My Family's Favorite Adventure Yet

Africa is huge. With over 54 countries it covers nearly 20% of the planet. So, in trying to decide where to take my son, a 12-year-old nature loving boy, on vacation last year it was an easy choice to head to a continent that has captivated travelers (including myself) for centuries. Ultimately, we decided on Club Adventures South Africa Family Safari with Teenagers tour – a 12 day adventure packed with opportunities to spot wildlife, camp at national parks, and create memories with my family.

And, boy was it more than I ever could’ve asked for. I could write pages on all the amazing moments of the trip, but I’ve picked out a few highlights below that my family and I will never forget.

After meeting our fellow travelers in the Johannesburg suburbs, we started our South African adventure riding bicycles around Soweto (SOuth WEstern TOwnships). We learned the history and the struggles of life in the townships, and about the famous people who have lived here from Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu to Trevor Noah.

Departing Johannesburg to head into the wilds of South Africa, we boarded Lizzie, our 20-ton home for the next 12 days which carries all our camping equipment, our food and luggage, driver, tour leader and cook, plus 8 parents and 7 wide-eyed kids. When I was younger, I was a tour truck driver, and my son still doesn’t believe I used to drive these monsters. Getting to step back into an overland truck with my family after all these years, now on an adventure of our own, is something I know we’ll never forget – and now my son can actually show his friends what kind of trucks I used to drive!

Another highlight – albeit mostly amusement, was putting up our tents for the first time, there was a buzz of excitement mixed with, did I really sign up for putting up tents for half of this tour? It is of course, totally worth it. We spent that evening getting to know the other families we’d be sharing the rest of the South Africa adventure with, laughing over card games around the campfire, and later we all drifted off to sleep to the nocturnal hum of the African bush – the best noise machine you could imagine.

Hluhluwe iMfolozi (pronounced Shluw shluw way) Park is the oldest proclaimed nature reserve in Africa, even older than its better-known cousin, Kruger National Park. It has one of the largest populations of white rhinos in the world, plus cheeky hamburger bun stealing monkeys. Seeing the excitement on all the kids’ faces when we’d spot a new animal made putting up all the tents so worth it.

Eswatini, formally known as Swaziland, is a Kingdom surrounded by South Africa and contains one of the highlights of this tour, Hlane Royal National Park, a paraffin lamp lit oasis on the Southern Africa highveld. Game driving in safari jeeps we spotted lions, giraffes, rhinos, and elephants (oh my). It’s what African safari dreams are made of.

Bordering Mozambique, Kosi Bay is a water wildlife haven with a shallow estuary perfect for taking unsteady kids kayaking (sometimes for the first time), then cooling off in the Indian Ocean. Relaxing by the water with a couple of nights at Kosi Bay Lodge felt like luxury after a few nights under canvas.

Kruger National Park is one the best-known game reserves in the world, and rightly so. That also means it is popular for other excited animal-lovers, but going out on game drives in our Overland truck, we tower over the cars and 4WDs for uninterrupted views across the plains. The Big 5 (Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard, and Cape Buffalo) are all here, plus campsites with shops and restaurants which we enjoyed exploring with all the families after incredible days spent so close to wildlife.

Last, but not least, we drove into Blyde River Canyon, (Blyde means “happy” in old Dutch). Unlike the Grand Canyon, this is a rare green canyon, and we took in the views at The Pinnacles, Bourke’s Luck Potholes and God’s Window. Staying in the town of Graskop, we enjoyed lunch at Harries Pancakes before hitting the rope swing and ziplines at the Graskop Gorge Adventure Centre – probably the coolest location for a ropes course with an epic ravine to overlook while enjoying the excitement. It's activities like this one that are built into the itinerary (and all Club Adventures’ family trips) that make them so kid-friendly and for me so most memorable as I was able to share all these amazing experiences with my family.

On our last night we had a fantastic Braai (BBQ) dinner in Graskop, knowing we’d all become fast friends and didn’t want the trip to end. We even held a superlatives award ceremony including prizes for “the kid who spotted the most animals” and “which adult took the longest video of a lion lying under a tree not moving at all”. We reminisced over the last 12 days, exchanged contact details and plan to all travel again, somewhere, on another Club Adventures Family Adventure.    

Mexico Family Holiday. Mexico

Mexico Family Holiday

7 days, from $1419.00

Italy Family Holiday. Italy

Best of Italy Family Holiday

15 days, from $6532.00