Winter holidays are almost over! For those about to hit the road for the Garden Route for the last week… Plettenberg Bay and the surrounding areas, with it’s beautiful weather year round, is the perfect place for a winter break. Our editor explored the area earlier this year and shares a few her favourite things to do with kids.
5 Things to do with kids in Plettenberg Bay
1. High tea and horse riding at Kurland Hotel & Estate
Even if you don’t settle in for the night at the magnificent family-owned and operated five star Kurland Hotel… You can enjoy the luxury and lifestyle of a real Country Estate! Just outside of Plettenberg Bay, Kurland is surrounded by paddocks of ponies as far as the eye can see.
What makes Kurland truly special is that it doesn’t just “allow” children (there are a number of luxury accommodation offerings on the Garden Route that expressly do not). It welcomes and treats children as if they are full guests in their own right. In terms of looking for special experiences around Plettenberg Bay, this is key.
Arriving at Kurland is like stepping back in time, from classic pristine decor to attentive and warm staff. There is a stillness and sense of peace that settles over you as soon as you step from your car. And yet… there is excitement and affection from the staff greeting the children. The fact that Charly wanted to run everywhere and see everything and touch everything wasn’t frowned upon, it was embraced!
Kurland offers a daily high tea with the most incredible freshly baked scones, cakes, treats, teas and coffees. The restaurant food is wonderful! And if your little one is a taste tyrant and wants something specific… even if it is off-menu… they will make it happen! We had friends over and our three girls (aged 1, 2 and 4) messed scone crumbs and cheese EVERYWHERE. A few seconds of panic were instantly eased when the manager came over, gave us a wink and chatted away to the girls about how happy she was that they were eating up all the yumminess.
If you want to get yourself a bit of kiddie-free time and pretend you are in a bygone era, call ahead and book childcare! This is especially awesome if there is a large group of you together. There is an extensive children’s area and a responsible loving childminder will keep your little ones safe and entertained while you breathe in the stillness and enjoy a bit of adult conversation. After your downtime, you can book horse riding for yourself, pony rides for the littles and even try your hand at learning to play polo!
When you are a guest, you also have free access to mountain bikes and quad bikes. If you book ahead, I believe they will put together a special day full of family activities for you to enjoy!
To book or ask questions, contact the amazing Diana from this link – Contact Kurland!
A little further away from Plettenberg Bay, you cross from the Western Cape into the Eastern Cape and Storms River. This amazing little town is right in the heart of the Tsitsikamma Forest. A few wide tree-lined roads, restaurants and “the general store” feel completely untouched by time.
One of the first things you notice as you pull into the town, is people whizzing around standing up on Segways. You can spot the tourists – from little kids to adventure focused explorers to elderly folks – as they quickly adjust to this new mode of movement. But possibly what is more intriguing is the locals, who zip around as easily as walking.
We were staying at the amazing home-away-from-home that is The Village Lodge of Stormsriver. The local family who grew up in the town, own this special place AND Tsitsikamma Backpackers (which is a whole other kind of special experience) and Tsitsikamma Segway Tours.
My husband has been obsessed with wanting to try a Segway for as long as I have known him. Because I have problems with my knees I can’t work up the courage to use them, and he wasn’t keen to go alone. He was thrilled when his enthusiasm was met by Charly’s and, although she was the tiniest bit short of the height requirement of 1.2m tall to go it alone, the guide was able to easily maneuver himself and her, as they took a trip through the little town and into the gorgeous canopies of the forest.
After “suiting up” with the safety gear, the awesome guide steps in. He talked us through how to work the Segways before letting us loose on the practice course. I gave it a very short try, because the excitement was contagious and it was pointed out to me that people of all ages safely and happily enjoy this experience. Sadly I couldn’t overcome my fear of complications with my knees, so they set off without me.
My child (and my husband) were in their element. So this recommendation comes from a 35 year old man and a 4 year old girl who both swear it was one of the absolute highlight of our holiday.
Follow this link to book or to ask any questions you might have – Segway Tours!
The South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA) group – Plettenberg Bay
The next three are part of The South African Animal Sanctuary Alliance (SAASA) group, who own Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and The Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary. The SAASA tagline, “Making happy endings to sad stories”, is the absolute essence of who they are.
Their mission is to provide previously captive animals with a safe environment as close to free as is possible. They manage to bring people into these habitats, while respecting the animals with a strict no touching policy. The goal is to educate people on the animals they protect, the threats these animals face from people and their environments.
