Dad of two, John-Louis West, was thrilled when his five year old daughter,Bailey, tagged along on a camping trip to their farm in the Karoo.
We drove N1 and turned off at Riversdale through to Vanwyksdorp and then onto the farm, it’s about 30min travel from the dorp. We left at 4am so we could get there nice and early to setup camp as there is nothing on the farm except animals. Leaving early meant Bailey could sleep! We go through a beautiful pass in Riversdale which is a nice entrance into the Klein Karoo. On the way back we left lunchtime-ish and did the same except that we came though Swellendam where we stopped for a meal.
Because we were not going too far I try and keep stops to a minimum but a better route to go is to go through Swellendam and then over the Tradouwspass. It’s beautiful and you can stop and show kids how high you are. Then once in Barrydale you can stop and have a great bite to eat. There is loads for kids to do there. On the route 62 there is also hot springs which is also a fun stop. On the way back we always stop at the Rooiberg lodge just next to Vanwyksdorp for a swim and a bite to eat. If you lucky you get to see the tortoises that love to hang around there. The beauty with the lodge is that it’s a awesome place to hang out and it’s very remote and typically the BEST of the Klein Karoo. They also have lovely cottages that we have stayed at a few times as my wife ain’t a hardcore camper and the farm at the moment is pretty extreme camping.
If you want to camp easily with kids the best things to plan ahead is; activities (colouring-in and crafts), snacks are a must and in this environment I like treats. They can be used as bribery on long walks or to get tasks done. Make sure that you plan your meals and make them simple enough that meal times are not stressful. Be sure to pack warm and cold weather clothing. Children are more susceptible to extreme weather. The Klein Karoo is known for its wind and weather changes. Most importantly you have to shoulder the hard stuff so that your kids have a good time or you will put them off for life. That means you have to make it easy for yourself as well.
I am a nature lover (not naturalist) and as a result we do camp and hike and do luxury lodges, as long as there is as much nature as possible I’m in. We did quite a bit before kids and now finally one of my kids are old enough to camp and I cannot wait till the other one is too. South Africa has an insane amount of camping options. Choose a place you want to see and pack your bags and go. The web is a wonderful resource and allows you to book in advance as well. Some great places that I’ve enjoyed are; Bainskloof, Matroosberg, Onrus, Citrusdal. If you want to just get away with the family where you don’t pitch a tent but the rest is all similar then I cannot recommend Rivers Edge on the Breede River enough. It’s reasonably priced, your pets are welcome and it’s just a fantastic setup.
Any specific meals that are nice for kiddos while camping?
I generally try and keep it simple. Boerie rolls. Meat and Mielies,Toasted croissants with cheese and biltong. I also have a beautiful chicken and biltong potjie recipe that my daughter devoured. Something you have to take is marshmallows for the braai. We did it once with her at Mabula Private Game Reserve and since then it’s a highlight for her anywhere we go.
The biggest challenge in the Klein Karoo is the weather. Also going for long hikes, she is only 5 so I ended up carrying her which made the beers back at camp even sweeter but my back a little worse for wear.
As I said she lives for braaing marshmallows. She loves the freedom I think. I may have to ask her? Bailey and I get on super well so that always makes the time really special.
Every time I fell asleep for a nap she needed a wee which required me to take her? Then that was the end of that nap and she kept doing it as I dosed off. Also when she woke up in the car at 4.45am (the morning we left) and asked me if we were there yet?
Your kids are only little once so time with them is super special. Especially one on one time. More than that the earth and nature is our heritage and who knows what impact it will have on her. Especially in an age of kids wanting to be entertained the whole time.