The Garden Route has become a hive of activity in recent years. This article on Top 10 things to do with children on the Garden Route is not designed to be an exhaustive list for families but rather a collection of our favourite activities, walks, beaches & fun adventures that have appealed most to my family as well as most of our clients with children over the years. Some of the activities may be best suited to older children. (This minimum age was correct at the time of writing this article. However please ring to double check age restrictions to avoid disappointment.)
1) Treetop Canopy Tours, Storms River Village
(Suitable for older children over 7 years)
The Tsitsikamma Treetop Canopy tour is ideal for families with older children (though they allow children from 7 years and upwards). Enjoy the unequalled beauty of the indigenous Tsitsikamma forest from high up on ten treetop platforms. Gently glide along in a harness on steel cables 30 metres above the forest floor from one platform to another. Birdlife is abundant (including the Knysna Loerie and elusive Narina Trogan) and your guides will explain the ecology of the lush primeval forest. Safety is paramount and the system has been built to the highest civil engineering standards. I did this adventure tour with my 7 year old and 12 year old. My 7 year old was a little scared at first and so he did it in tandem with the guide on the first few zip lines, before plucking up courage to do it on his own later on. It is very safe but certainly not for the faint-hearted. The tour takes approx 3½ hours including a snack at the end. Booking is essential on 042 281 1836 or www.stormsriver.com
Storms River Village in on the N2 highway about 45mins drive from Plettenberg Bay in the direction of Port Elizabeth.
2) Tsitsikamma Suspension Bridge, Tsitsikamma National Park
(Suitable for all ages, ideally 4 or 5 years)
This popular trail in the Tsitsikamma National Park has been completely rebuilt recently. From the information centre you take the boardwalk through the dry coastal forest leading to the mouth of Storms River. Bounded by sheer cliffs, the river mouth is crossed by a dramatic suspension bridge across the river as well as two new suspension bridges built in 2009. The route is 1km in each direction but it does have quite a few steps. So young children either need to be very young to go in a backpack or old enough to manage it on their own without needing to be carried half way through! Allow 40-60 minutes depending on how many photos you want to take! There’s a nice restaurant for lunch here.
Extension to Lookout Point:
A short but very steep climb on the other side of the river takes you up to a point on the bluff where you are rewarded with fine views of the river mouth and over the coastline.
(Allow an extra 45 minutes)
Turn off the N2 at the sign for the Tsitsikamma National Coastal Park which is approx 40 mins drive from Plettenberg Bay in the direction of Port Elizabeth. Another 5 mins will bring you to the rest camp info centre and the start of the walk.
3) Monkeyland, Birds of Eden & Jukani, near Plettenberg Bay
(Suitable for all ages)
Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary www.monkeyland.co.za (The Crags, near Plettenberg Bay) The world’s first free-roaming multi-specie primate sanctuary. It offers tours (monkey safaris) where guests can view the 500+ resident primates in their forest home, there is also a restaurant, souvenir store and viewing deck, and a 128 metre suspended canopy walk. Monkeyland’s safari guides are multi-lingual, languages spoken include German, Dutch, French and Spanish. Monkeyland is the only Fairtrade accredited primate sanctuary in South Africa.
• Birds of Eden www.birdsofeden.co.za (next to Monkeyland) The world’s largest free-flight bird aviary (50 metres high, covering 23 000 square meters of forest). Birds of Eden houses more than 3,500 specimens of more than 280 species, with the main focus being African birds. The dome covers 2 km of boardwalks, an amphitheatre (maximum audience: 200), a restaurant, several ponds and dams and a souvenir store. Visits to Birds of Eden are usually self-guided, however guided walks are offered on request. Birds of Eden is the only Fairtrade accredited bird sanctuary in South Africa.
