South Africa is an amazing destination for a family vacation. It's easy to get to with direct flights from several cities in Europe and the US. The roads are excellent, so renting a car in South Africa poses no problems, and gives you the flexibility you need when traveling with children. Malaria-free safaris offer a stress free experience for parents with children who are sensitive to medications Do your planning properly and your family will truly have the holiday of a lifetime.
There are plenty of options, from a simple trip to the beach or mountains, to once-in-a-lifetime thrill such as a hot air balloon ride or an elephant ride through the African bush. Here's a list of "Top 10 Activities for Children in South Africa", giving you a taste of some of the most exciting options available for a truly unforgettable adventure.
If you happen to be on South Africa's eastern coast during the winter months (June - July), check out the Sardine Run. It takes place along South Africa's Wild Coast and is hailed as one of nature's most spectacular events. It's an underwater version of the great annual migration of wildebeest in East Africa. Every year millions of sardines spawn in the cool waters of the Agulhas Bank (south of South Africa) and move northward to the warmer waters, just along South Africa's east coast. It's not unusual for shoals to be 4 miles long and 1 mile wide, they are clearly visible from the surface of the ocean.
The sardines are followed eagerly by predators. Thousands of dolphins, sharks, sea birds and seals enjoy this fishy banquet. To protect themselves from this onslaught, sardines form into giant balls called 'bait balls' which can measure as large as 65 feet (20 meters) in diameter. While bait balls are difficult to get up close and personal with (they dissolve after ten minutes or so) -- the predators that abound during this time in these waters make for some truly spectacular diving opportunities.
Just to add to the excitement - the Sardine Run also coincides with the annual migration of Humpback Whales that move north for the season into warmer water to mate and calve. Coupled with the occasional African penguin looking for a sardine snack, this is truly a wildlife spectacle not to be missed.
Did you know that more than 200 versions of mancala are played throughout the world? From Ghana to St Lucia, elderly men, young children and anyone with a little leisure time, will be sitting under a shady tree strategizing like mad using seed pods, stones or bottle tops as counters. I grew up playing bao (a popular version of mancala in Southern/East Africa) and have played it with village chiefs, fishermen, housewives and school children in numerous countries and settings. It's a lovely ice breaker and less strenuous than a game of soccer in the heat of the day.
The ancient Egyptians played Senet, one of the world's oldest board games, a Backgammon forerunner. A lovely painting in the tomb of Egyptian Queen Nefertari depicts her playing Senet, it dates back to 1295 BC. Apparently, the original rules were passed along verbally, because no written form has been found. Of course Egyptologists and others have tried to figure out ways to play, and now you can even download a Senet app to your iPhone.
Traditional African board games are great fun to buy as a souvenir when you're traveling in Africa. Many of Africa's traditional board games are strategy games, the forerunners to checkers, backgammon, and tic-tac-toe. The beauty of these games is that they can be created using pen and paper, or stones and dirt. So if you can't make it to Africa to buy one, and Amazon only carries mancala sets, have no fear because they're easy to make yourself. Find out more about traditional board games in Africa including bao, fanorona, morabaraba, mancala, senet and more.
20 fun African wildlife facts to liven up your Monday ....
- The flamingos' diet of shrimp-like crustaceans are responsible for its pink color
- Hippos secrete a natural sunscreen that is colored red and eventually turns brown
- Giraffe tongues are dark blue and average around 20 inches in length
- Leopards are strong swimmers and eat fish
- Lions are the only cats that live in groups (prides)
- Warthogs can jump
- Chimpanzee females reach reproductive age at 13
- Male Nile Crocodiles attract females by bellowing, slapping their snouts in the water, and blowing water out of their noses
- Every zebra has a unique stripe pattern, just like human finger prints
- Hyenas are more closely related to cats than dogs
- Impalas can jump over 10 meters (33 feet) in a single leap
- Aardvarks have ears like a rabbit, long tails, webbed claws, sharp nails, long snouts, and are not related to pigs (despite their name)
- Both Black and White rhinos are actually gray
- An elephant's trunk contains about 100,000 different muscles
- Cheetahs only need to drink every 3 or 4 days
- Cape Buffalo have good memories, they've been known to attack people that have harmed them years after the event
- Jackal males and females mate for life
- Male Vervet monkeys have a turquoise blue scrotum and a red penis
- Ostriches can sprint up to 43 miles (70 kilometers) an hour and use their wings as rudders to change direction
- An adult Mountain Gorilla will eat about 60 lbs of vegetation per day
Want to See All this Yourself?
