South Africa in January
With breathtaking scenery and a dependable climate, South Africa makes a great January getaway. It's good value for money, only two hours ahead of the UK and, weather-wise, January is one of the best times to visit the region.
South Africa's safari parks are almost entirely malaria-free and the cuisine is sufficiently similar to European dishes that it will be enjoyed by even the pickiest of children.
In a nutshell
- Will suit: families of all ages, from infants to teenagers
- Flying time: direct flights from London Heathrow to Johannesburg are on average 12 hours, with domestic flights from Johannesburg to Cape Town around two hours
- Time difference: GMT+2
- Average temperature: 26°C
- Tourist information: South Africa
How to get there
- BA offers daily flights to Cape Town and Johannesburg
Where to stay
- Hotel accommodation suitable for family holidays is easy to find in SA cities, with most major chains represented as well as the popular regional chains such as Protea Hotels.
- Laterooms.com has a great selection, with regular special offers on prices.
- The Kruger National Park has reasonably priced self-catering camps, plus good roads and excellent facilities.
What to do
- There are plenty of excellent beaches, and many are great for families.
- Table Mountain towers over the city and you can take trips to the top by cable car. Find out online daily whether the cable car is running and, if not, the view from Signal Hill next to Table Mountain is the next best thing.
- The Cape of Good Hope is a great day trip. Green Market Square sells every conceivable knick-knack, while the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront provides an entire day's diversions, including boat trips, seal watching, museums, a shopping mall, bistros and cinema.
- If you fancy trying the wine region, there are some lovely family-friendly wine farms in Stellenbosch (about 40 minutes from Cape Town centre). Spier has all sorts going on and a great restaurant.
- Take a self-drive or escorted tour through Kruger National Park to be in with a chance of spotting the big five: a lion, African elephant, Cape buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros.
- Visit one of the many private game reserves and rehabilitation centres, where big animals such as rhinos and elephants are cared for.
- Go to Sun City - a giant resort north of Johannesburg built in a lost-world-style, with a massive waterpark called the Valley of the Waves and extensive recreational facilities. It's set in the Pilanesberg mountains, and monkeys and baboons roam freely through the gardens.
- Learn about South Africa's history with a visit to Robben Island, off the coast of Cape Town. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the island was where former President Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years.
- January is summer and it will be hot even if it feels breezy, so factor 50 for kids at all times.
- South Africans drive on the left and the various self-drive routes across from the country - from the Eastern to Western Cape, as well as the Garden Route - are a great way to discover South Africa at your own pace.
- A major factor in deciding which coast to visit is the sea conditions - the water of the Indian Ocean, on the south coast, is warm, while the Atlantic, off Cape Town, is decidedly chilly. Families with small children should also be wary of the big surf that can be found on the south coast.
Top tips for safaris with children
- Keep drives short. Two hours maximum, preferably less.
- Get out of the vehicle wherever and whenever it's allowed.
- Don't keep moving on. Allow time at each destination to establish a base.
- Stop whenever your child wants, even if it's "just another impala".
- Bring children's binoculars and/or digital cameras (cheap is fine).
- Make sure the car seat is high enough to allow a good view.
- Make the most of toilet stops where you can!
What Mumsnetters say about holidays in South Africa
- Look into taking your car seat on the plane. If it is not too expensive then it may be worth it - we had real trouble getting the car hire people to give us something decent. Road safety is not really a big deal in South Africa. muddleduck
- We used bushbabytravel for our trip to South Africa, they were excellent. Their website is full of advice and information. bluesky
- South Africa is fantastic - brilliant place to go on holiday with teenagers. OhBling