• Jukani Wildlife Sanctaury www.jukani.co.za (purchased by Monkeyland and Birds of Eden and relocated to Plettenberg Bay August 2013). Jukani is home to big cats such as lions (white and tawny), cheetahs, tigers (Siberian, Bengal and white), leopard (spotted and black), jaguar, pumas, caracal, serval cats and other wildlife species such as zebra, springbuck, zorilla, honey badger and various snake species.
4) The Elephant Sanctuary, near Plettenberg Bay
(Suitable for five years upwards)
The Elephant Sanctuary is also close to Monkeyland. A variety of tours teach you about the elephants, as well as opportunities to walk with the elephants in the forest, brush down the elephants and even take an elephant ride. This is fascinating as it’s a very hands-on experience. I have said suitable for five years but only older kids can ride on an elephant. It is certainly open to everyone. Booking is essential on 044 534 8145 or www.elephantsanctuary.co.za. We can also pre-book this tour for you at no extra cost a email@example.com.
From Plettenberg Bay, travel 16 km east on the N2 and take the signpost for Kurland Village (just before the Natures Valley turnoff). Follow the signs to the Elephant Sanctuary
5) The Tenikwa Wildlife Awereness Centre
(Suitable for all ages)
The Tenikwa Wildlife Awareness Centre gives children an opportunity to see many different African wild cats in a natural environment and their tours help to fund their rehabilitation centre. You can interact with cheetahs as well as seldom-seen smaller wild cats and learn about their struggle for survival in the wild. There is a one hour guided tour every half hour from 9am to 4.30pm. You can also join the Tenikwa cheetahs on their daily walks through the indigenous forest and fynbos. This is offered at 7.30am and 3.30pm and is combined with the one hour tour (3 hours total length). Booking is essential for the sunrise and sunset cheetah walk on 044 534 8170 or www.tenikwa.com, but not necessary for the guided tour.
From Plettenberg Bay, travel 16 km east on the N2 and take the signpost for Kurland Village (just before the Natures Valley turnoff). Follow the signs to the Tenikwa.
6) Ocean Safari’s, Plettenberg Bay
(Suitable for all ages – preferably over 6 years)
Ocean Blue Adventures offers close and personal awe-inspiring encounters with the fascinating majestic whales in the bay (in season from July to November with peak season being August to October). It is the original South African company to conduct conservation-orientated boat based whale-watching and dolphin marine eco-tours. Their close encounter permit allows you to experience wild marine mammal viewing. As well as whale and dolphin-watching, you experience the many other wonders of the bay: pelagic birds, seals, sharks, history, geology and lots more.
The boat cruise lasts approx 2 hours and you can choose between an eco marine tour (where boats must stay at least 300 metres from the whales) and a close encounter tour (where the boats are allowed to come within 50 metres of the whales.) The cruise circles Plettenberg Bay and around to Robberg Nature Reserve. Dolphins and seals are also often spotted on these trips.
Departures vary according to season so it’s vital to book beforehand on 044 533 5083 or 083 7013583 or www.oceanadventures.co.za
7) Cango Ostrich Farm, Oudtshoorn
(Suitable for all ages)
The Cango Ostrich, north of Oudtshoorn, is one of the smaller and more personal farms. Tours only take 45 minutes to 1 hour but you don’t see the handlers racing on the ostriches (not a big deal in my opinion). My older children both tried their hand at riding an ostrich which made for some very entertaining photos! The Cango Ostrich farm is on the R328 heading towards the Cango Caves. Tours start every 15-30 minutes and the last tour is at 4.30pm.
8) Cango Wildlife Ranch, Oudtshoorn
(Suitable for all ages)
Cango Wildlife Ranch, is the oldest and largest cheetah contact centre worldwide where you can see and feel a huge variety of animals including Africa’s spotted king, the cheetah. From the slithering snake to the majestic lion, you will find all you want here. It is is home to a variety of cats such as lion and jaguar. The thrill of Valley of Ancients and Natural Encounters add a thrill element to learning about crocodiles and making the Cango Wildlife Ranch one of the most interactive, exciting tourist attractions worldwide.
