Hidden Gems – Top 10 Places to Take the Kids This Holiday in Durban and KZN.

If you have ever spent time with kids, you will know that the two most famous words that they utter is, “I’m Bored.” Parents and caregivers are often faced with the challenge of finding interesting things to do, that don’t involve a TV or electronic devices. With the school year almost over, we have partnered with Avios on our next adventure to find the Top 10 Hidden Gems – Places to Take the Kids This Holiday Season. So here is our list for you and your loved ones to explore, enjoy and have fun:

The Flag Animal Farm

Whether your kids are animal lovers or not, the Flag Farm which is situated on the North Coast tops our list of things to do. They have over 1000 animals, birds, reptiles, wolves and Barney too! You can take your picnic or braai, but they also have a coffee shop on-site with the most delicious scones, cakes, and light meals. The highlight of our trip was the milking of the cows and watching the wolf interaction. Kids can also enjoy themselves in the indoor play centers, and jumping castles. The kids also had a blast feeding the animals with special food that can be purchased from the farm. There are also horses, pony and tractor rides for the kids. OUR RECOMMENDATION: We suggest that you go early so that you can fully enjoy the different activities on the farm. You must try their freshly baked scones with jam and cream – it’s delicious!!

Take a Hike in Umhlanga

This is a great, healthy and affordable idea for the entire family! Make your way to the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve and stroll through the coastal dune forest and across the Ohlange River towards the Umhlanga Lagoon. Many drive past the reserve on the M4 every day not knowing that it is brimming with over 208 bird species as well as plenty of small mammals. Keep your eyes open for vervet monkeys and blue and red duiker. The guided walk is half an hour long so it isn’t too strenuous for little hikers. Bookings must be made a day in advance by calling the Breakers Resort front desk. The route is well-marked but walking through the reserve alone is at your own risk. OUR RECOMMENDATION: Take a camera along with you as you can capture the amazing flora and fauna around you, and we had so much fun taking some beautiful family pics too!

Piggly Wiggly Country Village

You cannot visit the Midlands Meander without a visit to the Piggly Wiggly Country Village, located at Lions River in the KZN Midlands. It’s not just for the kids but has something for the entire family. Be warned – if you love shopping for homemade delicacies and handcrafted items then are prepared to spend a small fortune here. We had so much fun at The Candle Dipping Shop where you can create candle art by dipping candles into different colors of wax. Kids can also play putt-putt at the Piggly Wiggly Putt-Putt or get creative at the Zulu-Lulu Ceramic Boutique. Kids and adults will love the Mini train rides around the village, they can also make their pizzas at the pizza place. OUR RECOMMENDATION: The Candle Dipping is a Must. We had such fun making our creations

Learn To Scuba Dive

Most of us are very familiar with the surfing culture in KZN, but how many of you have thought about learning to scuba dive? Well, the many reefs and shipwrecks make Durban a superb diving destination. Shallow shore entry dives are available at Vetch’s Pier and along the harbor’s northern breakwater, which also includes the Odd Wreck. Ocean Blue Scuba is a certified PADI Dive Centre located in the Cabana Beach Resort in Umhlanga Rocks. They offer the Bubblemaker program, which is perfect for kids who are keen to start diving. Boat’s launch daily from Vetch’s Beach heading to the reefs and wrecks in the area. The other amazing scuba sites in KZN include the Aliwal Shoal and Sodwana Bay. Did you know that the famous Aliwal Shoal, rated as one of the top 10 dive spots in the world by Jacques Cousteau and Sodwana Bay with its stunning coral reefs, warm waters, and near-endless visibility, is South Africa’s favorite diving destination? OUR RECOMMENDATION: The entire family can learn to scuba dive together. The surprising part of our lesson was that the kids learn much faster than adults!!

Butterflies For Africa

Kids are always fascinated by the magic and allure of butterflies. Butterflies for Africa, situated in the KZN Midlands, is a tropical butterfly haven offering butterflies and a whole lot more! The complex houses a walk-through Butterfly House (housing both exotic and indigenous butterflies), Butterfly Theme Store, Art Gallery, Coffee Shop, Nursery, and a Butterfly Garden planted with a large range of butterfly foodplants. The main attraction of Butterflies for Africa is the impressive walk-through butterfly house where you come into close contact with butterflies from around the world as they fly freely in an attractive, lush environment. Now if you have a fear of flying insects, like some of the people in our group then you should skip this!! Here you will find both international and indigenous butterflies, and this is a valuable educational tool for kids. Guides are available at all times to assist you at no extra charge. OUR RECOMMENDATION: We suggest that you go on one of the guided tours as they were able to offer a wealth of knowledge and interesting stories, which the kids loved!!

