Summer! The word brings up happy feelings and mental images of sunshine, ice cream, freedom, bare feet and laughter. There is magic in the small moments of a summer’s day… eating huge, messy, bright pink slices of watermelon and wiping the juice from your chin with your bare arm. Add to this the festive season when things seem to get a whole lot more jolly and you have a recipe for a very happy holiday!
But sometimes, the festive fantasy gives way to the reality that it can be hard to juggle activities for a whole range of ages and widely varying interests. Add to that the small matter of being affordable for a family and it becomes essential to find the best destination. ‘Magoebaskloof is a perfect getaway,’ says local mom of three kids under 12, Caitlin Blaser Mapitsa. ‘If you have kids to entertain, a small trip with activities and lunch at a restaurant can put a big dent in your pocket. Luckily, in this area, there are so many fun things to do with kids for free!’
Magoebaskloof has a huge variety of accommodation and activities to suit all preferences and pockets. It is an easy place to prioritise spending quality time with the family, relaxing and enjoying the outdoors. Time spent out in nature improves everyone’s mood and mental health but a break from screens also means less chaos indoors. Let’s face it, just being out in the sunshine not only bumps up the Vitamin D levels but is also a natural joy-tonic. Instead of the pull of phones or ipads and the comfort of the couch which sometimes make getting outdoors a hard sell, why not organise a nature scavenger hunt for your kids, pack a picnic and explore the area, create an obstacle course, fly kites, learn to do cartwheels, make bird feeders out of pine cones, peanut butter and bird seed or set up a tent at night in the garden and look at the stars?
These options can be done anywhere but Magoebaskloof has all the right ingredients to help you entice your kids outside and some of our local parents have ‘crowdsourced’ the hottest tips from their kids, ranging from 5 to 12 years old, some of which are for free and others are worth every cent. Seven year-old Scott Whelan is up for most adventures but especially loves the kids’ zipline at the Magoebaskloof Farmstall from a platform 3 metres off the ground and 60m long. It’s fun, safe and just long enough for kids to have an adrenaline rush. The Kidz Zone has a jungle gym, fireman’s pole, slides and swings too so there is lots to do while parents have a delicious thin-crust pizza and artisanal coffee or pull up a seat at the craft bar. For an extra treat, buy a round of milkshakes to round off the family fun. Magoebaskloof Farmstall 083 353 4478 | 072 274 5520 | R71, Magoebaskloof | Fully licensed | Open every day. Zipline: R50 for 3 zips | R100 for 10 | R150 for an unlimited ticket.
For Adventurous kids from 7 to 12 years old, The Mad Rabbit Adventures team creates a safe and fun environment for children to experience Adventure Days over the festive season. With more than 20 years’ experience in the adventure industry, they have put together a programme which encourages kids to get outdoors, explore and enjoy as well as to learn valuable life lessons. So if you want something fun for your kids to do during the holidays which contributes to the development of positive, confident and happy kids, choose an adventure over a mall and give your children the gift of self-awareness, courage and collaboration. The Kids’ Adventure Day includes an interactive forest hike, high rope tree climb, abseil, kids zipline, fun team activities and a certificate at the end of it all. Mad Rabbit Adventures provides a safe and fun environment in Magoebaskloof where kids can experience adventure and personal growth. Call 083 706 9560 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Local hiking and nature trails are a great way to run off some energy, encourage curiosity and spark creativity. The Mapitsa clan, (6, 8 and 11) live just out of Haenertsburg so are perfectly placed to regularly walk on the Louis Changuion Trail where they can take the time to appreciate the small stuff… the blooms, bugs and beetles. Caitlin says, ‘Some of the hiking trails around Magoebaskloof are challenging for kids. They can be slippery, have steep drop-offs, or are not well-marked. The Louis Changuion trail through the Haenertsburg Grasslands on the outskirts of the town, however, is the perfect kid-friendly hike. It has enough magnificent viewpoints that young hikers can see how big the world is, but is short enough that your kids have the time to wander off after each beetle and butterfly. From the cemetery to the forest and stream crossing, the trail has plenty of variety, and can be completed with kids of any age and level of fitness.’
On Cheerio Road, there is another great walking route for children. Otterholt Meander has a slow-paced 3km trail which gives the family time to take it all in, get a little closer and look a little deeper. If you keep your eyes open, you may even spot Otterholt’s ‘Little Five’. The trail is well-marked, making it accessible for both guided walks with Toban McMahon, who is known for his encyclopedic wizard-like knowledge and passion for teaching, or self-guided hikes for those seeking a more independent adventure. It is a perfect option for families with youngsters looking to get out into nature to spark their curiosity and nurture their love for the environment. Book a guided walk on the Otterholt Meander with Toban MacMahon or enquire about his ‘Little Talks’ about spiders, bees & snakes. He also offers Mushroom foraging in season (079 195 9368)
Being outdoors invites kids not only to observe but to interact with all sorts of creatures while using all the senses… smell, sound touch and even taste. Whether kids are bobbing around in armbands, sliding down rapids in tubes or lounging like lizards in a blow-up unicorn, water is a magnet for kids. Debengeni Falls are the best-known waterfalls in the area, but swimming is no longer allowed for safety reasons and there are so many other ‘wild and free’ alternatives. Caitlin Maphitsa says, ‘Nothing mesmerises children like flowing water, and it’s easy for a whole day to pass when they are tossing stones into the pools, squelching through mud on the banks, wading in the shallows and drinking straight from the crystal-clear water.’
