Driving with your family among the wild animals: Very exciting, but it’s also a big kick, says Miranda, 39, who went to South Africa with her husband Arjan (44), daughter Maude (8) and son Cass (4.5).
“We went to South Africa together about nine years ago. The country made a huge impression on me because it’s so diverse in terms of landscapes and the people are so nice. So we thought: We have to do this again. We’re four people now, but it still seems like a good plan.” .
Of course we couldn’t do a wine tour on a mountain bike, but going on a safari with the kids looked so much fun. Because seeing wild animals in their environment is very special. In this vast tranquility of such a national park, with little or no people but nature.
“Seeing wild animals in their environment is very special, with little to no people and just nature.”
We decided to equip the kids with ranger and wildlife videos. We also explained that there is no supermarket in a nature park; So animals must eat other animals. Fortunately they didn’t mind. I saw that Maud could fantasize about our trip, for Cass it was all a bit unreal. When we left Johannesburg in the rental car after our flight, he immediately asked on the highway: “Where are those lions then?”
Our holiday home is situated on the Zandspruit Estate, a nature reserve which is home to many holiday homes. It was a pool villa, great place that we used as a base for our travels. After half an hour’s drive, we were already at two entrances to Kruger Park: Urpen Gate and Phalaborwa Gate. They opened at six in the morning, and then we were already there: the animals are often most active at that time.
I felt tension in my body; What will we see today? “
At that moment before the gate, I already had tension in my body. What will we see today? We drove in our rental car. We were all fixated on ourselves and stopped a hundred times. Is there something moving there? Stop by again, peer and wait till we see something. Suddenly an elephant appeared. Or even a whole flock ten meters away from you. Once we had to step aside from them. Then you notice: we’re visiting, and this is really their environment. This is a very special feeling.
“We had to step down for the elephants; after all, we are visiting.”
During such a day at Kruger Park we always gave enough variety to the kids. After all, you spend a lot of time in the car. In the park itself there are campgrounds where you can have lunch, refuel and camp. There we took long breaks to eat or get ice cream so the kids could play for a while.
However, they have always enjoyed driving. There is a lot to see. of animals, but the landscape is also very diverse. Then it was flat, then dense or just a watery surface. We often took side roads or gentle forest trails which made it more exciting too. And if they get tired of it, they can always color in the car, on the tablet, or play with the toys.
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The location of our holiday home was perfect, because from there we could also cover parts of the Panorama Route, which ran over all kinds of highlights and beautiful natural sites. We passed valleys, waterfalls, and viewpoints.
A highlight was God’s Window, where you had a beautiful view of mountain peaks and a valley, and where you had to pass through a rainforest. Perfect for kids who saw the scene too quickly and preferred splashing on the rocks.
“We enjoyed a beautiful view and we also had a nice bathroom”
One of the most beautiful places I found was Bourke’s Luck Potholes, where two rivers meet and you can see cylindrical pools, formed by erosion. We also enjoyed a beautiful view there, but we also had a nice bathroom.
We always went with our rental car, and twice took a trip with a ranger. We did it in an open safari vehicle. We left at once at five in the morning, exciting, still in the dark. The second time we went on an evening cruise which started at 4pm.
Our guide heard through his walkie-talkie that a group of lionesses had been spotted. And indeed: after a short drive, there they were, ten meters from us, six of them. In the background we could hear hyenas screaming and a lion making noises. There was a fight. And even though the car was open, I felt safe. After all, our ranger knew what he was doing, and he knows the animals. Yet I also felt unwisely nervous. They are wild animals.
“We heard hyenas screaming and a lion making noise.”
Just when the guard was about to move on to the next point, all the lionesses settled around our car. They were very accommodating, and didn’t seem to be bothered by us. The children were silent, completely moved. It was one of the most amazing experiences out there. I felt proud that I was able to show this to my children.
Compared to our previous holiday in South Africa, I now experienced a different kind of stress, because I also wanted to protect my children. But there was also another kind of happiness. Because the four of us were allowed to experience this.”
in the valley
Along the Panorama Route, you’ll find many of South Africa’s most iconic landmarks. The Graskop Gorge lift was impressive: with the ‘view lift’ you descend along the canyon, where you can follow walking routes over bridges into the woods. You can also jump into the water from a great height.
The game has started
We booked our game drives through Homes of Africa. Josh Peyton was our ranger, a fun and easygoing guy.
We also caught a glimpse of Jessica the Hippo, a hippopotamus who once washed up on people’s porch during a flood. Since then, Jessica has been living voluntarily in a river that flows through Hoedspruit.
Lots of unpleasant
The luxury villa with swimming pool is located in a 1,000-hectare game reserve: giraffes, wildebeests, warthogs and zebras roamed our backyard. Really beautiful place and perfect as a base for the Panorama Route and Kruger Park.
From our house it was a little more difficult to reach the southernmost point of Kruger Park. That’s why we moved to Hazyview for two days. Not a very special place, but it was on a river with alligators.
Harrie’s Pancakes in Dullstroom is a very nice location. The village was worth it, too.
Eat and play
You can enjoy good food at The Hat & Creek in Hoedspruit, and there is a great children’s playground right on the terrace.
There is a relaxed atmosphere at Maroela Bar in Hoedspruit. There is also a playground on the terrace and you can eat delicious pizza.
Also in Hoedspruit: The Farm House, a quietly located restaurant with a wide range of vegetarian and gluten-free options. There is also a small delicatessen shop.
This article appears in Kek Mama 11-2022.
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