Female lions in a pride will often all give birth around the same time, providing a collective parenting arrangement and plenty of play companions. Take your whole pride to South Africa with this nine-day itinerary that will take you from a pirate ship off the coast to Cape Town, to a big cat sanctuary, strawberry farm, and safari amidst other outings.

Highlights

  • Take a rotating cable car to the top of Table Mountain
  • Ride the ferris wheel at the V&A Waterfront
  • Sip milkshakes along Route 62
  • Mingle with meerkats in Oudtshoorn
  • Safari at the Shamwari Game Reserve

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Cape Town, Family Time on the Beach Cape Town
Day 2 Mountain Peaks & Pirate Ships Cape Town
Day 3 Peninsula Day: Cape Point, Penguins, & Playgrounds Cape Town
Day 4 Family Fun in Franschhoek Elgin
Day 5 Big Cats & Big Milkshakes: Elgin to Oudtshoorn Oudtshoorn
Day 6 Meerkat Morning, Sandboarding & Strawberries, Ocean & Oysters Knysna
Day 7 Arrive at Shamwari Game Reserve Eastern Cape Game Reserve
Day 8 On Safari at Shamwari Game Reserve Eastern Cape Game Reserve
Day 9 Transfer to Cape Town or Johannesburg via Port Elizabeth, Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Cape Town, Family Time on the Beach

Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background
Cape Town with Table Mountain in the background

Welcome to South Africa! Arrive at Cape Town International Airport and transfer to your accommodation to unpack and unwind. After you settle in, spend the rest of your day exploring the city. 

Known as the 'Rainbow Nation,' Cape Town and South Africa have a long and complicated history involving a multitude of ethnic and cultural groups. The area's history starts with the indigenous Khoisan and Bantu people, who were the primary residents of the area until the Portuguese and Dutch arrived in South Africa, beginning a centuries-long occupation. 

These days, South Africa is home to a diverse population. Roughly 80% of South Africans are of Bantu ancestry from a variety of ethnic groups, each with a distinct language. The remainder of the community is made up primarily of European, Asian (Indian, Chinese, and others from the formerly enslaved and indentured population), and mixed-race (Cape Coloured) ancestry. 

After checking in to your accommodation, spend the afternoon relaxing, taking in the views, and exploring the town. Shop for art and crafts at the expansive Watershed Market, visit the Two Oceans Aquarium to explore underwater life, or enjoy a harbor cruise as you watch the sunset. Other options include the Diamond Museum, which explores the history of the diamond rush in South Africa, or a helicopter flight to see Cape Town's sights from the sky. 

In the evening make your way to one of the family-friendly beach bars to enjoy your first sunset. Let the kids swim in the centrally-located pool or beachfront, then dig into gourmet pizzas and giant milkshakes.

Day 2: Mountain Peaks & Pirate Ships

Table Bay view from Table Mountain
Table Bay view from Table Mountain

In the morning, head out to for a hike on the 'Mother of all Mountains': iconic Table Mountain. A popular choice is to hike up (a four-hour medium fitness hike with a few steep sections), then take the cable car down after taking in the views from the top.

Keep in mind that hiking to the top might not be suitable for younger children. Give little legs a rest with a cable car ride up and down the steep slopes. Strong winds and rain can make the hike more challenging, so be sure to check if "mother" is "setting the table" before you go—the local phrase for the blanket of white clouds that occasionally engulfs the top. 

If time and energy levels allow, head to nearby Lionshead to enjoy views of the entire Cape Town landscape below you. Break for lunch at the restaurant at the top of Table Mountain, or bring a packed picnic lunch with you to Lionshead. The V&A Waterfront, located just a few minutes from the mountain base, offers a variety of cafes and restaurants. 

In the afternoon take to the seas in the Jolly Roger pirate ship, an authentic replica of the real thing. The young and young-at-heart will love seeing Cape Town and Table Mountain from the water on the hourlong sail around the bay. Return to the waterfront in time for a sunset ride on the Cape Wheel ferris wheel. Other afternoon activities include the Planetarium and Science Center. 

