The belief that children and luxury can’t mix is a fallacy, and having children need not mean an end to indulgent, grown-up holidays. The recent nosedive of South Africa’s currency means that five-star luxury holidays in the sun for family groups are far more attainable than ever before. Whether your brood fancies a break with a view of the sea, a city or the big five, we’ve rounded up the five best luxury hotels in South Africa that will not only cater for you and your children, but work hard to make sure that their stay is as fun as yours.
Sabi Sabi’s biggest lodge in the Sabi Sands private game reserve (adjacent to the Kruger National Park) is one of the only private game reserves in South Africa that allow children on game vehicles and are flexible about viewing times and vehicle groups.
Private villas (which can sleep six) ensure the use of your family’s own vehicle, and our friendly, well-trained guide (who ate supper with us after our drive) was one of the best parts of our experience, as he taught us so much about not only the big animals we saw, but passing spiders, interesting birds, and the vegetation. Fun, qualified staff members work full time in the Elefun Centre, which hosts an amazing array of craft projects (and allows each visiting child to leave their handprint behind when they leave).
Miarestate Hotel and Spa, a converted farmhouse perched on the Indian Ocean shoreline in the heart of the land of the Xhosa people, is a five-star venue that contains only nine rooms, a private beach and lagoon, world-class spa and locally sourced fine dining.
The property, which is home to a diverse menagerie of buck, giraffe, bird species and other African wildlife, (excluding dangerous predators) is open to explore on foot, vehicle or horseback, and the estate offers activities for the whole family. Aside from family activities, weary parents are encouraged to relax while children are taught Xhosa crafts or taken on exploratory walks on beaches and in the bush.
South Africa’s only Four Seasons property offers the consistently child-friendly facilities for which the brand has come to be known. Instead of barring children from restaurants, they’re welcomed with special, healthy menus, and the rooms are equipped with children’s toiletries, bathrobes and toys (as well as childproofing of rooms, complimentary wipes and nappies and cribs if needed).
Outside in the sun, you can tan easy because kids are welcome at the heated family pool, and drinks and food can be ordered without moving from your lounger. When you and the other grownups have had enough playtime, enthusiastic team members happily tell stories, hunt for treasure and play a range of outdoor sports (as well as offer a kite-making course) so that by the time the qualified babysitter knocks on your door, the kids are well and truly tired out.
Voted the top place to stay in South Africa in the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards 2015, the luxury ecological venue two hours out of Cape Town at the foot of the Cederberg mountain range is a prime spot from where to learn about the San/Bushman people who have inhabited the mountains for 120,000 years, and to visit the conserved rock art sites for which the Cedarburg area is famous.
The lodge offers four-days, three-nights Family Fun packages which includes daily rock art excursions and game drives as well as fun, educational activities such as treasure hunting, night walks and crafts for children.
Kids are the celebrities at the 12 Apostles, which manages to combine world-class luxury with down to earth warmth and welcome. The low-slung, white hotel sits in a UNESCO World Heritage Site between the Table Mountain National Park and the crashing Atlantic Ocean, offering a view of Cape Town and the coastline from almost every window.
During a recent visit, friends’ active one-year old twins were celebrated by passing staff as they played with the giant Christmas decorations. Children under 16 stay for free in Superior Rooms and suites, and receive a welcome backpack and toys in their rooms. Other small touches that show thoughtfulness are complimentary transfers in shuttles equipped with car seats, popcorn in the theatre and dedicated food for kids on the buffets.