- Safari Planner
- Best Time to Go on Safari
- Africa's Top 10 Safari Destinations
- The Great Annual Migration
- Top 10 Animals to See on Safari
Source: National Geographic and Image -- © Getty Images/Frank & Joyce Birek
Why is this Saturday Obi Wan Kenobi's favorite day of the year? I'll let you figure it out (big hint in the title of this post). It's the perfect time and place therefore to remind everyone to check out Tunisia for your next holiday destination. While recent events have put some travelers off visiting, most of the tourist areas are well away from any potential political/urban hotspots. Just to be safe, double check the news before you go as the situation can change.
Tunisia is a wonderful place to visit especially for families. With its busy bazaars, great beaches, Roman amphitheaters, steam trains, desert dunes, and Troglodyte dwellings, Tunisia is a lot of fun to explore.
If you have a Star Wars fan in your midst they'll love Tunisia even more. Many of the Star Wars movies were filmed on location in Southern Tunisia, it is the Planet Tatooine. You can stumble upon original movie sets, nicely preserved in the dry air of the Yardangs. Better yet, you can spend a night in Luke Skywalker's home which is now a budget hotel.
Find out more about Star Wars Tours in Tunisia...
Image © Anouk Zijlma - Ksar Haddada, otherwise known as Mos Eisley, Southern Tunisia
Safaris can differ wildly within a single country, as well as at different times of the year in the very same national park. If you've been lucky enough to enjoy more than one safari, then you probably have a "favorite". Picking favorites is not all about how many lions you may have seen, or the connections you make with other travelers back at the camp, it's also about the colors, the landscapes, the quality of your guide, and the friendliness of the local people. Things that most people planning a safari don't consider, but what makes a safari go from "great" to "extraordinary".
It's Fall in South Africa, and that translates into lots of sunshine and clear skies. Perfect to enjoy several foodie feasts this May that include the Good Food and Wine Festival in Cape Town, as well as the Royal Show in Durban. For those seeking more flamboyant fare, head to the lovely coastal town of Knysna and enjoy the Pink Loeri Mardi Gras.
Just further north, Harare's International Arts Festival gets underway the first week of May. This international festival is gaining in popularity year by year and attracts performers from around the globe. But it's the local artists that truly shine, so do make the effort to support them if possible.
In Ghana, the wonderful Aboakyer Festival gets into full swing in Winneba along the Cape Coast. The festival includes traditional dancing, hunting, colorful processions, brass bands and more. In Morocco the fragrant Rose Festival takes place in the stunning Dades Valley.
The continent will be celebrating Labour Day on May 1st, so make sure you take that into consideration if you are traveling. Banks and government offices will be closed that day.
More details about: May Festivals in Africa
Image of Knysna, South Africa -- © South African Tourism
I bought these little guys for my sons on my last visit to Kenya. I got to visit the studio and workshop where they were made. The artists work on all kinds of sculptures big and small. The colors are remarkable, and so is the story behind the materials used. What do you think these are made from?
Click here for the answer along with more information about the studio and how you can visit.
One of my least favorite parts of planning a trip to Africa is having to wade through the tourist visa application process. The last time I applied for a visa was at the Ghanaian Consulate in New York. It took me several hours of scanning, photo copying and printing to put it all together. It' was as weighty as my tax return. For a 10 day trip, I was required to send in duplicate copies of the visa application form, 2 passport photos (recent, in color), yellow fever certificate, green card, passport bio page, tour itinerary, letters of invitation, airline ticket, money order, passport, a stamped, self-addressed envelope, and a prayer that it would be accepted.
It begs the question - why? Is there a rash of tourists sleeping on the streets of Accra that made it necessary for me to provide a signed receipt from a hotel as well as TWO contact names, addresses and phone numbers in Ghana? Have they had their fill of hippy drummers crashing on the beach? My suspicion is that it may be a "tit for tat" exercise. I can only imagine the nightmare Ghanaians have to go through to get a tourist visa to the US or Europe. Compared to that, this is probably a walk in the park. Luckily the process is not quite so complicated for destinations like Tanzania and Kenya.
Just as vaccinations are part and parcel of many trips to Africa, the tourist visa is too. You need one to visit popular countries like Egypt, Tanzania, Kenya and Ghana. If you're lucky, they can be issued at the airport upon arrival... but that's not always the best choice. Find out more from my latest feature - How to Get a Tourist Visa if You are Planning a Trip to Africa
Busua Beach, Ghana -- Image © Busua Inn
Ernest Hemingway once said -- "I never knew of a morning in Africa when I woke up that I was not happy"
I like travel quotes, they help me get through the times when I'm home, and they make me feel good when I'm on the road. If things get tough, I bear this in mind - "Remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable." ~ Clifton Fadiman ~. I've listed more of my favorite travel quotes here. They make for good Facebook fodder, if you run out of witty things to say. And hopefully the quotes will also inspire you to pack your bags and venture out into the wider world. Because as George Kimble said - "The darkest thing about Africa has always been our ignorance of it." It's time to get enlightened!
Do share your favorite travel quotes by leaving a comment.