I’m very happy to share with you Living at the Tip’s first guest post. Bryan Milne shares his experiences on safari with young children.
There are many upsides to living at the tip of Africa, but it does leave you a rather long way from a typical Safari destination such as the Kruger National Park or the many parks in our northern neighbours. We can’t just pop down to Kruger for the weekend as easily as our Jozi brothers and sisters can; for us to get to the “bush” takes some careful planning to make it worthwhile. BC (Before Children) G and I used to travel whenever we could and one of our favourite breaks was to fly to Joburg, rent a car and drive from there to Mpumalanga. We would stay with family and spend wonderful time with them and in Kruger and surrounds.
The arrival of our sons M1 and then M2 put a solid stop to that. Until recently, that is, when a win of the General Tyres SA #AnyWhereIsPossible competition put us literally back on the road again. This entry was chosen as the winner and we were awarded a lump sum to be used on a holiday – yay for competitions!
So the planning began. We decided that it had to be a bush trip that not only promised great wildlife sightings but that was also kid-friendly (19 month old & 4yr old), is malaria free, wasn’t self-catering, and offered some levels of luxury. A tall order for sure.
Pilanesberg National Park was chosen as the destination due to it being renowned for superb sightings and malaria free; in addition it is only a 2.5hrs drive from Joburg. Not knowing the park or the lodges surrounding it, I reached out to Hailey at Bushscapes who presented us with some great options, and in the end we settled on Kwa Maritane as it seemed to tick all the right boxes and had favourable reviews.
Now that we knew where we were going, how we were going to get there was the next question. As anyone who has attempted it will testify, traveling with young kids can be daunting and a bit of a logistical challenge. I mean how is it possible that two little people seem to require double the amount of stuff that two adults would take, it’s like a luggage multiplication synergy of sorts.
The Flights: After the usual shopping around we settled on flights from Cape Town to Lanseria (JHB) with Kulula.com . Their rates were reasonable, but the real clincher was their baggage allowance with regards kids under 12. Each child can fly with one free checked bag weighing up to 20kg plus a collapsible pushchair and car seat, as well as one piece of hand baggage weighing up to 7kg plus one small personal bag. The car seats especially were a big win as we would then not need to rent them and we could travel knowing that the boys were safe and secure in their own seats.
All in all we received great service from Kulula and we will certainly fly with them again. We will also fly into Lanseria International Airport for any future Pilanesberg trips as the airport is on the western side of Joburg so it saves a fair amount of travel time.
The Car: As we have used them before, I again booked a vehicle through just justCARhire, who act as agents for certain rental companies. As they state on their website, it really is “car hire made easy”. The booking process is simple, the terms are clear and their rates are very competitive. We booked a group C vehicle for 6 days which came with unlimited mileage, which, although common place overseas, is not that common in SA. I will say though it was with a fair bit of trepidation that we noticed it was a Honda AMAZE sitting waiting for us at Tempest Car Hire, but we need not have been concerned. That little car has a huge heart and it lived up to its name as it amazed us with the amount of luggage it swallowed and the ease with which is transported us to Pilanesberg and back.
Kwa Maritane: Where do I start? From the moment we drove up to the entrance it grabbed our hearts and we have been longing to return since. One is made to feel so at home and nothing is too much trouble for team at Kwa – especially those running the restaurant who were so accommodating of the boys’ limited diets. Our booking was DB&B with breakfasts and dinners being a buffet and an a la carte offering from the restaurant for lunch. If things work in your favour, you could sit there enjoying lunch while an elephant drinks from the waterhole which is right next to the restaurant.
The rooms are well-appointed and we had everything we could need, including a camp cot for M2 complete with a little duvet and pillow. On our request they had booked us a ground floor room so we could relax on the stoep enjoying the view over the reserve and keep an eye on the boys as they explored outside.
Each adult had one game drive per day included, so G and I took turns looking after the boys while the other went on a game drive. This worked really well, giving us both some much-needed kid free downtime, and as the lodge is well geared for kids, it was fairly easy for the remaining parent to keep them occupied. We can highly recommend both the game drives and the facilities at Kwa Maritane.
It is worth noting though that, for the colder months, dress WARMLY for the game drives, we both took turns freezing before we learnt the error of our ways.
There is also a game- viewing hide at Kwa, which is accessed via a long tunnel, much to M1’s excitment. We had some great bird viewing there and also spotted an elephant walk past late one night. Cameras at the hide broadcast to the in-room TVs, as well as to this site: http://www.wildearth.tv/cam/kwa-maritane-waterhole-camera
All in all we had a superb trip to Kwa Maritane and we would love to return. The success of the whole holiday has also made us a lot less weary of traveling with kids, so bring on new adventures and holidays to wonderful places.
If you have ventured out on safaris with kids and would like to share the stories with us please do so in the comments below.
Bio: Husband to G, father to M1 & M2, freelance writer & photographer, hooked on big sky and red sand, infrequent traveller who longs for more. Follow me on Twitter @BryanKDM.