70,000 Marriott Bonvoy Points + 5X Points on Eligible Travel & Gas
Semaine Mtm

South Africa: Family Travel

To the point

Here is the story of our Mini Round-The-World, which took place between the end of 2019 and March 2020 and starded with South Africa and the visit of the Kruger Park!

Hello to all!

This is where you’ll find the story of our trip. I will share with you our itineraries, hotels, favourites or disappointments. Enjoy reading and travelling with us!

semaine – mtm—

Flight Montreal - Zurich

Before arriving in South Africa, our flight to Montreal – Zurich went very well. A short flight of about 6 hours. I might as well say that we didn’t get much sleep, as the meal went on forever and the kids were happy to look at their tablets.

Lounges in Zurich (on arrival)

Arriving at 6:30am, our next flight was not scheduled until 11pm; we were ready for the family lounge to open at 7am.

A well-thought space that is quite popular. Although a little small, the children loved it: colouring, construction games, interactive screen puzzle, a little kitchen and even a turnstile.

Toilets and other utilities such as diapers are available upon request. The manager welcomes you with a smile and makes you feel comfortable.

At 10:00 a.m., it was time for some food. Jean-Maximilien having checked out 2 lounges while the children were having fun, we went towards a 3rd.

The lounge was well organized with its different areas. It had a nice bay window with a view on the slopes, but it was very crowded when we arrived. Fortunately there was still room in the last space. The choice of food was very good.

Getaway to downtown Zurich

Once we were full and the kids were getting a little excited, we decided to take a trip to downtown Zurich and visit the Lindt chocolate factory. We dropped our bags in lockers at the train station, under the airport, and headed for the trains.

Once in Zurich, we tried to find our way around with the excitement of children. We finally arrived in the town of Kilchberg and realized that it was not a museum that was waiting for us but a shop – well, THE Lindt shop, since the factory can’t be visited since the last twenty years.

A little disappointed, we wandered through the chocolate displays. We took the opportunity to bring back a bunch of different kinds that we had never seen before. A quick and enjoyable outing, which was still adventurous with young children in the middle of jetlag.

A Lindt Chocolate Competence Centre is due to open in Kilchberg in 2020, combining an interactive exhibition (explaining the history of chocolate and how it is made) with a chocolate factory.

After this gourmet escapade, we wanted a quick glance of the downtown area. We took the opportunity to discover the atmosphere of the local Christmas market; several hot wine stands were on site. However, this was not as nice as the market in Strasbourg, France, for example. We walked a few more meters to realize that the kids would not last much longer and decided to go back to the airport for a nap in a lounge.

Trade fairs in Zurich (departure)

We had to be back at the airport by 4pm to welcome my mother-in-law from Nice who was going to accompany us for the 3 weeks of our trip in South Africa. Until 10pm, we kept the kids busy, especially in the Family Services lounge where we usually go (we’ve already talked about this one on milesopedia).

Lots of toys, different corners, space, toilets available in the same area (unlike the other one: less practical if you are a single parent with several children to look after) and an equally friendly welcome.

Around 7pm, we went to the Swiss A lounge for a bite to eat. The food offer was good, with a chef preparing dishes on demand even if the offer was limited.

Unfortunately, we could not take advantage of the rest area, as it was strictly “silence only”: the children could not enter it.

We had to forget about this lounge. The kids were excited, so we went back an hour later so that they could continue to play at Family Services.

At 9:30 pm, we were the last to leave the lounge. Once we reached the boarding gate, the children finally fell asleep – finally – in our arms. At 10:15 pm we were finally on board!

Flight Zurich - Johannesburg

The meal was quiet: the children woke up once on board, happy to find the screen of the plane. Once the light was dimmed, everyone was able to sleep for at least 5 hours (me…) to 8 hours (Jean-Maximilien and his mother)! We landed around 9:30 am.