Durban’s Natural Science Museum

The best part about this one is that it’s FREE!! This worthwhile stop is great for children and adults too. This museum is the most utilized natural science museum in the country. Located in the Durban City Hall, the museum attracts almost 300 000 visitors annually. Visit the boma storytelling area, see a life-size reconstruction of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, various diorama exhibitions and plasma screens showing natural history scenery. On your tour of the museum, you will learn more about Africa’s wildlife (you will have the chance to closely analyze taxidermies like an elephant, wild dogs, a leopard, birds, and insects). Don’t miss the popular galleries with stuffed birds (flamingos, penguins, ostriches) and giant insect replicas and kids will love the interactive displays. OUR RECOMMENDATION: You may not be able to find street parking easily, so we suggest that you park at the Royal Hotel Parkade and walk across.

Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve

Now how many of you knew that there is wildlife roaming around in the middle of Durban? Imagine our shock and amazement as Zebra greeted us at the entrance of the Reserve!! Kenneth Stainbank is a 253-hectare reserve right here in Yellowwood Park, Durban. It was established as a result of a bequest of land from Mr. Kenneth Stainbank. You will find fine examples of coastal forest and grassland habitats for many species of plants and animals. Notable species are zebra, bushbuck, reedbuck, impala, blue, red and grey duiker, vervet monkey, rock hyrax, slender mongoose, bushbaby, Egyptian mongoose, banded mongoose, water monitor, and genet. The reserve has an interesting variety of indigenous flora and over 200 bird species.

Hidden in the majestic surrounding of the Kenneth Stainbank nature reserve lies, Coedmore Castle. A gracious old family home built to resemble a castle, by daring Stainbank in 1885.
The Castle makes an ideal outing for learners of all ages. Younger kids will be thrilled with its fairy-tale appearance, whereas older children will gain valuable insight into some of KZN’s early history. There are 13km of nature walks and a pleasant picnic site is available. A walk for the physically disabled has been specially designed. There is also a 10km mountain bike trail, which is fairly challenging in places. OUR RECOMMENDATION: Be sure not to miss the visit to Coedmore Castle – it’s magical!!

Natal Lion Park

The Natal Lion Park, in the Natal Midlands, is a wildlife haven not far from the major cities of Durban and Pietermaritzburg. It is just 25km from Pietermaritzburg and just over 14km from the town of Camperdown. Enjoy a 1-hour game drive through the park with lion feedings taking place at irregular intervals. The park is home to Lion, African Elephant, Asian Elephant, Impala, Nyala, Grey Duiker, Porcupine, Bush Pig, Kudu, Vervet Monkey, Bush Babies, Cane Rat, Black-Backed Jackal, Zebra, Blue Wildebeest, and Leopard. The best time for sightings would be early morning before the heat of the day sends all the animals into the protectively cool afternoon shade. All roads in the park are gravel so drivers should always remain cautious. Visitors can pick up a little souvenir of their time spent at the on-site curio shop and refreshments are also available in the shop. OUR RECOMMENDATION: Make an early start to visit the Park as we experienced the best sightings in the morning.

Umgeni Steam Railway

All kids (and adults too!) are fascinated by trains, and a ride on a steam train through the beautiful countryside of KZN is something not to be missed. This amazing train journey is from Kloof Station to Inchanga Station and back and is on the last Sunday of every month. The trains leave Kloof Station at 08:30 and 12:30 and takes half a day. At Inchanga Station, you’ll find a craft market, picnic area and pony rides (which the kids will love!!)

The train travels from Kloof to Inchanga where there is a craft market. Both adults and kids will love traveling on an authentic steam locomotive, waving at passers-by. This 1hr trip takes you up some of the steepest railway gradients in South Africa (1:30 and 1:50), through one of the oldest running tunnels, Drummond Tunnel – built around 1880, and around the hills overlooking the Valley of 1000 Hills to Inchanga Station. The locomotives vary in age from 1892 through to 1954 and most of the coaches date back to the early 1940s. OUR RECOMMENDATION: When you get back to Kloof Station, be sure to pop into the Stokers Arms pub.

Take the Family to Funworld

Very few things can compare to the thrill and excitement of experiencing Durban from a cable car! They say if you haven’t been to Funworld or Waterworld, then you haven’t been to Durban. The Beachfront Amusement Park is a wonderland of fun and fantasy for both adults and kids. Situated on Marine Parade opposite the Holiday Inn, the Amusement Park provides secure entertainment for the whole family in a world of carnival lights, music and entertainment.

The Cablecar provides a scenic and majestic view of the beachfront from the air, while the bigger kids have the fun and the exhilaration of the Breakdance and experience the thrill of the Swingboat. The Cable Car is an iconic part of our city and you can enjoy a scenic ride on the aerial cableway, which boasts amazing views. The little ones can experience the Elephant Ride or Carousel. OUR RECOMMENDATION: The Cable Car rides are a must try!! Head to the Promenade after Funworld, and choose from the wide range of restaurants offering the most amazing East Coast Cuisine. We are sure that you will find something from our list to keep the kids entertained over the holidays.