Posts Tagged ‘travel’

July 28, 2015

What Makes a South Africa Family Vacation so Magical?

South Africa is country that begs to be explored. It’s a magical place from its cities to its bushveld. South Africa has something for everyone, history lovers, wildlife explorers, sports fans, and everything in-between. With a troubled past and bright future, thanks to a strong and warm people, South Africa becomes more than just a destination for vacation or a trip. It becomes an experience that can be trans-formative for travelers. To begin to understand what makes South Africa a magical place, you need to understand its history, current strides toward progress, and a bit about what makes it unique.

History

It wasn’t until 1994 that apartheid, state enforced racial segregation, was officially disbanded and South Africa held its first fair and democratically held presidential election. In the first election under the new constitution, Nelson Mandela won the presidency. Nelson Mandela’s victory did not come easy. It took decades of social activism by a majority of the country and Mandela himself spent 18 years in a political prison on Robben Island. Visiting Robben Island is one way to see South Africa’s history up close. Although apartheid isn’t too far in the past, it’s the dedication and outlook toward a better future that is inspiring and kids and adults alike will have an unmatched learning experience while in South Africa.

Social and Cultural Development

Music is a great way to spur social and cultural development

Music is a great way to spur social and cultural development

When Thomson Family Adventures sends families to South Africa we make sure that it is not only educational but fun! As mentioned earlier, the past of South Africa is troubled. The effects of apartheid have not yet all been eradicated. The good news is that there are several programs that are dedicated to bettering the communities and people of South Africa. By visiting youth development programs in Cape Town’s Langa Township you can meet the people and kids working towards a better South African future through dance, music, and the arts. When staying at the Grootbos Reserve it’s rewarding to see how your travels can positively impact a community, not mention its location in the beautiful fynbos. There is no feeling like making new friends and giving back to the world while in the midst of an adventure!

Unique Wildlife

Cape buffalo spotted on safari!

Cape buffalo spotted on safari!

It isn’t just the people in South Africa that are magical and inspiring, it’s also the wildlife. You may know that South Africa is one place that you can spot the Big 5 animals in Africa. Going out on a safari to see lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, rhinos, and leopards can be life changing. Not only can you find the Big 5 in South Africa, but also the Marine Big 5: bottle-nose dolphins, African penguins, fur seals, whales, and the great white shark. This is the only country in the world where you can find the Big 10! You’ll also get to see zebras, wild dogs, giraffes, and gazelles. These are the types of animals that most people only see on TV or in a zoo. Seeing them out in the open and in their natural habitat is a completely different feeling and will inspire awe and wonder in you and your child.

Feel the magic of South Africa on your next family vacation!



July 7, 2015

What I’ve Seen: South Africa

We are getting ready to launch a new family trip to South Africa and thought it would be a good idea to let you in on the experience! A member of our team, Claudia, went to Cape Town and out on safari to learn all she could about South Africa. We asked her a few questions about her trip to give you an idea of what your next family vacation might look like!

Here's Claudia and her friend Ivy at the Cape of Good Hope

Here’s Claudia and her friend Ivy at the Cape of Good Hope

Can you give us an overview of your trip to South Africa?

I spent two wonderfully busy weeks there in late April, early May. We stayed 5 nights in glorious Cape Town, one night at Grootbos in the scenic Western Cape, three nights in bustling Johannesburg (a.k.a. Joburg) and four nights in the bush. We drove six-and-a-half hours from Joburg to Timbavati Game Reserve, which provided great perspective from the Highveld to the Lowveld.

South Africa has a troubled history that’s not too far in the past; could you still signs of this as a traveler and did it affect your trip in any way?

