You know that a place is really special when you can’t shake the memories and longing to return. Bayala Private Safari Lodge and Camp has taken up rent in our hearts, for many reasons, more than the comfortable beds, beautiful decor, location etc, they have a special x factor that makes such a difference to your stay.
As a mom of two small children, I always look into logistics when traveling with them to any location, including how will be cope during our stay. When first looking at how long it would take us to get there, I was a little nervous, a 1-year-old, stuck in a car seat for so long… can be scary (for the parents).
How I planned ahead:
- We chose to leave very early – knowing we wanted to be on the road long before their normal awake time, this was to ensure they were either asleep or still ‘sluggish’ during the drive.
- All bags were packed and ready, with a change of clothes kept to get the kids dressed on route.
- A bag of toys they could easily play with in transit was on hand.
- SNACKS…. oh boy…. lots of snacks to keep them entertained.
- We also stopped when we can and were not in a rush.
All planning aside, the kids both woke up when we put them in the car and did not sleep a wink the whole way… (really)…. they were angels though, and enjoyed the ride. The road was great and getting to Bayala is so simple, it is right off the N2, so no worries of long complicated directions.
Driving through the reserve to get to the camp, Skylar was already trying to animal spot, she loves the bush, and gets very excited about it all. Note, the camp and lodge are separate, don’t be confused by the word ‘camp’, it’s not tents.
We were warmly welcomed by reception, who knowing we had two small children prioritized our room to be ready, as both were ready for a nap and quiet time. While we waited, we took in the well thought-out African inspired decor, the breathed in deep the smell of the bush and the felt the warmth of a hot breeze under the shade of a tree.
You can clearly tell they have recently had a major renovation throughout, everything is new and well thought of, the fixtures to the decor is suitable and pleasant. No extra items, that I needed to worry about, especially with the kids, who want to touch everything. My husband and I joked, but the best thing about the rooms was the aircon, we were so grateful for that, as we were in for some hot days, and in the middle of the day, it can be an awesome retreat, especially at nap time.
The room can be interleading or not, depending on your needs, the way they have been designed, meant there was lots of space, and we were definitely not all on top of each other, the kids loved playing in the area between the two rooms. The king size beds, were perfect, as our two, most nights end up joining us, and taking over.
What you get in your rooms
- Coffee station
- They do have built-in two prong plugs in the sockets
- Bathroom amenities such as hand soap
- Swimming towels (are by the swimming pool)
Bayala is not self-catering, and you will dine by the boma or in the restaurant. Prepare for that if you have small kids, and they need bottles etc.
FIVE REASONS Why we LOVE Bayala
- Location – Situated with Mun-ya-wana Game Reserve, Bayala is an extremely well-kept. From their own grounds around the lodge/camp, to the care seen within the reserve. It is just far enough off the main N2, close enough to get to, far enough not to know you are anywhere near it and feel like a million miles away. The scenery is constantly changing on your drive, with more than 5 different types of biodiversity. Open veld, forest to rocky escarpments.
- Staff – Coming from 8 years in hospitality, and being hyper aware to how the staff can really make or break your stay. I can truly say that Bayala has a dream team. Everyone is friendly, all welcome you with a big smile and ready to talk. Skylar is a good judge of character, and she was so at ease with everyone, it felt like home. We chose to leave Wyatt in their care when we went on some drives. He was so well-loved, he was affectionately called “Whyie, Whyie”. To the management that lead this team, well done, even without any sign of senior management, the staff did not falter, it did not matter. They are passionate about what they do.
- Big Five – The big five are fantastic, and we are so lucky to have seen them all during our stay. The big five includes; lion, elephant, rhino, leopard and buffalo. Bayala does not allow self-driving, you will have to go in their vehicles. This is such a bonus, the rangers know the park so well, from where certain game like to congregate. They also keep tabs with each other on sightings, there are also rules in place, like only 3 vehicles at one sighting. This makes your experience so much better and a lot more intimate.
