One very cool side-effect of being African?
You get invited to African weddings!
And this year we spent a week on the wild coast of Transkei attending one of the most epic family weddings ever.
The entire family pitched in. All 25 of us were involved in setting up tables and chairs, cooking and hanging hearts and fairy lights from the coastal forest trees. Our girls spent the week running barefoot between the chalets and popping into the kitchen regularly for a little sustenance.
The experience was nothing less than magical.
It was going to be difficult to follow this with anything but my husband flew in and we were off on a Safari to the Eastern Cape of South Africa.
As this area is one of the only places on earth where you can enjoy a full wildlife experience and don’t have to worry about malaria all the lodges are ideal for small children. If you know where to go around here your entire family will be really beautifully catered for.
We went to three properties for our post-wedding Safari. This is what we found:
Our first stop was this private game reserve offering the Big Five Experience. Shamwari offers several different lodges. There is a more tranquil experience, a traditional tented camp and a lodge that has the family as its focus. We stayed at Long Lee Manor and it proved a brilliant choice for a Family Safari.
The reserve is large and the food was delicious. Our guide introduced us with great flair to the Big 5.
During summer they operate an explorer camp for those interested in walking Safaris and getting a little closer to the intricacies of the bush. All the little details that can quietly elevate every Safari into a cascade of memories.
Kariega, and Settlers Drift
This part of our Safari started with a 20-minute boat ride into the lodge. Sitting on a cliff side, the setting is spectacular with floor to ceiling glass windows inviting the incredible wilderness to truly be a part of your stay the entire time you are there.
You will get very, very close to elephants here. As the roads narrow the bottleneck of car and elephants is a regular occurrence and we had one literally scratching the side of the car as it passed.
Fun family activities include taking a barge down the river or boarding a boat for a day voyage on the ocean.
This lodge is very hilly and the wildlife gets extremely close. This might not be the best choice if you are traveling to the bush with your family for the first time or you have very young kids.
Addo Elephant Park and Gorah Elephant Camp
The camp itself is lovely and the food was the best on our trip (the candlelit dinners served in the delightful homestead every night was a highlight), but I found staying on road for game drives really tough. Here, we saw a lion hunting a buffalo in the ‘distance’ and lots of elephants inside the park.
I also found the game drives to be very short and I will not lie, the long periods in-between game drives, keeping two small children otherwise occupied was tough. Adding to our misery was the fact that the pool was surrounded by bees rendering it out of bounds.
As our Safari came to a close my mind was very much back to work and all the challenges and joys 2018 would hold. I did not know then that my dear Dad would have a very big health scare in the summer… And after that, more than ever, I would work very hard on holding on to every family moment. On taking time to enjoy just being in the moment with my girls who are growing up so very fast.
Even the moments where you feel like you might all go a little stir crazy in a lodge room, waiting for the next game drive to start, watching the monkeys outside as they watch you inside!
As Michael J. Fox said: Family isn’t an important thing. It is everything.