Our family loves to travel. It’s what makes us happy and it’s good for us. Our main reason for this trip was a much needed change in scenery after nearly five months locked down. We had the most uh-mazing post-lockdown family-friendly getaway to the Garden Route. Socially distant, adventurous, absolutely picturesque, filled with wildlife sightings, fun and indulgent. We combined country, bush and beach in a six-day trip and here is where we stayed, what we did and some of our favorite highlights.We live in Cape Town and decided that a road-trip felt like the safest way to travel for the time being. As we started planning the trip, my two kids – aged three and five – were beside themselves with excitement at the prospect of going on a safari and seeing, in particular, wild cats on a game dive.
The Garden Route’s tourism infrastructure is first-world level and it is a paradise for kids of all ages. There are literally hundreds of outdoor and indoor activities to entertain kids and parents all day, every day, year-round. This was our first safari-themed Garden Route adventure and boy, it did not disappoint.
Day 1 - 2:
Schoone Oordt Country House
Distance from Cape Town:
We started our trip with a stay at Schoone Oordt Country House in Swellendam. We found it to be unpretentious, luxurious and family friendly with touches of attention to detail that really made me appreciate the joy of traveling again.
Upon arrival our host Fidiney greets us like it’s Christmas morning, my first thought: “It’s going to be hard not to hug everyone!”. The first indication of our brave new sanitised world is getting our temperatures checked and masking up. We get taken to a lovely room inside the conservatory for a welcome by owner, Alison, a quick briefing and the most delicious afternoon tea spread. As part of your stay, the rate includes complimentary afternoon tea each afternoon. My kids (and husband) were wowed by the delicious chocolate cake, baked by the owner’s daughter Fae who taught herself during lockdown.We stayed in the spacious two-bedroom Family Suite. It has a private patio area overlooking the circular lawn and pool area. This room is perfect for families of any age. Other accommodation consists of Luxury Rooms, a Family Cottage (best suited to older kids) and a Honeymoon Suite. Each has a distinct Victorian feel with original wooden floors, ceilings and doors.
Don’t miss out on dining in. The restaurant holds its own against some of the top restaurants we’ve visited in Cape Town. Delicious food and incredible service. Again, very family friendly. If you choose to eat out the staff is very helpful with advice and making a booking for you. We spent the afternoon watching the girls run around on the pristine lawn and having fun with the resident labradors.If you wanted to go on a safari adventure during your stay at Schoone Oordt, Bontebok National Park is situated on the banks of the Breede River and a short 5km drive outside Swellendam with a variety of wildlife and birds. Pack a picnic basket (available from Schoone Oordt per request).We enjoyed a turn-down service before bedtime, a delicious gourmet breakfast and a complimentary car wash in the morning before we set off again.
Complimentary High Tea
Luxurious while being truly Family-friendly
Excellent service and friendly staff
Day 2 - 4: Garden Route Game Lodge
Distance from Cape Town: 3 hours 45 min
We decided to get our Garden Route safari fix at the Garden Route Game Lodge. It’s the only free-ranging Big 5 private game reserve in the Southern Cape and one of the best places to see lions, rhino, cheetah, buffalo, zebra, giraffe and more. The Lodge is situated along the N2 surrounded by the beautiful Langeberg mountain range. Home to an abundance of animal and birdlife including the Big 5 in a magnificent malaria free private game reserve. The perfect spot for my girls to experience their first safari in open game viewing vehicles and guided by knowledgeable and very friendly game rangers.
The lodge offers various accommodation options for different budget types. We stayed in one of the luxury family suites with a private plunge pool. So lush! This free standing two bedroom suite has a spacious main room with a second room for the kids (or another couple if you are sharing with friends/family) and a private deck overlooking the game reserve where we spotted kudu, springbok and impala. The suite is utterly gorgeous with an en suite bathroom with free-standing bath, double vanity, spacious shower and an outside bath and shower set in the bush.
We experienced two game drives a day and our guide Ashley was exceptional (definitely request him if you can). The girls loved him! We were privileged to have the game vehicle just for our own use which meant the drive could be as long (or short) as we wanted and we could dictate where possible what we wish to see first. Cheetah’s were the most desired sighting on the wishlist and Ashley did not disappoint. If I remember correctly we saw them on each of our drives. Other sightings included, all of the Big 5 - an incredible encounter between a Buffalo trying to chase some cheetah away from their scouting spot, herds of zebra, white rhino (one with mom and her tiny calf), wildebeest, springbok, giraffe, waterbuck, impala, blue crane... the list goes on.
The girls were most intrigued by our visit to the reptile centre which is walking distance from the main lodge. We enjoyed all our meals at the on site Serengeti Restaurant. The girls loved the calamari and even though not on the menu, I requested sliced veggies for them with every meal.
Family-friendly Big 5 game viewing
Close up sightings of wildlife
Food was delicious and plentiful
Our villa was exquisite
Day 5 - 7:
Self-catering in Stilbaai
Distance from Cape Town:
3 hours 50 min
We decided to spend our last two nights at a self-catering rental walking distance from the beach. The Garden Route boasts a spectacular coastline with options aplenty. If you are looking for a luxury stay to end of your trip the following spots are my favorite:
Kanonkop House, Knysna
The Beach House at Plettenberg Hotel, Plettenberg Bay
Brenton Haven Beach Resort, Knysna
Morokuru Beach Lodge, De Hoop Nature Reserve
At its best, travel teaches you about the world and about yourself. Traveling during a pandemic is no different. During a time when fear or worry might get the best of some of us, travel can help reconnect us to reality and to one another. We used this trip as an opportunity to teach our kids about traveling responsibly and recognizing the freedom of being able to have a getaway. I will continue to practice social distancing for as long as I can. As someone who is a hugger, this has been very difficult. My main takeout - take yourself and your family on a trip. It's good for the soul!
Inspired to book your next holiday? Visit our SA RESIDENTS PAGE for some incredible travel deals on offer or speak to one of our Safari Experts who can help find a trip best suited for your travel type and budget.