From the Western Cape all the way up to Gauteng, we look at some of the best national parks to take your little one.
The park is serious about educating its younger visitors. Ask for Along the river at reception, it’s part of a series of books that encourages kids to see their environment through different eyes. During school holidays the park offers an educational holiday programme for kids, including interpretive walks and the opportunity to learn about reptiles and spiders, or even more about the traditional way of life of the San and Khoi-Khoi people who inhabited the area before the park was established. If this is too much hustle and bustle, the picnic spot at Die Stroom also boasts a jungle gym, braai facilities and seating under a massive tree.
Quaint Swellendam is a five minute drive away allowing speedy access to a quick shopping spree or a lazy lunch in one of the myriad of cosy restaurants. For more info, call 028 514 2735 or visit Sanparks.org/parks/bontebok/
2. Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park
The Kgalagadi, rather surprisingly if you look at the rugged landscape, offers something for the entire family. Kids under 12 aren’t allowed at any of the wilderness camps, but Twee Rivieren, the rest camp closest to the Twee Rivieren gate on the banks of the dry Nossob River, is easily accessible with a sedan vehicle and makes a great option for the family. Pick up the kids’ activities book at reception and consider doing the family night-drive. You have the game-drive vehicle to yourself, so you can turn back earlier if the kids get restless. Or walk the marked trail within the camp with your kids (no guide needed here!) and follow it up with a dip in the pool. For more info, call 054 561 2000 or visit Sanparks.org/parks/kgalagadi/
3. Addo Elephant National Park
This park offers a hop-on guide to join your family in your car (children must be older than 6 year to join the game drives), while guided horse trails are offered in the Zuurberg Mountains for kids over 10. The Ulwazi Interpretive centre is a treasure trove of information with interactive displays for young and old. Try the elephant whisper dishes, geology puzzle and fossil dig. For more info, call 042 233 8600 or visit Sanparks.org/parks/addo/
4. Golden Gate National Park
Drives around this park are easy going, and there are interesting walks accessible for adventurers of all shapes and sizes. Up the excitement with a pony ride for the little ones or, if you have slightly older kids in the group, give abseiling a go. The Golden Gate Hotel chef is passionate about making even the smallest guest feel at home. Talk to him for something for the kids when dining in the restaurant. Bustling Clarence is just about 20 kilometres down the road for further exploring, and is a must-see for first time visitors to the area. For more info, call 058 255 1000 or visit Sanparks.org/parks/golden_gate
5. Garden Route National Park
This park is literally filled to the brim with things for kids to do. At the Wilderness section the park offers a jungle gym and slide, swings, basket and volley ball, a pool, table tennis and swimming at Wilderness Beach. At Tsitsikamma there are nature walks to geology rocks and the fynbos reserve, kiddies’ forest adventures, the nature’s valley children’s camp for kids aged four to 13 and the Nature’s Valley Treasure Hut. At Knysna, kids can explore the Forest Legends Museum in Diepwalle and visit the Ellie Skellie or spend the morning with a real SANParks Ranger (Forest, Marine, Fynbos and Rivers).
Call the Wilderness section on 044 877 0046, the Knysna Lakes section on 044 302 5600, the Tsitsikamma section on 042 281 1607 and the Nature’s Valley section on 044 531 6700 or, visit Sanparks.org/parks/garden_route/