I was amazed how far the country has progressed since apartheid. For example, in 1950, the South African government banned marriages between whites and people of other races. The Population Registration Act of 1950 provided the basic framework for apartheid by classifying all South Africans by race, including Bantu (black Africans), Colored (mixed race) and white. A fourth category, Asian (meaning Indian and Pakistani) was later added. In some cases, the legislation split families; parents could be classified as white, while their children were classified as colored. In December 2006, South Africa became the fifth country in the world, the first in Africa, to allow legal marriages between same-sex couples. Pretty impressive! (The ban on interracial marriages was lifted in 1985.)

What was the best part of this trip for you?

Wild dogs spotted on Safari

Wild dogs spotted on Safari

It’s difficult to pick my favorite part of the trip, as there was something special in each location. Cape Town is unbelievably beautiful and the bush (safari) is tough to beat with opportunities of being a stone’s throw away from rhinos and wild dogs. For me, Joburg was an unexpected highlight. I had the opportunity to visit a few inspirational museums that exhibit and display the hardships of apartheid in a way that leaves you craving to learn more about this tumultuous period. In addition to perusing the museums, I was able to explore two townships – Soweto and Kliptown – two very different communities all striving for the same thing – a better life. The people of Johannesburg are prosperous people and the spirit of entrepreneurship is everywhere.

What part did you like the least?

Flying. I’m not a big fan.

South Africa isn’t typically thought of as a safari destination but you went on one there. How was it?

Stopping for a sip of water!

Stopping for a sip of water!

Actually, South Africa is a popular destination for safari-goers. I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to experience a handful of safaris in Tanzania, which is completely different than the safari experience in South Africa. In Tanzania, it’s like stepping into Noah’s Ark. You’ll see hundreds and hundreds of wildebeest, zebra and antelope and the vastness of the country is grand; whereas, in South Africa, the experience is intimate. You’ll see a few rhino, wild dog and lion in an up-close and personal way. The experience is quite exhilarating! I truly feel like people seeking a 10-plus day trip filled with extraordinary wildlife viewing should consider our family safari to Tanzania. If you and your family are seeking a little bit of everything – including marine life – family South Africa is the trip for you.

Would you take your kids or niece and nephew on this trip?

You betcha! I have a poster pinned on my cork board at work that reads, “Seek Adventures That Open Your Mind”.  South Africa will open your mind! South Africans are strong, curious and aware people. The older generation had to be this way in order to survive, and it’s places like South Africa that the next generation must experience to understand how history has shaped the world we live in today. Apartheid cannot be forgotten.

What about your parents or grandparents?

You betcha! South Africa is very diverse. Come learn about the Land Big 5, the Marine Big 5, South Africa’s turbulent history, its vibrant cultures, and tasty wines all while being awed by its surrounding natural beauty!

Did you feel culture shock at any point, why? If not, why do you think you didn’t?

I did not and that’s probably due to my trips to Tanzania and other underdeveloped countries in the world. There are considerable differences between the US and South Africa, but I never felt inconvenienced. I could connect to WiFi at the hotels, I could easily access money at ATMS and I had no problems conversing with people in English as is commonly spoken throughout Africa, along with 11 other official languages.

Did you feel safe in South Africa? Whether it was your time out on safari or walking around Cape Town?

The Gardens at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town

The Gardens at Kirstenbosch in Cape Town

Truthfully, I never felt unsafe or in harm’s way. I may have had my adrenaline rise as a pride of lions walked by our safari vehicle, but I never felt unsafe.

How were the flights getting to and from South Africa?

My international flights were smooth. I flew roundtrip on Delta Airlines. On the outbound flight I flew from Boston to Cape Town via Amsterdam, a flight I’m very familiar with. On the return, I flew from Joburg to Boston via Atlanta, the largest airport hub in the world. The flight from Joburg to Atlanta was slightly under 17 hours long.

Is there something about South Africa that you could really only know from being there? Something you won’t find in a guide book?

The entire experience. To learn, read a book. To experience, go travel.

The view from famous Table Mountain

The view from famous Table Mountain

There you have it— South Africa in a nutshell! If you have any lingering questions just give us a call and we’ll be happy to answer them for you and set your family up with an incredible vacation experience!



