• Hold an eagle or owl and learn about cheetahs, the world’s fastest animal
A huge favourite with kids is Eagle Encounters at Spier Estate in Stellenbosch, a bird rescue center which hosts interactive bird shows and allows children to hold an eagle or an owl.
• “Mount” an Ostrich
There is no better place to experience all things ostrich than in Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of the world. Visit one of the many ostrich farms where children can learn all about the biggest birds on earth, go on fun guided tours which includes standing on ostrich eggs, and for the aspiring ornithologist just itching to examine the ostrich up close and personal, the chance to sit on a big bird itself. Closer to the city centre is the West Coast Ostrich Ranch in Blaawberg which offers great interactive tours geared towards young enquiring minds. (Visit www.ostrichranch.co.za.)
• Ride a camel, feed the farm animals or drape a snake across your shoulders
The five camels at Imhoff Farm in Kommetjie make for great children’s camel rides gentle enough to enjoy and jerky enough to keep things exciting. They can also pet and feed the farm animals at Higgledy Piggeldy Farm Yard and learn about snakes and reptiles at the Imhoff Snake Park – a reptile sanctuary and rehabilitation centre.
Similarly Wilgewandel Holiday Farm 25kms out of Oudtshoorn offers a wide variety of fun activities for all ages including camel rides. The camels named Joshua, Moses, Vossie, Abraham, Nelson, Thabo and Josef ensure exciting laughter filled adventures. Also available are horse and donkey cart rides, pedal cars, row boats and a 100m foefie slide. (Visit www.wilgewandel.co.za.)
• Swim with Penguins
Children love Boulder Beach in Simons Town with its sandy shore, little bays and clear mild waters perfect for swimming and splashing about in. Boulders known for its Jackass Penguin Colony, is a penguin sanctuary and one of the only places in the world where you can swim safely with penguins. A guaranteed hit with children of all ages.
• Ratanga Junction
With over 23 rides as well as other attractions like train and boat rides this is a great place to take the whole family. Little ones will enjoy the more sedate rides while older children and parents can brave the legendary Cobra and other thrill rides.
• Sand boarding
Who needs snow when you can have sand? Gary’s Surf School in Muizenberg offers sand-boarding lessons for beginners. Once they’ve mastered the art of standing on the board as they fly down the dunes they can attempt some of the more advanced moves and tricks. This is a great way for kids to burn off excess energy while still having fun. (Visit www.garysurf.co.za.)
• Explore the deep at the Two Oceans Aquarium
Children visiting the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A Waterfront will enjoy watching the penguins, frogs in the frog gallery and exciting kelp forest. Catch groupers and stingrays swimming with sharks, turtles and the occasional diver in the huge shark tank. Puppet shows, arts and crafts and daily fun activities held in the Afrisam Children’s Play Centre do a good job of keeping young children happily entertained. Older children (12 years and up) can even go diving with the ragged-tooth sharks and other magnificent predators from the South African coast.
• Visit the Planetarium and the South African Museum
A unique experience sees children spellbound as they lie back in their tilting chairs and explore the night skies and mysteries of far-off galaxies at the Planetarium in Cape Town. The South African Museum with its excellent dinosaur exhibition, the Whale Well and underwater exhibition, also has displays of South African rock carvings and showcases the life of the indigenous people in South Africa.
• Scientific fun at Experilab
Lots of quirky fun, innovative science and hands-on-displays await children of all ages at Experilab in High Street Shopping Village in Bellville. Kids are encouraged to explore the board games, plasma balls and slimes, sea monkeys and tri-ops. (Visit www.highstreet.co.za.)
• Little culture vulture? How about a spot of theatre?
Take the kids to see one of the famous children’s shows during the school holidays at the Baxter Theater in Rondebosch or Artscape in the city centre. Shows like Hansel and Gretel and Winnie the Pooh are often interactive to get children singing and participating along, and is a wonderful experience that will have them rehashing it for days thereafter.
Hey presto! Great magic shows are performed by the College of Magic in Rondebosch, during school holidays.
• Ten-Pin-Bowling anyone?
A very popular activity, so call ahead and book a place at the bowling alleys in Stadium on Main in Claremont, Tygervalley Shopping Centre, N1 City Shopping Centre and Somerset West Shopping Centre. Younger kids needn’t sit out as there are lighter balls and frames to get the ball rolling down the alley for a perfect strike.
• Scratch Patch
Scratch Patch and Mineral World in Simon’s Town is a great way to keep children entertained for ages as they forage for gemstone treasures. They’ll be ‘wading’ through a sea of gemstones, sifting through the polished beauties and choosing their favourites to bring home.
Also see how the rough stones are polished at Topstones, the world’s largest gemstone tumbling factory.
• Let’s go Go-Karting, Formula 1 here we come
Let older children race each other around the 310m mini replica of the Killarney racetrack in Kenilworth, complete with twists and turns to keep the adrenaline pumping. The 160cc carts have hydraulic brakes and slick tyres to keep them safe. This is a great place to bring them to burn off some energy on a rainy day or when the boredom starts setting in.
• Indoor rock climbing adventures
Bring them to CityROCK in Observatory, Cape Town’s centre for all things related to rock climbing. Climbing is a great sport for children aged 5 and up and is a fun way of getting them moving, improving their coordination and increasing their confidence. Introduce kids to rock climbing with the CityROCK Test Drive which includes bouldering (climbing up to 2m without a harness), and the automatic belay wall which allows kids to climb up to 8m high, secured with a harness and a rope – the automatic belay system lowers the kids down at any time. (Visit www.cityrock.co.za.)
Paint, sponge or spray on a blank canvas at these art concept stores in Tygervalley, Green Point and Claremont. Artjammers at the studio are provided with canvases, acrylic paints on tap, and tools to freely express themselves. Tap into your child’s creativity and watch as they fill canvasses with colours and inspiration. Artjamming is great artsy entertainment for young children. (Visit www.artjamming.co.za.)