Keith Westberg, his wife Kathryn and their twin son and daughter, Kyle and Kelly (8).
The Westbergs booked their trip through Tripadvisor.com, in addition to making lots of Skype calls to South Africa. They flew with United Airlines from Beijing to Johannesburg via Singapore, then flew South African Airways to Hoedspruit. The total travel time was 21 hours. Kwa Mbili Reserve, located just outside Kruger National Park (firstname.lastname@example.org), is a short 30-minute drive away from the Hoedspruit airport and airport pick-up can be arranged.
The family stayed at the reserve for five nights and spent one day in Kruger. Then, they headed to Johannesburg to visit friends for a few days. Their last stop was Capetown. The family flew there with United Airlines and stayed for five nights at the Ambassador Hotel (www.ambassador.co.za), which cost ZAR 6,145 with breakfast. In Capetown, they arranged with a local guide to see the major sights, such as Cape Point, Two Oceans Aquarium, Tabletop Mountain (which was closed due to high winds), Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (large shopping area on the ocean). The total cost of the trip was RMB 24,000 (ZAR 26,000).
The reserve was a small place with wonderful tents and rooms. Service was excellent and the Westbergs enjoyed meeting interesting travelers from around the world. During the hot summer days, the sun was boiling. Luckily, there was a small pool nearby to cool off.
The hotel restaurant in Capetown had stunning views, but the rooms were basic. There was a kitchenette, but no cooking pots, utensils or dishes.
The Best Part
The best part of being in South Africa was seeing the wild animals. The Westbergs got to hear a leopard purr (big cats don’t usually purr in captivity), saw a baby elephant eating a whole bush a few feet in front of them, and almost rolled over the tail of a lion while the big cat simply yawned. At the Kwa Mbili Reserve, the family enjoyed going out on safari twice a day with their informative guide. However, the safari can be a little confining. For safety reasons, visitors can only walk from the tent to the main area and must stay in the car while out on the safari terrain. On the plus side, they saw wild creatures up close and personal, including rhinoceros, water buffalo, lions, giraffes, elephants, cheetahs and leopards. Kyle’s favorite sighting was the penguins.
At Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, the twins loved a store called Scratch Patch. Here, they learned about the various minerals hidden in South Africa and were able to fill their bags with semi-precious stones. The adults were able to rest as the kids conducted their search for shiny treasures. The waterfront also had a Build-A-Bear station, where children can adorn their very own stuffed bear.
The Worst Part
Their five night stay at the reserve and at Capetown was a little too long. And the day they spent in Kruger was the most boring day of the vacation.
Food at the reserve was fabulous, but too fancy for the kids, who had trouble finding something to satisfy their palate.
The Culture of South Africa
Kathryn recalls calling her mother in the US: "Mom, you’ll never believe what I’m doing right now – I just saw a herd of springbok [gazelles]go by!" Kelly enjoyed making friends with a Swedish girl while swimming in the pool, despite their inability to speak the same language. Their Christmas dinner was also quite memorable. Instead of white snow and twinkling lights on an evergreen, the family enjoyed a nice dinner outside in the heat of Africa. Other great safari moments included hearing a wild boar snuffling by their tent, as well as blasting through the bushes in a safari jeep.
While at Cape Point, they experienced an amazing wind at the point where the Indian and Atlantic Ocean meet. Having breakfast at the Cape Point hotel while watching the waves crash below was enjoyable.
In Johannesburg, the family loved feasting on barbecue while listening to their friends converse with local Africans in the native language.