a VirtualTourist member
I'm so pleased to have found your site. My partner and I are fit 60 year olds who are visiting Durban on 7th January for a month long stay. For the first 2 weeks we will be with his family - son and daughter-in-law in their mid thirties with 4 boys, -10 month old twins, and 3 and 6 year olds. They moved there in July for his son's job. With our help they would like to take the family on a trip to the mountains before the children return to school on the 14th. We'll need a large property where we can self cater, maybe with a safari park nearby.
We want the boys to experience what the country has to offer whilst they are living there.
Also, my partner and I then plan to go off on our own and see more of the area including Zululand and maybe Rourkes Drift
We would also like to drive to Cape Town where he was born and still has family. He left for the UK aged 17 in the apartheid era.
I can see that we have a choice of routes and could maybe do one there and another back. What must see places can we visit en-route?
I'm not sure if we can afford tol visit again and so really want to make the most of this trip.
Firstly welcome to VT - you've certainly hit the ground running with a whole slew of questions!
Let's start with the family accommodation. There's a huge amount of self catering family accommodation available - the challenge is going to be finding something that isn't already booked up for the school holidays. However, is you're looking for the second week in January, things should be starting to quieten down a bit, as the peak season is from early December to just after New Year and most families try to get home a few days before the holidays end so that they can make sure they are organised for the new school year.
The Drakensberg is a huge region - pretty well all of which is easily accessible from Durban - so you need to decide which part you're interested in. Each region has its own character, and I have yet to be disappointed by anywhere that I've been. As a rule of thumb, the Northern and Central 'Berg tends to be busier, as it's more easily accessible from Jo'burg, whereas the Southern 'Berg is considered by Durbanites to be a 'well kept secret'.
Early this January, we stayed with my parents and our kids at the Lake Naverone resort just outside Underberg in the Southern 'Berg, which we found very peaceful and absolutely perfect with lots of things for the kids to do - however, our kids are a bit older than your grandchildren (8 and 5 at the time). There is a nature reserve in nearby Himeville, but this tends to be restricted to buck (antelope) rather than the Big Five - in general, the game parks with 'Big Five' animals (elephant, rhino etc) tend to be in the lower lying areas rather than the mountains.
If you want game parks, then the best idea would be to try and book into one of the Ezemvelo parks (which are provincial parks, rather than national parks, but offer wonderful wildlife). These offer a range of self catering accommodation, but the challenge will be to see what's available at such short notice: kznwildlife.com/index.php?op...
Another option would be to browse the www.safarinow.com website, which lists accommodation of all types (including self catering) and is very user friendly in that it indicates online whether accommodation is already booked up over the period you're searching for.
As a general comment, I would steer clear of northern KZN - including Zululand for the family trip - as it is malarial, and at least three of the kids will be too young to take malaria prophylaxis. These areas are also likely to be uncomfortably hot and humid in January, which can be trying if you're not used to that sort of weather.
Hope this helps to get you started.
OK, so now onto your own bit of the trip.
If you're spending a fortnight with your relatives, then that gives you probably just over two weeks for yourself.
Zululand and the Battlefields are easy to do with a hire car, and as you'll be travelling after peak season, accommodation should be easier to find (and probably cheaper too). I would recommend that you give yourself 3-4 days and consider doing a loop up the North Coast, stopping off at Eshowe, which is a delightful old colonial town that was once the capital of Natal and visiting the iSimangaliso coastal wetlands World Heritage area (what used to be called St Lucia). I would stay in Hluhluwe/uMfolozi game reserve - one of the Ezemvelo parks - which has wonderful wildlife and excellent accommodation in the recentyl revamped Hilltop Camp, and then cut inland. Many of the Battlefields tours originate out of Dundee and from what I hear, this is one case where doing a tour (rather than just visiting by yourself) adds a lot to the experience. I have yet to do this myself as it's just a bit too grown up for the kids, but everyone I've met who's done one of these tours raves about how wonderful they are.
What you do thereafter depends on whether you really want to drive to and from Cape Town. Bearing in mind that you'll probably only have two weeks of your trip left, it's a long drive (over 2000km as a round trip) in mid summer (when the inland route is particularly hot), so you'll have to make a call on whether you want to devote a significant chunk of your time to the journey, or whether you'd like to maximise your time in the Western Cape. It's quite possible to make this into a fantastic road trip, going one way by the inland route and perhaps returning along the Garden Route, but this will cut considerably into your time in Cape Town and the surrounding area.
I would suggest that you allow yourself a week in Cape Town, particularly if you have a family connection: there's so much to see and do in that area, and it's a great base from which to explore the hinterland (for instance the winelands, the peninsula and the West Coast).
Or perhaps you could try and have the best of both options, by driving one way and then flying back to your point of departure? There are good low cost carriers (Kulula and Mango) that service internal routes, and unlike low cost carriers in Europe and the States, the fares include a 20kg hold luggage allowance, so there aren't the sort of hidden charges that you'd need to be wary of with the likes of Ryanair. It would certainly save considerably on time, as well as petrol costs.
Perhaps give this some thought and then let us know so that we can make sure that the advice we offer you best fits your priorities?