When I was 32 weeks pregnant and Auden was a few months shy of her second birthday, we went on the most incredible babymoon to South Africa. I know babymoons usually don’t involve the other child(ren), but we absolutely loved sharing this trip with our toddler. South Africa has incredible natural beauty, from the Kruger bushveld to the vineyards outside of Cape Town, and of course, the magnificent coastline.
Kruger National Park Safari
We flew from London to Johannesburg and headed straight to our first stop: Naledi Game Lodge at Kruger National Park. I chose our lodge based on 3 very important things. First, the location on the outskirts of Kruger, where the malaria risk is reducible to zero. During pregnancy, avoiding exposure is better than taking anti-malaria pills. Second, the child-friendly safari policy. Most lodges will not allow 1-year-olds to come out on safari, and it gets extremely expensive to start factoring in childcare. Third, it came highly recommended from a friend (as well as TripAdvisor and other review sources).
Naledi was truly fantastic. We saw the “Big Five”: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo. We also saw hyenas on the hunt, lions feasting after a successful hunt, giraffes, zebras, a gazillion impala and kudu, hippos, vultures, and a crocodile chasing a waterbuck across the river… right behind our lodge room! I can honestly say that the Safari experience was even more delightful and awe-inspiring with a young child by my side. “Rhino! Her-raffe! Ahhh-PUM! Mama! Ah-PUM!” (I’ll help you out… that last one is elephant.)
It was also hilarious when she fell asleep in her car seat and snored, which sounded the same as any other baby animal snoring, and put the lions on edge. They’re quite accustomed to the safari vehicles, but most people don’t nod off with a pride of lions ten feet away. When a lioness leapt off her haunches to investigate our car, one of the other guests rocketed out of his seat and hid behind his wife! The guides (who would never put a guest in harm’s way) couldn’t stop laughing as the lions paced around the vehicle. Thankfully, they had just eaten a large kill, and they eventually settled down.
Our next stop was Cape Town, and it’s definitely a change of pace.
We loved Cape Town! We took the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, and did a little hiking in Table Mountain National Park. The views are truly stunning.
While we opted for the cable car rather than hiking up Table Mountain, I highly recommend hiking to the top of Lion’s Head. Table Mountain and Lion’s Head are the defining features of Cape Town, and the views are as unique as they are expansive. I was really proud of us for making it happen, with Matt carrying Auden and me carrying my big belly, in the heat!
Franschhoek and Stellenbosch
Even though I couldn’t indulge in wine tastings, I loved visiting South Africa’s beautiful vineyards. I also planned a family photo shoot to capture our precious family of three before welcoming the new baby. We did the photo shoot and lunch at La Petite Ferme in Franschhoek, which was a wonderful experience!
The Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch is another extraordinary place to visit. In addition to the vineyard, restaurant, cellar and wine tasting patio, there are sculptures throughout the estate.
Penguins on the beach? This is obviously a must-do! You can get pretty close to them, which we really enjoyed. There are hundreds of tiny penguins hopping around, swimming, sleeping and waddling. It’s fantastic and adorable.
On the drive to Boulders Beach, you will go through Hout Bay, where you must stop at Chapmans Peak Hotel for calamari. Poor Auden slept through this entire meal, which is a shame, because this girl loves her seafood! It was perfect.
Driving the Garden Route
The Garden Route is beautiful and worthwhile if you’ve got the time, but most of it does not actually hug the coastline. We broke up the drive quite a bit, stopping in Mossel Bay and Knysna, for the sake of staying on the coastline. We had a very unique and rustic night at a tented treetop lodge near Knysna, but I can’t say that rustic camping is the easiest choice with a toddler (although she loved every minute!). We also really enjoyed some beach time at Cape Agulhas.
Overlooking the forest from our extremely non-toddlerproof treetop room
When we got to Plettenberg Bay, we wished we had more time to spend there. Plettenberg Bay is laid back, with a surfer-town sort of vibe. We could easily have spent a few days wandering along the beach and eating amazing seafood. We had one of the best meals of the trip at Fat Fish and tried to go back again! Be sure to make a reservation so that you can eat at least one of your meals there.
Safari and Cape Town Recommendations
- Fly into Johannesburg and go on safari at Naledi Game Lodge . They are very helpful over email or phone when you’re trying to decide what kind of room most suitable for your family. They also have some adjoined rooms with shared outdoor space that would be great for larger groups.
- The safari guides are phenomenal, and you won’t find another lodge of this quality that allows babies on safari.
- Fly to Cape Town and spend several days there on the following:
- Table Mountain: book your cable car ticket online ahead of time! This saves you from a massive wait in line, and your ticket is good for other days, in case the cable car shuts down due to weather. It’s even refundable if the weather fails you and you’re unable to go at all. Trust me: you do not want to stand in that line for hours with your children.
- Lion’s Head: get there as early as you can to avoid hiking up (or down) the mountain in mid-day heat. We got there at 8am and still had a very hot, dehydrated child by the end. There’s no shade at all, so bring plenty of water and force everyone to drink it!
- Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is one of the most stunning in the world, with Table Mountain in the back, incredible biodiversity and an outdoor performance space. If you’re going when there is a summer concert series, book tickets in advance. It’s not to be missed.
- Boulders Beach and Hout Bay, with lunch at Chapmans Peak Hotel (reserve an outdoor table).
- We drove to Cape Point from Boulders Beach, but I can’t say it’s necessarily worth it, unless you really care about saying you were at the tip of Africa. The drive isn’t particularly scenic, and Cape Agulhas is technically the southernmost tip, anyway!
- Franschhoek and Stellenbosch wineries: some recommendations are Vrede en Lust, Lynx Wines, La Motte, La Petite Ferme, Delaire Graff Estate, Waterford and Rust en Vrede. I highly recommend dinner at Mont Marie in Stellenbosch to end your day.
- Dinner at Mzansi: the hostess talks far too long, so it’s a bit painfully drawn out, but the live music is excellent and watching Auden dance the night away was a real highlight. The food is fine, but it feels like it’s not the point. It’s an interesting experience overall.
- Dinner at Codfather: make a reservation, or you’ll be waiting far too long for the kids to manage (if you even get in). It’s near the beach and has a nice view, but the real star is the massive fresh fish counter. You can choose your cut and how it is prepared. The sushi looked amazing also, but I was pregnant and had to miss out.
Lunch at Kloof Street House: we had so much fun grabbing lunch at Kloof Street House! The food and ambience were awesome, and it’s a super funky restaurant. We loved the outdoor garden, but it’s really interesting inside, too.
Hopefully the theme of this post is really clear: South Africa is completely dreamy. The combination of safari, mountains, beach, wine, luxury and adventure is perfect. We would simply love to go back someday.