10 family holiday activities in the Northern Cape

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SPONSORED: River rafting on the Orange, gazing at the Milky Way in Sutherland, sliding down a dune or riding a horse, camel, bicycle or donkey cart – the Northern Cape has fun activities the whole family can enjoy.

1.    River rafting on the Orange

It’s one of the adventures the Northern Cape is famous for, and it’s an experience your family will talk about for years to come. In fact, it’s the one holiday activity that should be on the bucket list of every South African. In the Richtersveld region, experienced operators like Wildthing Adventures, Bushwacked and Felix Unite offer four-day adventures down the river. In the evenings, socialise around the campfire and sleep under the starry heavens. Farther “up” the river, near Pofadder, Gravity Adventures can take you along the pristine Orange Gorge and Raap-en-Skraaf sections. In the area of Augrabies, Khamkirri offers inflatable raft journeys (these range from half-day to five-day trips) and shorter kayak experiences.

Noord Kaap

2.    Safety first

Want to go rafting but concerned about your children’s safety? Then Paddle Zone at Onseepkans is a good option. Paddle Zone not only buys and sells all things associated with this sport, but they also offer courses in which they teach complete beginners how to row, and they have advanced guide courses for those who want a career in adventure tourism. 

3.    Raft and ride

In addition to offering four- to six-day river rafting expeditions on the Orange, Umkulu Adventures (in the Vioolsdrif area) also has “wet & wild” adventures, which combines river rafting with 4x4 trails in the Nababeep Reserve. This is a truly African adventure that you won’t get to experience anywhere else.

Noord Kaap

4.    At a gallop

Do you love horse riding? Then you’re for a treat when visiting the Northern Cape. Explore the Kalahari on horseback from Tswalu private reserve or book a horse-riding trip at the Horse and Mill Guesthouse in Colesberg. Many farms in the province also offer pony rides to small children. 

Noord Kaap

5.    Cycle in a national park

Many national parks don’t allow you to ride your bike in the park, but there are a handful in the Northern Cape where you’re allowed to have this special experience: the Namaqua National Park (outside Springbok), Augrabies Falls National Park (about 50 km outside Kakamas) and the Tankwa Karoo National Park (outside Sutherland). So, remember to bring your bikes!

The Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve has numerous dirt roads on which families can cycle to their hearts’ content, as well as the Windpomp-to-Windpomp route (35 km), which might seems straightforward at first, but it has a section that’s technically challenging. This nature reserve also offers horse rides and is the only place in the Karoo where you can see hippos!

The Nieuwoudtville, Leliefontein en Kamieskroon areas, as well as the Hantam Botanical Garden, have nice farm roads for cyclists. Show your kids something unique and different by taking them to the Windmill Museum in Leliefontein.

The Goegap Nature Reserve is 15 km outside Springbok and has a 14-kilometre-long mountain biking route that lets you cycle amongst the reserve’s animals and bush.

Noord Kaap

6.    Take a donkey cart ride

You don’t have to fill it up with petrol, and it will never get a flat tyre. City kids might be dumbfounded by the fact that donkey carts are still a common mode of transport in certain parts of the Northern Cape. Experience these animals first-hand by taking a donkey cart trip. There are several places where you can book a ride: the Oasis Skills Development Centre in Mark Street, Upington; Riemvasmaak in the Augrabies area; Klipkolk in the Mier area, near Askham; Vera’s Kookskerm near Leliefontein and the Karoo Gariep Nature Reserve (on the Mieliefontein and New Holme farms).

7.    Our own Jurassic Park

You can see real footprints of the Bradysaurus dinosaur in the Fraserburg area. Book a tour with Marthinus Kruger (about R250 p.p.). Call 084 873 0098.

Noord Kaap

8.    Starstruck

Did you know that the quality of the night sky is measured as a point out of nine on the Bortle scale? Sutherland in the Northern Cape is one of the few places in the world that’s rated one the Bortle scale. This means that on some farms outside town you won’t be able to see your hand in front of you during a moonless night! This is why Sutherland is the home of the Southern African Large Telescope (Salt). Salt is open to visitors. Sterland, about 1 km outside town, also offers stargazing sessions on most nights. And be sure go to the Sutherland Planetarium – it’s the only private planetarium in the country, and it’s well worth a visit.

9.    On the camel’s back

Camels aren’t endemic to South Africa, but decades ago, they were imported by the police to patrol the border areas of the Kalahari. This was before the days of 4x4 vehicles! You can still see a statue of a police officer sitting on a camel in front of the police station in Upington. At Koppieskraal (in the Kgalagadi area) you can taste camel milk and even ride one. Book in advance.

Noord Kaap

10.  Surf a dune

Just image all the stunning photos and videos you’ll have of your family speeding down a Kalahari dune on a sandboard! The Northern Cape is one of the few areas in the country where you can go sandboarding. Liquid 360 Adventures is one of the operators that will show you the ropes and take you on a tour in the Kakamas area and at Witsand near Augrabies. They have options for beginners as well as seasoned sandboarders.

The 500- to 800-metre-long dune at Rooiduin Sandsurfing (near Twee Rivieren, 45 km outside Askham, GPS: S26.74394 E20.62483) is very popular. You can bring your own equipment or hire it there. The dunes at Molopo Lodge near Askham aren’t that high, but they’re fast and fun to ride.

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