Day 3: Peninsula Day: Cape Point, Penguins, & Playgrounds

Sea kayaking with penguins
Sea kayaking with penguins

As the saying goes, "the early bird gets the worm"—or in this case, the penguin. Get an early start for the best views of Cape Point, an hour south of Cape Town on the Cape Peninsula. Here, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, creating a unique ecosystem where flora and fauna flourish. Fynbos, baboons, Cape mountain zebra, ostriches, eland, and sugarbirds all reside here. 

Bring a snack to share on the rocks next to the lighthouse, then head to Simon's Town (half-hour to the north) for a seafood lunch with a view. 

In the afternoon, head to the nearby Boulders Beach to explore the African penguin sanctuary from the comfort of elevated platforms. To see the charismatic birds up close, rent a sea kayak and bob on the waves as you watch the penguins dive deep for the catch of the day. 

Other afternoon activities include visiting the Kommetjie Imhoff Village farm animals, playing a round of paintball, going for a horseback ride along the beach, or enjoying a coastal train ride from Simon's Town to Muizenberg. 

Afterward, take in views from the Cape Point Vineyards with a glass of wine for the adults and a gourmet picnic dinner for the whole family. 

Spend the evening strolling through the Noordhoek Village Market. Adults will love shopping for crafts and foodie delights, and kids will love the nearby playground. As the sun sets, finish your day with a drive along Chapmans Peak Drive on your return trip to Cape Town.

Day 4: Family Fun in Franschhoek

Walking the gardens at Babylonstroen
Walking the gardens at Babylonstroen

Leave the city behind today as you drive out of Cape Town into the Winelands countryside. The drive to Franschhoek ("French Corner" in Dutch) takes 1.5 hours, winding through rolling vineyards and orchards as you near your destination. 

Your first stop today is the Babylonstroen Winelands and Gardens, one of the oldest examples of a Cape Dutch farm. Join a garden tour to learn about the techniques that have transformed this restored property into a botanical masterpiece. Kids and adults are encouraged to touch, taste, smell, and fully experience the fruits, vegetables, and herbs that flourish in the garden beds. 

From here continue to Boschendal, South Africa's second-oldest wine farm. After a period of neglect, the farm is bursting at the seams with new life and biodiversity. Grass-fed cattle, forest-fed pigs, and free-range chickens graze among the fruit trees. Alongside the farm, over 600 species of fynbos and protected nature reserve thrive. Send the kids off for a free-range afternoon at the new educational play center, with farm learning experiences for kids ages 4-14. While the kids play, sneak off for a glass (or three) of award-winning wine at the cellar. 

For added fun throughout the day, take the Wine Tram between wineries. Although the region is famed for wine, there's plenty of options to keep the whole family entertained. Learn to make chocolate at the Hugenouts Chocolate Shop or spend the afternoon at the Franschhoek Motor Museum

In the afternoon head up the Franschhoek Pass towards the cooler climate of the Elgin Valley. Nestled between surrounding mountain peaks and streams at the top of the Hottentots Mountain Range, the valley is rich in vineyards and fruit orchards.  Continue to spend the night in Elgin, roughly a 40-minute drive away.

Day 5: Big Cats & Big Milkshakes: Elgin to Oudtshoorn

Along the Route
Along the Route

Get an early start this morning for your half-day adventure at the Panthera Big Cat Sanctuary, which is located about an hour's drive from Elgin. The sanctuary is dedicated to rescuing big cats and educating visitors on the realities that big cats face in captivity. As a true sanctuary, no cub petting, breeding, or trading takes place here. Instead, they aim to reach people through tours of the rescue, one-on-one conversations with the staff, and educational programs for the kids. 

The sanctuary has a variety of tour options. Join the standard tour to see the leopards, lions, cheetahs, and others as you learn about their histories and how they came to live at the rescue. For a kid-friendly option, opt for the children's tour—a similar experience that focuses on stories and touches on the big cat industry but omits most of the adult topics from the regular program. Kids will love the enrichment tour, where they'll work with a Panthera animal keeper to make a small handmade toy for the cats. After, watch the animals play with the toys you made. 