Seven-year old Scotty Whelan loves exploring the Broederstroom river… splashing barefoot, sliding over the rocks, finding frogs and chasing dragonflies. But Magoebaskloof has so many incredible spots where kids can splash, swim and paddle. They can even learn to fish if you are staying at one of the fishing lodges in the area (Page 24). Another fun option is to explore the wetlands near the Waterfall Hut at Dap Naude Dam or play along the shallows at the Ebenezer Dam.
Another fabulous treat for kids is time spent In the Company of Horses where kids can learn how to ride, take care of horses and just spend time with these gentle animals. Over this festive season, kids aged 6 or older can have a lot of fun at the Equi-Centre in Houtbosdorp. Join them for a horse ride with a delicious Christmas picnic or a horsemanship lesson in the arena dressed up in a favourite Christmas outfit. They will also be hosting the St Nicholaous Trail, Full Moon and New Years’ Trails as well as the very first Christmas Horse Film Festival, screening various horse movies. There will be lots of popcorn and Christmas treats too. (Bookings essential). Connect to nature on horseback with In the Company of Horses (076 577 1936) at Houtbosdorp
Here’s a fun idea for the festive season, blueberry-picking at Blueberry Heights Farm off the R71 near Stanford Lake College. Often kids don’t know where their food comes from other than in plastic packages from a supermarket. Walking through the rows of blueberry bushes burdened with fruit from pink to plump blue-purple berries and choosing the ripe ones is a lot of fun for kids of all ages. Blueberry Heights Farm Café has an indoor and outside Play Area and their milkshakes are always a hit. Parents will love the blueberry pie or cheesecake! They also have a 5km Fun Run / Walk every Saturday at 8am. Blueberry Heights Farm Café (071 540 3800)
Exploring forests opens up a magical world for kids. Discovering a brightly-coloured bract fungus or flying seed pods is just as much fun as spotting a Samango monkey or a dwarf chameleon. Many lodges and campsites are surrounded by forest patches and bird-watching encourages kids to look closely into bushes, scan the tallest trees and find eagle-shaped specks in the sky. Inexpensive binoculars and kid-friendly bird books encourage children to start observing more closely - what colour is the bird’s eye? Is the beak for collecting pollen, cracking seeds or catching prey? Interest leads to curiosity and ultimately, respect. The Mad Rabbit Adventures team also offers an interactive 3 to 4 hour guided hike in the indigenous forest to discover animals, trees, birds and all the little things in between.
Many kids just get excited about the freedom of an open space to play, where they can go romping through the grass, climbing up rocks or kicking around a soccer ball. A good option in the area is to have a picnic at the Long Tom Monument with mountain views that go on forever. This monument, signposted on the Cheerio Road off the R71, has a historical plaque commemorating the cannonball crater left by a Long Tom Siege Gun used in the Anglo Boer war. From the viewing platform you can get a 360 degree view of the mountains, Iron Crown Peak and Haenertsburg village. Your kids can be out and about but still experience a piece of local history. Pack a bird book and some binoculars as well as a soccer ball, and your kids will have a great afternoon’s hangout while you enjoy the surroundings from the picnic table.
For younger kids, there is a lot of fun to be had playing in the Haenertsburg Park where they can clamber, balance and explore. Caitlin Mapisa says, ‘even though the climbing structure is small, the airplane behind the Haenertsburg Hall on the High Street is always a hit! Children can tap into their creative side while they let off some energy.’ Afterwards, you can take the kids to the Pennefather Complex at the end of Rissik Street for an old-fashioned treat of choosing multi-coloured sweets from the Candy Store.
Another favourite is the Pancake House on the R71 near the entrance to Haenertsburg for waffles and pancakes or to the Red Plate Restaurant in the centre of the Village for a giant milkshake. An entertaining option for small children is to feed the fish at the dam at Cheerio Café and the beautiful gardens with its tunnels of blooms and secret passageways in the undergrowth are a perfect place for children of any age to explore. Fallen trees become an interactive jungle where kids can hang from branches and run barefoot down the pathways. It is truly enchanting. Or let the kids take a guided ‘fairy-walk’ through a beautiful indigenous forest at Stanford Lake Lodge with Colleen Ballenden: 072 277 4809. Krabbefontein Café also has a sand pit with swings, a climbing wall and a wooden jungle gym built into it.
Byron Stroud has a favourite spot near his home in Haenertsburg to go to with his 3-month old son, Sunny. He says that the Mike Gardner Arboretum has been a passion project for Mike Gardner over the past 30 years, transforming it from a grassy dumping ground into a shady, colourful park with all the character of its caretaker namesake. Recently a group of residents got involved to cut back trees and revive the two labyrinths. The turnout was bigger than expected with older residents mixing and mingling with the newer and younger families that have started calling Haenertsburg their home. Thanks to Mike, the Arboretum is a safe and beautiful natural space where children can play to their heart's content, friendly neighbourhood dogs can mingle and mums can walk their babies to sleep.
For older children, Magoebaskloof Adventures offers a range of adventure activities, from the climbing wall to paintball target shooting, tubing, abseiling and their famous Canopy Tour. (083 866 1546). Check out the Activity Listings on page 29 and 30 for all the options to go swimming, fishing, walking, adventuring and mountain biking in the area. Make the most of Magoebaskloof this summer, take a look at www.mountaingetaways.co.za.