December 7, 2010

Extraordinary Children and the Makings of Hope

At the age of 11 Jim’s niece Jessica spent two years in Indonesia while her father did relief work. Now at 16 Jessica has created a beautiful photo essay about her impressions, titled The Makings of Hope. Her time in Banda Aceh affected her profoundly and the depth of feeling and expression in this essay are remarkable. It’s an emotional watch, and well worth the seven minutes.

Are you impressed by children who make a difference? We’d like to share a story like this each month. If you have a child in your life who is making a difference (or know of one), email me at moo@familyadventures.com. For each month’s selection Thomson Family Adventures will donate $100 to the charity of your choice.



November 29, 2010

Full Hearts: A Family Adventure

Abundance and Thanksgiving

A few days post Thanksgiving – for those of you who celebrate – the stuffing is polished off, the kitchen is clean, the dishwasher is emptied, the turkey soup is simmering on the stove. Every year there are Thanksgiving Family Adventures that become the stories and memories that star in your future celebrations. Tell us about yours.

Everything was perfect, or nothing at all worked like you planned. But didn’t you love it anyway? Maybe a new recipe was awful, maybe the dog grabbed the turkey leg. The cat licked the gravy. Maybe the jalapeno cranberry relish was so delicious it will show up every year. It rained, or snowed, or the sun burned bright in a clear blue sky. Was it so hot you didn’t want to turn on the oven? Maybe elderly Aunt Betty fell asleep over the pie. Maybe you had a wonderful surprise when someone you didn’t expect showed up to embrace you. You stayed home, or you traveled; you never left the house or you sat in traffic. You stayed up so late to brave Black Friday shopping, or you went afternoon bowling to make room for dessert.

However things went, planned or not, did you gather with friends and family? Keep your eye on gratitude and thankfulness? Not just for the third Thursday in November, but how about the weekend. How about our whole lives? Tell us what you did.

Whether you’re in Costa Rica or Chicago, St Louis or the Galapagos Islands, Sonoma or Cairo, don’t forget to cherish your every day family adventures.

Tell us what you’re doing!



October 24, 2010

Want a Unique Family Galapagos Exploration?

Swooping birds

Sharks and Iguanas

Usually a trip to the Galapagos involves a stay on a boat with daily excursions to shore to hike, swim, snorkel and discover the amazing wildlife that lives there. We have that option, of course … but if you are REALLY adventurous and like to be on the cutting edge – if you understand relinquishing some luxuries gains you unique opportunities, then we have something special for you.

Families returning this spring and summer say this was the best trip ever. I was lucky enough to go myself and thought it was incredible. Do you like remote, quiet, off the beaten path, no crowds, something very few have seen and done before?

ME TOO!

As you know this is a more challenging adventure to arrange, and still ensure your family is cared for in a special way while you are exploring the hidden spots. How do we do it? You can expect our very best guides who not only know Ecuador and the Galapagos in and out, but can handle all of your needs along the way. Then we charter excellent crewed boats to cruise you out to the best snorkel sites, and places where you can do special things like swim with sea lions (they love to play and blow bubbles in your face!). Our camp crew – there are two nights in a tent on a remote sandy beach – does all the work for you, and also cooks up delicious meals to satisfy your palate. You just show up and enjoy the scenery. Wake up to Frigate birds and Blue Footed Boobies swooping overhead, sea lion pups rolling in the surf, finches flitting through tall grasses… peace and quiet, and breathtaking sunsets are yours for the taking.

Kayaking up close to the wildlife, biking down sandy paths (watch out for the wild tortoises!), exploring lava tubes, watching sturdy iguanas piled on the rocks…… how about snorkeling with whales and sharks, penguins and rays? All of this is possible, depending on who is out and about on any given day.

Then, when you go home to a more ordinary life, what do you think your dinner conversation might be like?