Depart the sanctuary around lunchtime and hit the road for the drive to Oudtshoorn. You drive today takes you along the iconic Route 62, which takes its inspiration from America's Route 66. Grab a snack, but don't fill up—you'll want to be hungry for your lunchtime destination, Diesel and Creme. The vintage diner and motel is a two-hour drive from the cat sanctuary in the town of Barrydale. Feast on a gourmet milkshake and burger, then continue the drive to your Karoo accommodation in the land of "go slow."

Day 6: Meerkat Morning, Sandboarding & Strawberries, Ocean & Oysters

Meerkat morning experience
Meerkat morning experience

Start your day before daybreak today at a game reserve for a meerkat encounter. This is an optional activity, particularly for those who aren't early risers. Those who choose to wake up early, however, are rewarded with up-close interactions with the local meerkats.

This tour is dependent on fair weather, as the little creatures will not venture outside the burrow on cold and rainy days. Watch the sunrise as you quietly observe the meerkats going about their morning meerkat business. Together with the bat-eared fox, aardvark, porcupine, and aardwolf, meerkats are part of the "Shy 5," a group of hard-to-spot animals. 

Eat breakfast in the bush as you watch the meerkats meander about, then head to the coast for your next stop of the day. Drive an hour to the town of Mossel Bay, home of the largest sand dune in South Africa. Rent a sandboard or opt for a private lesson for hands-on attention for the whole family.

Once you've mastered the lessons, spend a few hours cruising down sandy slopes. Smaller kids can sit on the board with mom or dad, but give them a chance to spread their wings and you'll be surprised at how easily they take to sand surfing (and beating you in all the races). 

Go from dunes to farmlands as you travel half an hour to a local strawberry farm for lunch. Kids can pick their own strawberries, test their navigation in a hedge maze, and bike around the farm. 

With full bellies drive the remaining hour to the seaside town of Knysna, famous for their annual oyster festival. Settle into your accommodation and go for a stroll along the beach before sitting down at one of the many seafood and oyster restaurants on Thesen Island

Other options today include an archaeology tour in Mossel Bay, paddleboarding and hiking in Knysna, or a sunset yacht cruise along the coast.

Day 7: Arrive at Shamwari Game Reserve

Go game-spotting
Go game-spotting

After breakfast by the beach, drive three hours to Shamwari Game Reserve, a luxury reserve in the Eastern Cape. Here, the Big 5 (and many others) roam the open landscape freely. You can choose to stay at one of the reserve's seven lodges or the explorer camp. 

Enjoy game drives, birding, walking safaris, and more. Register the kids for the Kids on Safari Adventure and let them explore the landscape on a series of kid-friendly activities. For kids younger than four, on-site child-care service is available. 

Check-in and settle into your accommodation, then head out for an evening game drive before sitting down to a traditional African-style boma dinner. Fall asleep to the nighttime sounds of the bush.

Day 8: On Safari at Shamwari Game Reserve

Game drive time
Game drive time

Spend your time at Shamwari Game Reserve enjoying nature with the family. Activities include:

  • Visit the Born Free Foundation Big Cat Rescue Center to learn about big cat conservation and educate the kids about protecting nature and approaching animals with compassion 
  • Let the kids go wild at the Adventure Center, then cool off at the swimming pool. Other kid-friendly activities include the climbing wall, zipline, treehouse suspension walkway, and adventure slides. Children under four are not permitted on the safari drives, but childcare is available on-site 
  • Enjoy sunrise and sunset game drives to spot local wildlife, including lions, elephants, giraffe, and leopards
  • Take a walk on the wild side on a bushwalk. Follow a guide through the dense brush as you learn about animal tracking, bush survival, and medicinal plants. You may see a herd of wild buffalo, but look out for the tiny oxpeckers on their backs—their presence in the park indicates a truly healthy ecosystem.

For a fully immersive safari experience, stay at the Explorer Camp where the focus is on bush walks rather than game drives

Day 9: Transfer to Cape Town or Johannesburg via Port Elizabeth, Depart

See you later
See you later

Transfer to Port Elizabeth, then catch a flight to Johannesburg or Cape Town for your connecting flight home.

Map

Map of South Africa Family Adventure: Cape Town, Winelands, Garden Route, Safari, & More - 9 Days
Map of South Africa Family Adventure: Cape Town, Winelands, Garden Route, Safari, & More - 9 Days