I must say that I was a little disappointed at times by the service of some Swiss flight attendants towards our children, on our 2 flights when they were quite calm and even other people were less respectful.

No patience, a rushed service, looking bored with having to deal with these “little” passengers. I must have spoken too loudly on the 2nd flight, because from then on the purser took over and served us the best he could with a big smile which changed everything!

Feedback on our arrival in South Africa

The first stage of our world tour started in South Africa, a stage I was looking forward to because of the planned safaris! Our safaris are all in Kruger Park, as private game reserves do not usually accept children as young as ours.

As the weather was not on our side, we adapted our itinerary as soon as we arrived. We took our rental car (a 6-seater Toyota Avenza booked through Holiday Autos with Hertz for about CA$250 for 9 days) and started the drive to the Protea in Hazyview in the sometimes pouring rain.

The road was very nice except for one section, a stony 8km dirt road. We took the opportunity to play a prank on our daughter by making her believe that we would sleep under the stars with the animals, nothing that could scare her more!

It must be said that the region does not show a lot of houses or hotels. Passers-by hitchhike on the side of the road. Cows walk along and you can spot beautiful fields of banana trees as far as the eye can see as you arrive at the hotel.

Protea hotel in Hazyview - Marriott

The Protea at Hazyview is a very well maintained hotel, the service is attentive, the rooms clean and welcoming. We enjoyed the place very much and had only one disappointment, not being able to take advantage of the outside facilities as the view seemed so splendid!

Visit to the endangered species centre

On Day 2, our itinerary included the popular God’s window view road and the Blyde River Canyon but the weather was not on our side.

We went to the HESC (Hoedspruit Endangered Species Center) to learn about different species of animals such as cheetahs, rhinos, antelopes, vultures and some others. A 2-hour jeep tour with the children where we had a lot of fun despite the gloomy weather thanks to our 2 guides. About $40 for 3 adults and 2 children.

The tour ended with a bang, as the baby rhino from the Centre has decided to chase us at high speed. A good laugh at the end which made us appreciate and think about certain local problems such as hunting or the extinction of these species.

Our Airbnb in Hoedspruit

We headed to our Airbnb for the night, located in the village of Hoedspruit. Cozy and well located, the residence is in a secure area.

Since we were missing the basics, we did some shopping for the evening and the next day, a few hundred meters away at the local supermarket and in the dark, because it is not uncommon to have power cuts. That day we had at least 4 cuts of 30 minutes to 2 hours!

Note that Jean-Maximilien is happy to see that Amex is accepted in grocery stores… and our Cobalt allowed us to earn 5 points per dollar)!

Our Airbnb in Phalaborwa

Close to one of the gates of the Kruger, our host gave us a very nice welcome and showed us our little house for the next 3 days. We were delighted.

Everything was so well decorated, Désirée was really lovely. We have only good comments to make as we were so spoiled and impressed by all the little touches left in the house.

We even did a photo report of this Airbnb (the first of its kind on milesopedia) because we loved this place so much.

Our visit to the Kruger - D1

We hurried to finally discover the coveted Kruger Park despite the rain (fortunately light but still present). We took the road to Mopani. On the way we met an elephant and then another one further on, many impalas, some Kudu, waterbuck.

On the road between Mopani and Letaba we also saw Hyenas, buffaloes, monkeys and even, believe it or not, ostriches! We left the park on time before 6:30 pm.

Our visit to the Kruger - D2

Wednesday, back in the Kruger, direction Letaba. The day started well because there was no rain! We hoped that the animals would come out of their shelters more and we crossed our fingers to see the famous Big Five (Lion, Leopard, Buffalo, Elephant and Rhinoceros).

Lots of monkeys on the way to Letaba and 4 Hyenas on the side of the road taking a nap.

We had lunch at the restaurant in Letaba village. A well-deserved break after not seeing many animals. The restaurant overlooks a river from where you can see an impala, some birds and a nice family of hippos in the distance taking their bath.

