Before we had kids we had visited St Lucia a couple of times, at one time we camped in the Sugarloaf campsite for 6 weeks, and we have often said it is one of our favourite places in the world. But we haven’t been back for 5 years and we haven’t been there with kids, so we wondered if we would still love it so much with kids. And yep, you guessed it, we loved it even more! The town itself is so relaxed, and it is surrounded by activities that can be enjoyed by kids and parents alike.
Child-friendly activities in St Lucia
For us, St Lucia is all about the wildlife – hippos and crocodiles in the river and game drives through iSimangaliso Wetlands Park. Luckily our kids love wildlife too! We also visited the beautiful beaches, bush walks and boardwalks around St Lucia itself, and of course the St Lucia Ski Boat Club (go there for great pizzas, a lovely view and relaxed vibe, and they have a little jungle gym for the kids too). We can’t wait to come back here for another family holiday!
Hippo & Croc cruise
We took the kids on an Advantage Hippo & Croc Tour. We chose the last tour of the day (departed at 15:00 as we were visiting in winter, in summer the last cruise departs at 16:00). The boat was comfortable, stable and safe and the captain was very knowledgeable and experienced which is always good to know when you are on a crocodile and hippo infested river!
The kids loved seeing the hippos and crocs, many of which were lazing on the banks of the river making them much easier for the kids to see (their binocular skills are somewhat underdeveloped at this stage!).
They also really enjoyed seeing and holding the hippo tooth – as did we! Definitely gave us newfound respect for hippos…
It had been a long day for the kids as we had them up early to go game driving in iSimangaliso Wetlands Park, so we did end up resorting to the electronic babysitter towards the end of the cruise, but overall I would say it was a 10/10 for a kid-friendly activity.
St Lucia Beaches & Boardwalks
As you can see, our kids don’t care what the weather looks like, as long as they can be outside and run! Our visit to Main Beach in St Lucia also coincided with some non-beach weather, but the kids didn’t mind in the slightest. The weather for our visit to the boardwalks and beaches near Sugarloaf Campsite was significantly better!
Game driving with kids in iSimangaliso Wetlands Park
Game driving + endless beaches = a win in our book! iSimangaliso has lots of different sections – this trip we visited the Eastern Shore and Western Shore sections, but hopefully next time we will get to uMkhuze as well.
Western Shores (Dukuduku Gate)
The Western Shores section of iSimangaliso is accessed via the Dukuduku Gate, just a few kilometres out of St Lucia on the road to Mtubatuba. We had a lovely afternoon driving around the park and had some good, close up wildlife experiences.
Eastern Shores (including Cape Vidal)
The previous day had been 31 degrees and sunny. The day we went driving in the park and to Cape Vidal it was 14 degrees and blowing a gale! The weather definitely didn’t help our game viewing as in the past we have seen heaps of animals in this part of the park, but we were lucky enough to see a white rhino mother and calf, and a couple of antelope as well. The highlight for the kids came when we drove down to Cape Vidal and a huge family of mongoose came running all around the car, we sat and watched them for ages.
It’s always been amazing to me that there are areas in iSimangaliso where you can not only get out of your car, but you spend time on the beach. Obviously leopards (of which there are a healthy population in iSimangaliso) don’t like sand on their paws…
On the way through the park we stopped off at Mission Rocks. The kids loved watching the crabs running over the sand and rocks, and the wind and occasional rain squalls didn’t seem to bother them in the slightest.
From Mission Rocks we continued through the park to Cape Vidal, a wild and untouched beach which stretches on forever. The kids had a wonderful time running along the beach, and splashing in the water, which despite being winter, is much warmer than the water at the beaches where we live! (Hermanus & De Kelders are beautiful spots, but it takes a hardy soul to brave swimming in the sea…)
Game driving with kids in Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park
About 50km / 1 hour from St Lucia lies Africa’s oldest nature reserve, Hluhluwe–iMfolozi Park. Well it would have been about an hour’s drive if the R618 hadn’t been closed by protesters, so instead it was quite an extended journey! We eventually entered the park via the northern Memorial Gate near the town of Hluhluwe much later than expected and had to drive straight through the park in order to reach our accommodation at Mpila Camp by sundown.
Along the way we had an awesome encounter with an elephant who was wandering up the road towards us. Seeing these incredible creatures never gets old.
Mpila Camp is located in the Imfolozi section of the park. We stayed in a 2 bedroom chalet, and we only wish we had been able to stay for a couple of nights (we could only get a one-night booking as the camp is extremely popular). The camp is fenced only with a single strand of electric wire to prevent elephants from coming in, and we had been warned about hyaenas who liked to scavenge around the bbq/braai areas. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset over the bush and a lovely braai before heading to bed for an early start the next day.
We awoke the next morning to find a herd of springbok outside our chalet which was a great treat for the kids. Heading off from Mpila we spent the day meandering around the park enjoying some wonderful wildlife viewing and just loving being in the African bush.