When Wild Card member Reshma Deva became a mom, introducing her first-born to South Africa’s wild places was non-negotiable. But how challenging is it to explore nature with a toddler? By Arnold Ras
Little Aarav (meaning peaceful), now one year and two months old, was in awe when his mom, Reshma, and dad, Ameet, took him to several wild places this past December holiday. For their first family adventure the trio had a jam-packed itinerary: Table Mountain National Park, Stony Point Nature Reserve, Addo Elephant National Park and the Garden Route National Park.
“My husband and I love to travel and capture our adventures. With the arrival of Aarav, we did not want that to stop,” says Reshma. “Travelling with a toddler can be challenging, but for us it’s a gift. I was fortunate to be brought up visiting most of South Africa’s national parks, from there my love for nature, wildlife and travelling. South Africa’s parks are unfortunately taken for granted in terms of their natural beauty, good quality and value for money.”
With three weeks to spare and their Wild Card in hand, this family set out to introduce their son to some of South Africa’s most scenic places. “We decided the best gift we can give Aarav is experiences rather than material goods. We wanted to gift him the values of appreciating the small, beautiful things in life. We also felt that we need to bring him up to enjoy and appreciate his country’s natural beauty.”
The toddler-friendly trip
The family flew from Johannesburg to Cape Town, where they explored protected areas around the Cape Peninsula and within a few hours’ drive thereof. From Cape Town they travelled to PE to visit the Big Five park of Addo and the spectacular scenery of the Garden Route.
Aarav’s first beach experience was on the sandy shores adjoining the Boulders Penguin Colony. The protected coves in this section of Table Mountain National Park are ideal for children as the big granite boulders offer protection against wind and waves. “He absolutely loved having the water wash up against his legs.” Pictures by Reshma Deva and Ameet Jeeva
Most visitors come to the park to see the lighthouse at the tip of the Cape Peninsula, but Aarav’s favourite sighting was the chacma baboons. Naturally, Mom kept a careful watch. Here they spent the night at Duiker Family Cottage, one of three overnight options in the Cape of Good Hope section of Table Mountain National Park.
At Stony Point Nature Reserve the little man was fascinated by the many African penguins and dassies. This protected area near Betty’s Bay has boardwalks leading out the rocks, making it possible to see the endangered flightless birds up close.
Addo Elephant National Park, near Port Elizabeth, was the scene of Aarav’s first wild game encounter and the first time he saw elephants. “This moment was truly priceless as you could see the amazement in his eyes. And those hand gestures!”
Our family motto is a quote by Saint Augustine: “The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”
– Reshma Deva
Tsitsikamma, Garden Route National Park
Where Dad had to carry Aarav (an additional 12kg, says Mom) through the coastal forests to get to the suspension bridge. “I first visited this park when I was four years old, so I have fond family memories. Bringing Aarav made it even more special.”
A different boy
“I thought at one year old, he would be too young to understand all the fuss about nature. After this trip, we have seen a great difference in him. It has been only 14 months into motherhood, so our family adventures are just starting. Cheers to many more adventures with our Wild Card!”
Reshma’s toddler travel tips
- Nap and leg-stretching times are important – toddlers tend to get restless sitting in a car for long periods.
- Frequent stops, singalongs and an interactive tablet can be very helpful.
- Always have the necessities handy: water, snacks, medicine, nappies, wet wipes, hat, sunscreen lotion, pacifier and an extra pair of clothes.
- Make every moment count and capture as many photos as you can.
Have you recently travelled with your toddler? Share your pictures and experience with us!
Need more suggestions for travelling with little ones? Don’t miss the autumn 2017 issue of Wild with “Big mountains, small people”, a look at road-tripping through the Drakensberg with toddlers.