We visited the elephant museum before heading back to Olifants and Satara. A word of advice: look for signs in each village indicating where the animals were seen the day before or on the day itself.

After calculating our time, we had 4h30 to cross the Kruger to the border. We passed zebras, impalas, warthogs and buffalos and had a great look at hippos again before arriving to Satara. We finally had the pleasure of seeing our first giraffe and her baby!

The road between Satara and Orpen was the most beautiful of our first 2 days in Kruger! Herds of elephants, giraffes, buffalos, impalas and kudu mainly. A zone rich in surprises, on the other hand no feline seen, because of the weather, probably.

We ended the day with a beautiful sunset and arrived just before closing time! The bad surprise for Jean-Maximilien was that it was still more than 1h45 drive to get back to our Airbnb! Not easy when you’ve just done an 8-hour drive. Phalaborwa may not have been the best idea for a location after all. To be continued…

We spent the next day at our Airbnb quietly trying to work (many blackouts occurred) or relax and get back on track on Friday. The kids and my mother-in-law needed a break from the car!

Visit to Jessica the hippo (https://www.jessicahippo.com/about/story.html)

Friday, we took the road, and made a stop an hour later to see Tonie and his wife Shirley, who have “adopted” two hippos of which Jessica is the most famous.

You have to know that hippos are one of the most dangerous animals. We often talk about the Big Five but the hippopotamus could be part of it as it is responsible for many deaths!

Following a flood, Tonie and Shirley took in a baby hippo when it was born, 19 years ago, and named it Jessica. Premature, she could not return to the wild, otherwise she would have been killed. Today they have 2 hippos, Jessica and Richie, a 7 years old male, also in a bad situation during a flood.

Jessica eats 80kgs of food a day (potatoes, corn) and drinks bottles of tea. We were lucky enough to be welcomed by the family and their helper, Elizabeth, who showed us a film about the family history and explained how to feed Jessica and even give her a kiss!

A special moment that Alexandra loved and did very well! We were impressed and at the same time touched by this big baby (teenager now) who was sucking its bottle!

Cost of the visit: about $30 CAD.

Panoramic walk

Next stop, Blyde River Canyon. We started with the magnificent view of the 3 rondavels (3 peaks in the shape of native huts, which remind the 3 troublesome women of Chief Mapjaneng and the highest flat peak, the Chief himself) and the confluence next to it which joins 3 rivers including the Blyde River with several viewpoints to check out. The children had a great time climbing the rocks.

We crossed gorges, coniferous forests and then arrived on Bourke’s Luck Potholes, giant potholes, created by the meeting of 2 rivers (Blyde and Treur), which caused an erosion of the rock, leaving behind them pools or potholes.

A well-deserved “play break” for the children, coffee for the adults, then it’s off again: towards Berlin falls and God’s window where the view is magnificent. The Rainforest also offered us a nice viewpoint (we only went to the first one, as there were many stairs). Jean-Maximilien started to take out his drone to take pictures.

Finally we drove to our hotel for tonight, the Protea Kruger Gate. A beautiful day made of sublime panoramas.

Each point of interest costs from $1 to $3CAD per person. Children under 6 years old do not pay and the opening hours are from 7am to 5pm. Different trails are available for the more athletic like the 4H Leopard Trail.

On Saturday, my mother-in-law and Alexandra stayed at the hotel to enjoy the facilities, including the pool, as the day promises to be very warm and sunny.

We left with Arthur to visit the Kruger once again. We took a long tour through Skukuza, along the Sabie River to the Lower Sabie Rest Camp where we had lunch. Then we went back up to the East side to witness a lion hunting a buffalo on the side of the road. The hyenas followed, then the vultures will finish… Almost an hour of “show” which we attended with 6-7 other cars.

We returned to the hotel at the end of the day after more than 7 hours of driving in the Kruger! The advantage of the Protea is that it is located 200 meters from the Kruger Gate!

Suggested Reading