We were incredibly blessed to get to meet Lara Mostert, who, along with her partner, is the heart of these sanctuaries. Her passion and love for the animals and her determination to educate people, while providing wildlife with actual sanctuary is contagious.
Because Monkeyland, Birds of Eden and The Jukani Wildlife Sanctuary are all so close to each other just outside of Plettenberg Bay, you can get individual or combination tickets.
Single Ticket: R 230.00 (adult) | R 115.00 (child 3-12years)
Combo Ticket (any 2 sanctuaries): R 360.00 (adult) | R 180.00 (child 3-12years)
Triptic Ticket (all 3 sanctuaries): R 450.00 (adult) | R 225.00 (child 3-12years)
You can buy tickets from any of the sanctuaries, but if you would like to book tours in advance or ask questions, click here http://www.saasa.org.za/contact-us_contact.
Monkeyland is the first true free-roaming sanctuary that is home to a variety of different primate species in the world. There are over 700 primates living free, according to their website, “capuchin monkeys, ringtail and black-and-white ruffed lemurs, saki monkeys, squirrel monkeys, vervet monkeys, 2 species of langur, howler monkeys, and gibbons”.
Monkeyland, along with all the SAASA sanctuaries, is fiercely #HandsOffOurWildlife, encouraging the animals to live their lives free from interference. That is not to say that the experience is lacking in engagement. The animals are as curious about us as we are about them… The animals follow you as you walk through the forest, listening to the guides sharing their seemingly infinite knowledge. It’s a special experience to be with the animals and learn about them, without having cages between you.
A not-to-be-missed experience for kids and adults alike. The forest sanctuary is right alongside the Birds of Eden sanctuary. They are in The Craggs just outside of Plettenberg Bay.
Birds of Eden is the world’s biggest free flight single dome bird sanctuary, covering 2 hectares of forest. It’s hard to explain how breathtaking it is to move freely below a dome you cannot see above you… And around and over a seemingly endlessly deep gorge of indigenous forest. All around and under and above you, there are flashes of bright colour and the sound of rushing water and bird calls… More than 3,500 African and exotic birds from roughly 280 species surround you.
The aviary residents are largely rehabilitated previously-caged or hand-reared birds. The rehabilitation is usually largely socialisation, as most of the birds have never encountered other birds. Many of them have no experience of free flight and have to be given the space to strengthen and properly learn to fly. Many of the birds were previously demesticated and will approach you. It is important to remember that all the SAASA sanctuaries subscribe to #HandsOffOurWildlife and don’t allow anybody to touch or hold the animals. They even teach you how to gently discourage the birds from sitting on you.
While you can pre-book a guided tour, the magic of Birds of Eden is you don’t need one. Woven through the aviary is a 1.2km walkway that you can explore at your own pace. This is perfect when you have children, because you don’t feel like you are slowing down or interrupting anybody else. The full walk takes an average of an hour, but there is no reason to rush.
The birds come and go, eating from the food platforms filled with fresh fruit, veg, seeds and nuts. This allows you to be right there and watch these beauties up close and provides amazing opportunities for photographs. If you keep an eye out you may also spot “other wildlife, such as golden-handed tamarins, bush babies, giant bats and the indigenous blou duiker bush buck”.
If you want your children to truly learn about and respect wildlife, particularly wild cats, Jukani is the place to go. Just outside of Plettenberg Bay, Jukani is home to 74 animals, mostly apex predators. There are many different ways to teach children about animals and about the plight they face in an overpopulated world. Nothing will have quite the same impact on them as a hearing their stories… while watching the animals carry on with their daily lives.
The Jukani animals are all rescues who were born in captivity. This means that they wouldn’t be able to defend themselves from other predators or hunt for food. At Jukani, they will live out their natural lives in large enclosures that mimic their natural habitats as closely as possible. The females are all on birth control, as Jukani does not believe in breeding wild animals.
There are several raised platforms along the route. These allow you to look down over the enclosure areas and watch these beautiful animals without a fence between you. But there is something magical about coming eye-to-eye with a puma or a Bengal tiger, regardless of the fences. Being a few steps from some of the most powerful and graceful animals in the world… Hearing them purr or grunt or roar and watching them engage and play with each other… These are experiences your children will carry with them forever.
If you have visited one of these amazing places, we would love to see a photo! Tag us on Facebook so we can share your experiences with our audiences!
If you are sticking around Cape Town for your last week, consider taking your kids to see Goldilocks and the Three Bears!