Valley of Ancients
Join us on a journey back in time, to a wild place, a place where you will follow the footsteps of ancient explorers. Valley of Ancients promises to be so much more than you expect.
The Valley was developed with only one thing in mind – to entertain you, the visitor, and is a thrilling experience for the whole family.
Valley of Ancients includes all of the following:
• A tropical house with giant fruit bats, shy duiker, birds of paradise and a breathtaking underwater viewing section where rainbow-colored fish will dazzle you;
• A Malawian forest exhibit filled with Red River hogs and giant monitor lizards;
• A Vulture exhibit with endangered Cape vultures;
• Lemur island where you can glimpse the rare Madagascar ring-tailed lemurs and pink flamingos;
• The only Croc Cage Diving pool in the world;
• Pygmy Hippo Village where Herbert and Hilda will keep you company;
• Otter Waterfall with our two spotted-necked otters frolicking in the water;
• Marabou stork exhibit where you can look these large birds in the eye.
The ever-popular Cheetahland includes the following:
• Our white lions, Tribe and Sindile are rare, blond and beautiful;
• The cheetah enclosures where our hand-reared cheetah will steal your heart;
• Bitten, our magnificent jaguar;
• Charlie the lion and his ladies;
• Our white Bengal tigers
• An interactive lorikeet aviary where you are able to walk amongst these colorful, inquisitive birds;
• The Wallaby Walkabout granting you access to little wallabies hopping around just waiting for you to feed them;
• Grunts Restaurant – our all new forest themed fast food restaurant with its large deck;
• Nyami Nyami Curios ;
• Dinkum Tucker where you are able to get some refreshments before, after or during your tour
• Jumping castle, water park, sandpits
• Jungle Jims where you can set your children free to play in our tiny tots area specially designed with your toddlers’ safety in mind or
• The splash zone for your older children wanting a little more excitement.
Make friends with our friendly Goats, bunnies, chickens and pigs. With names like Dinkum Tucker, Kuranda Forrest and Zimbakwe Ruins you can only imagine the wonder world of interactive adventure that awaits you on your visit.
The Cango Wildlife Ranch is open every day of the year including Christmas and New Years day.
08:00 – 16:30 (Out of season)
08:00 – 17:00 (In season)
Tel: +27 (0) 44 272-5593
9) Wilgewandel, Oudtshoorn
(Suitable for all ages)
My family likes to stop here for something to eat, as it’s only 2km from the Cango Caves, and there’s a lot on offer for children. These include camel rides (not very exciting but good for adventurous younger children), a ‘foefie’ slide which is a 100 metre zip line ride across their farm dam, farm animals to feed and touch (rabbits, pigs, goats, ostriches and sheep), bumper boats on the dam (this is always a big hit with kids) and trampolines. The latest activity is an obstacle course which is guaranteed to work up a slight sweat and make you wish you’d spent more time in the gym as you race after your kids. Not for the faint hearted but great fun.
Telephone 044 272 0878 or www.wilgewandel.co.za.
10) Cango Caves Adventure Tour, Oudtshoorn
(Suitable for all ages over 6 years)
The Cango Caves in the Little Karoo are some of the largest limestone caverns in the world and are still only partially explored. We much prefer the Adventure Tour to the more ‘touristy’ standard route. This tour takes longer – 1½ hours and includes the highlights of the main This is suitable for older children (youngest age is 6 years) and people who are not claustrophobic, quite fit and not very overweight. You squeeze through little passages, crouch down a lot and right at the end there is an optional clambering section which leads to the famous ‘post box’ where you lie flat on the rock and post yourself through a narrow slit. I would say that this is a half way house between a standard walking tour and caving. My family love it! My youngest son did it when he was six and was a little timid at first but got into it. Only go with young children if they are adventurous types and NOT claustrophobic. Telephone: 044 272 7410 or www.cango-caves.co.za
For more information or to book a tour contact firstname.lastname@example.org