Booking a family holiday is always fraught with challenges. We want to create great memories and have some amazing experiences but equally some chill out time. We want good weather, but for it not to be so hot that the children will be complaining about the heat every time we get set to go out. There is nothing worse than thinking – “We would have been better off with 2 weeks by the pool” – once you have made the decision for soft family adventure!
So – once I had sold my husband into the budget, Daisy (aged 11 yrs) into zip lining and a spa experience and Hayden (aged 7 yrs) into anything and everything with the word “adventure” in it – the decision was made. The England Family were off on their first family adventure to South Africa, and more specifically KwaZulu-Natal.
The excitement was building. Bags were packed. We were bound for Heathrow and our Turkish Airlines flight via Istanbul to Durban. Another great flight with Turkish. Only 1 and a half hours stopover in Istanbul and then onwards for our non-stop flight to Durban. Very easy and very do-able with children. Back to back films on a fab entertainment system kept them amused and as parents, we were very relaxed.
Arriving into Durban’s winter sunshine, we picked up our car and headed off for our first destination, Fordoun Hotel & Spa in The Midlands. Now, as the heading advises, this blog is purely the highlights. Over the coming editions of Snippets I will tell you more about each of our adventures!
Fordoun gave us the chance to settle into South Africa gently. From here we went mountain biking around the farm grounds, swam in the indoor pool, experienced their inaugural family tractor ride and wandered through the Midlands arts and crafts shops. The highlight however was The Karkloof zip-lining and our visit to the Mandela Capture Site – a mind blowing day!
Onwards and literally upwards as our next stop took us to Cathedral Peak Hotel, right in the Drakensberg Mountains. Here we spotted our first bit of wildlife – baboons and bushbuck – the excitement was contagious! Everything had to be tried, whether it was the trampoline, climbing wall, lawn bowls, or mini golf – you name it – we tried it! We did leave a little time to chill by the pool, but only in preparation for the highlight of our stay – our short mountain walk to Belinda Falls. Well, maybe I should say short walk to, over and through the falls. Try stopping Hayden from climbing if there is the opportunity!
Waving good-bye to Cathedral Peak and we were set for our longest journey of the holiday – 5 hours to Pakamisa. Now here we would be jam packed with activities and in hindsight should have stayed at least a day longer. We tried our hand at archery and rifle shooting, which to our surprise we were all rather good at! We went on a game drive to spot plains game and of course Daisy and I spent some time relaxing by the pool! The highlights here were without a doubt the bush walk to track giraffe (and we found them) and the horseback safari. It is an incredible feeling to be part of the wildlife, getting up close to warthog, zebra and giraffe.
With the temperatures rising we leave Pakamisa and start to head across the province and closer to the East coast. We have based ourselves for a few days at Ghost Mountain Inn to enable us to enjoy both the hotel grounds and the wealth of activities. Once again it was key to explore the property taking in the pontoon at the end of the lake walkway, the Zulu Huts, playpark, very climbable trees and the pool. Relaxing this time came in the form of a sun-lounger or a hanging chair. Every day we would head out for a different activity – a cultural tour to a homestead, a boat cruise on Lake Jozini, a game drive in Mkuze, or the highlight of our stay here – a game drive in Hluhluwe to see numerous rhino.
We are nearing the end of our adventure in KwaZulu-Natal. Leaving Ghost Mountain Inn bright and early we head for Richard’s Bay for the most incredible Whale Watching boat trip. This really had to be the collective number one experience. Back on shore and we carry further on down the coast to Salt Rock. Here we spend our final 3 nights at Canelands, where we chill by the pool, swim in the rock pools, walk along the beach, head out to uShaka and of course – take in a little bit of retail therapy in Gateway Shopping Centre.
So, with our memories, photos, and shopping, we head for the airport. This time we are heading back on Emirates via Dubai to Gatwick airport. Again, another easy and enjoyable journey.
And so concludes the England’s first family adventure to Africa and I can confidently say not their last. A family holiday should be just that – time spent as a family – and this was the ultimate highlight of this holiday – time spent together.