at how they not only coped, but enjoyed the ride. Our first night was spent in Skukuza, a basic but fun camp. Our second and third nights were spent at Timbavati, a three-star lodge just outside of Kruger. While there, the kids enjoyed a relaxed atmosphere where they could run around, swim, play games and have virgin cocktails at the bar for the very first time!
Our last two nights were spent at Kapama River Lodge, a beautiful five-star lodge that really shows an eye for African detail. The setting is perfect, with plenty of space, an incredible spa, lovely dining facilities with excellent food, and ample size rooms with comfy beds. Here we had our own game ranger, who went out of his way to find as much game as possible, who showed great respect for the natural environment and an obvious love and interest in all of the animals we spotted. Our game drives were early and late in the day, so sweaters and long pants were necessary, but the kids didn’t make one complaint! One of our favourite moments at Kapama was watching a vervet monkey waiting near our breakfast table for the remains of my son’s apple. Clearly, this happens all the time, but the kids got a real kick out of it.
All in all, it was a great trip. I can highly recommend this for families with children even as young as ours. The enjoyment of a new experience and the opportunity to learn so much about Africa was wonderful for all of us.