Idyllic Africa for the family

NOVEMBER 2010 – A safari makes for the ideal family holiday – after all, young or old, who isn’t thrilled by real-life elephants, giraffes and zebra? Yet there are so few reserves that cater successfully for children while indulging adults with the pampering and relaxation they deserve. At Hlosi, both are equally well taken care of, adding a new dimension to the luxury safari experience.

When you arrive at Hlosi Game Lodge, you are instantly enfolded in warm hospitality and a sense of tranquillity. Met with fresh cloths and cool drinks by smiling staff, you feel the pace slowing down as everything is taken care of. Children are willingly whisked away to cool down in the swimming pool, supervised by one of the resident child-minders, while parents settle in to a luxurious family suite looking out over the reserve.

Each suite is spacious and romantic, with a soaring thatched roof, its own lounge and fireplace, a four-poster bed draped in diaphanous mosquito netting and cool linen sheets, a beautiful bathroom and even an outdoor spa-bath – in fact, every comfort you could wish for. In the two family suites, there’s also a second bedroom with its own en suite bathroom. Stretching out on your private viewing deck with a chilled glass of wine, you can enjoy superb views over the shallow valley beyond, where zebra, antelope, rhino and wildebeest wandering between waterholes offer game viewing right on your doorstep. The camp is unfenced, so you might wake to a zebra at your window or discover an elephant drinking from the swimming pool. But rest assured: a ranger escorts guests back to their suites after dinner at night. This intimate five-star safari lodge in the expansive hilly grassland of the malaria-free Amakhala Conservancy outside Port Elizabeth offers a wonderful personalised experience. With only four double and two family suites, you are never one of a crowd. A stay feels more like being embraced into a welcoming family, albeit a privileged and pampered one. Owned and run by Lion Roars, an exclusive South African portfolio of boutique lodges and hotels, Hlosi demonstrates all the warm hospitality and attention to detail that has become the company’s hallmark.

This is nowhere more apparent than in the way they look after families with children. Once parents are chilling with a glass of Chardonnay and children have cooled off in the pool, a Kids Safari Activity Menu is produced and a programme worked out to suit. An informal evening braai under the stars as a family is an option, but the kids might be more thrilled by the idea of African fireside tales and dancing in the outside boma as they roast marshmallows and mielies. Meanwhile parents can enjoy a leisurely adults-only five-course dinner and talk far into the night over a fine single malt beside the gently popping fire, secure in the knowledge that the kids are safely tucked up in bed with a child minder at hand.

When you emerge to birdsong in the African dawn light, a sense of adventure and anticipation banishes the early morning yawns. Head out along the escarpment on the morning game drive, as the sun casts long shadows over the waking grassland, and in no time at all you’ll make a first sighting: giraffe, zebra, rhino, antelope and elephant all graze the plain below. Hlosi (pronounced shlozi) means ‘cheetah’ in Xhosa and you may be lucky enough to see a mother playing with cubs or teaching adolescents to hunt. The cheerful and knowledgeable guides make sure that you get the most out of every drive and their expert tracking brings you up close and personal with all the Big Five. You may spend half an hour in the early morning watching giraffe solemnly browsing on thorn-tree tops as you dunk homemade rusks in a steaming cup of coffee, or halt off-road as a breeding herd of elephant saunters close by. Another drive at the far side of the reserve tracks the majestic lions for an awe-inspiring and spine-tingling encounter with nature in the raw. Children of all ages are welcome on the drives, except when a visit to lion territory is planned. Younger children are then left at the lodge to be safely entertained with their own programme of activities.

A leisurely brunch back at the lodge on the deck overlooking the waterhole sets the mood for peaceful relaxation, with a book from the well-stocked library, a dip in the sparkling pool, or perhaps a soak in your outdoor Jacuzzi while watching the birdlife. If a nap doesn’t appeal, a lunchtime or sunset cruise down the Bushman’s River to spot fish eagles and the rare African fin foot in the riverine forest keeps the whole family entertained. Alternatively, energetic kids can learn tracking skills or visit cheetah cubs, while their parents doze in the tranquil comfort of their suite, lulled by the breathless silence of the wild at siesta time.

So captivating is the atmosphere at Hlosi that three days aren’t enough to encompass all the pleasures lavished on both adults and children. Tearing yourself away from the generous spoiling at the end of your stay is likely to be the hardest part of an exceptional safari experience.

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