Today sees the start of a new blog series called Family Holidays. Previously I’ve shared all our previous family holidays but never had a separate series for them. Up until now they’ve either been stand alone series like Karoo for Kids or Kruger for Kids or they have fallen into my Weekend Wanderings but our latest family holiday down Route 62 and the Garden Route didn’t quite fit into any of these, hence the addition of this new series…
I am so excited about it. I hope you will be too. There are so many fantastic Family Holiday options in South Africa and I look forward to adding more reviews and things to do under this category soon.
During the July school holidays we hit the highway for a classic family roadtrip… and our trip would take us through some of our favourite areas of South Africa. Over the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some highlights of our family holiday so come back soon to see what we got up too…
But let’s start with our 2 days at Gondwana Game Reserve just outside Mossel Bay on the Garden Route. We arrived via the quiet back roads to Gondwana and passed through the most incredible mountain pass with beautiful views and hillsides of proteas in full blooms.
After arriving at the main reception area to check in, we were blown away when we discovered our room would in fact be a 3 bedroomed family suite. With billowing mosquito nets, a large living area, en-suite bathrooms, a self-catering kitchen and views over the valley from every window, this was a 5-star treat we weren’t expecting but we were quite ok with that! We all raced from room to room, Abi collecting the pretty flowers on each pillow along the way, to decide who would be sleeping where and then proceeded to unpack our bags and soak in the serenity of our “home” for a few minutes before heading back to the main lodge for high tea at 3:30!
At just after 3 our ranger, Ewart, came to collect us in the 4×4 safari vehicle to take us back up to the main lodge area for high tea.
This is the perfect opportunity to refuel before heading out for the evening safari drive and what was great was that Gondwana had prepared a table of treats for the kids… well, they were actually creating their own treats by icing biscuits (or mostly just licking off the icing!)
While the kids go acquainted the adults could too and we met a few other families enjoying the school holidays at Gondwana too, even bumping into some familiar faces, this being such a popular family-friendly safari destination close to Cape Town!
Did someone say icing?? This photo of Abi is a classic!
Anyway after filling our bellies, it was time to head out on our first game drive at Gondwana. This being the middle of winter it was decidedly “crisp” aka abso-freakin-lutely freezing… but we were determined to get some great game viewing in despite the icy temperatures.
Our first sighting, as in most game drives, was impala… and then things ramped up rapidly with a visit to a nearby waterhole… home of the hippos! This private pair kept themselves rather discreetly hidden beneath the water level but we were treated to a few twitching ears, grunts and even a yawn. Unfortunately they weren’t budging out of their evening bath, although my lucky kids managed to see one on foot on another game drive later during our stay!
Then things got REALLY exciting. Someone spotted the black-maned male lion walking across the “veld”. Initially just a small moving spot on the horizon, we raced over bushes, around tree stumps and through muddy puddles to try and catch up to him. All the while trying to work out which direction he was heading so we could get ahead of him!
Finally, we got within meters of the glorious beast and then slowly inched our vehicle a little closer until there he was… right in front of us… the king of the beasts! And what a sight he was. We all silently slid into the middle of the seat we were sitting on, you know, just in case!
He was slowly smelling the air to see if he could catch of whiff of his mate and their cubs and held his head aloft, his mane was bathed in the beautiful light of the sinking sun. Not disturbed by our arrival in the slightest, he sat down on the edge of the road and posed for some more photos, quite politely giving me his best angle. And then when he’d had quite enough, he rose with a quiet power and sauntered off down the road… It felt like we’d been watching him for hours but had probably only been 10 minutes. It was an incredible experience and one that will stay with me for a very long time. Not everyone gets to enjoy such a sighting within the first few minutes of a game drive. Many never get this opportunity at all. I’m one of the lucky ones and I’m so grateful my kids are some of the lucky ones too. Nothing beats a stare down with a wild lion!
As it was time for our traditional safari snacks and sundowners, we were all a little bit nervous hopping out the car to enjoy drinks with a view knowing what we now knew! But nothing beats a drink watching the sun set so we made the effort to fight our fears and just stand a little bit closer to the car than before…
Heading back to the main lodge for hot face cloths, welcome drinks and some story-telling round the fire place, we happened upon one final sighting for the night…. A sweet trio of elephants (or a “memory” of elephants if you must!) Mommy and her toddler and baby all chomping their way through dinner – the cutest looking family at Gondwana for sure!