It’s Friday – what are you going to do this weekend? For family fun for the whole gang, simply grab your Wild Card and hit the road. By Magriet Kruger
Goukamma Nature Reserve, near Knysna
Want to feel like intrepid explorers? A canoe trip along the meandering Goukamma River to the estuary mouth is the chance to make your own discoveries. Seated in stable canoes, you will paddle past dense indigenous forest where grysbok and bushpig snuffle among the leaves. The river is patrolled by African fish eagles and among the reeds you can spot malachite, giant and pied kingfishers. Challenge the kids to see how many different species they can find. On a fine day everyone will abandon ‘ship’ for the warm water of the estuary. After a relaxing swim and snacks on the riverbank, it’s time to paddle back. Paddles and life jackets provided. Children must be accompanied by adults.
Contact: +27 (0)44 383 0042 or www.capenature.co.za
Albert Falls Dam, near Pietermaritzburg
With lush green lawns right on the water’s edge, Albert Falls is the perfect place for a picnic. Thanks to the setting, this very English pastime gets an African spin: thorn trees provide shade from the sun, braai stands cater for meat lovers and zebras, not sheep, graze nearby. It’s a relaxed spot and the picnic area is spacious, so kids are free to run around after a soccer ball or Frisbee. Dad will also want to bring his toys: Albert Falls is famous for being one of the world’s best bass fishing dams (get your permit at the gate). If angling’s not your thing, just gazing at the shimmering water is a sure way to relax.
Contact: +27 (0)33 569 1202 or www.msinsi.co.za
Tweede Tol in Limietberg Nature Reserve, near Wellington
Forget about fancy resort pools; the large rock pool in the Witte River is the stuff of kids’ dreams. The water is silky soft and clear enough to see all sorts of aquatic creatures darting around. Kids will love clambering over the boulders and jumping from them into the water. Day visitors are allowed in on a first-come first-served basis, so best get there early. Better yet, pack your tent and stay over at Tweede Tol. From the campsite it’s a short walk to a water wonderland where a series of little waterfalls cascade into a rock pool. The jump from the top of the cliff into the pool is about five metres and is a rite of passage for older offspring.
Contact: +27 (0)23 355 1607
Bookings: www.capenature.co.za or +27 (0)21 483 0190
Vernon Crookes Nature Reserve, near Scottburgh
Even pre-school outdoor adventurers can tackle a hike in this pretty reserve of indigenous forest and grassland. There are four trails: the shortest an easy 1km stroll, the longest a 4km walk. On your stroll you might encounter inquisitive zebra and if you’re lucky the much shyer reedbuck and oribi. In spring and early summer, the veld is abuzz with ladybugs, butterflies and bees drawn to the wildflowers. Kids will be tickled to learn that Vernon Crookes is home to the world’s largest earthworm, Microchaetus vernoni, which grows up to 2,6 metres long – it’s about as thick as your finger.
Contact: +27 (0)39 974 2222 or www.kznwildlife.com
Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary, near Mbabane, Swaziland
Kids will love the laid-back atmosphere and close game encounters of this Swazi park. Warthog families have the run of the rest camp and from the restaurant deck you can watch hippos wallowing in the waterhole. Of course, on a mountain bike you can see so much more of the area and its animals. There are several trails that criss-cross the veld, taking riders from open grasslands to lush forest. The single-track is mostly soft earth and the climbs tend to be gentle, just right for eager young cyclists. Mlilwane is the setting for the Imvelo MTB Classic race, so the local zebra, nyala and blesbok are quite accustomed to seeing people cycle past. Guided mountain bike trails available. Bikes can be hired at reception.
Contact: +268 2528 3943 or www.biggameparks.org