- Conservation – Originally a cattle and hunting far, the owners of Bayala are in the process of restoring the land, with a focus on conservation of the flora and Fauna. The fight against rhino poaching is still as important as it ever was. It may not be the hot topic on the news anymore, that does not mean our rhinos are still being poached. Bayala is a supporter of The Cycle of life, it is a team of 120 cyclists that participate in the Cape Town Cycle Tour to raise funds and awareness.
- Sam – Sam was our designated ranger for our stay at Bayala, he took us on all of our drives. What an amazing human being. Skylar still talks about Uncle Sam, he has set the bar very high for any one else ever taking our family on game drives. His passion for the bush, the animals and his passengers is soooooooo evident. During the times between sightings he made sure everyone was still entertained. Sam has been with Bayala for over 20 years, he knows all the place like the back of his hand. He went beyond to make sure we had the best time. We miss him so much, and hope our paths meet again.
Sam played a game with the kids to make it interesting during the drive between sightings, the animals were allocated points, and if you saw a certain animal you would gain points.
I have put together a fun sheet you can print, if you wish to play the game with your kids
YOU ASKED: I posted on Instagram asking what you would like to know about taking your children on a bushveld holiday. Thanks so much! Here are my answers.
What age do you think is the best age to go? Xxx
- – I first took Skylar at 4 months, she had no clue what was going on, but she napped for long in the car, and it worked out well. When she was between 1 and 2, she really started to take notice of the game, and got excited when she saw them. At 3, almost 4, it has been the most enjoyable age so far with her, as she can understand, and ask questions, remember what she saw and is growing a real appreciation for wildlife. So to answer your question, start them young if you can.
As far as I know for some game reserve kids under 2 are not allowed on the game drives?
- – Yes that is true, some do not, at Bayala kids and parents go on a dedicated drive. The ranger is aware of the littles and takes precautions, you also don’t irritate the other guests who don’t have kids. The ranger will also talk sometimes to their level and make it fun. Which is great for the whole family.
What products do you use for mozzies and bugs for your kiddies? Jax suffers badly from mozzie bites, just interested to know your go to?
- – I used the Sopure sensitive Mosquito Spray it can be used from 6 months. It is a natural, non-toxic spray. The whole family used it. I did miss the smell of the good old tabard, that really reminds me of the bush. This one did work well.
How do you keep them entertained after a long time of not seeing animals? Inevitably you go thru patches of just driving with nothing to see….how do you avoid the whining?
- – We played the above game I mention (download the sheet). Take age appropriate toys with them, If you are self-driving this is easier. Skylar was on the drive from 6 to 8/9am and she hardly complained during these long times, she thought even the ‘boring’ impala was cool. Then snacks, lots of snacks. Talking about what you had seen. Letting her look with the binoculars etc. And she asked Ranger Sam, lots of questions and had requests…. like will we see a baby elephant. In the Open air drives with a ranger, it is exhilarating for them to have the wind in their hair, taking in all the new sights.
How does one entertain kids on a bush holiday 🙈 I have a 5yo and 2yo and if we are not outside in the bush am I on my own with entertainment ☺️ I have never done a bush holiday so not sure
- – It wall depends on the ages of your kids. At Bayala the game drives are in the morning and evening. Between that time you are at the camp, we were lucky they had a lovely swimming pool and deck area to hang out at. I packed a wide variety of toys to be on hand. Then another awesome trick, I downloaded some movies and shows from Netflix, so if we had no connectivity my eldest could watch. This we only used in the room during her brothers nap time, to keep her chilled out, and to have some relax time. Also taking walks around the place, and seeing how fast she can run etc. Drawing and games. You think you will be bored, but you just get by, it really allows you to connect at a family. Skylar loved the game drives and did not miss one, she did not even moan at the early morning wake ups.
How do you and your husband find time to unwind and relax with the kids? We’ve been on a bush holiday with the kids twice, and the last time I came home more tired. Also, what do you do to keep them entertained in the car in the drive there and back? 💛
- – Relax, what is that… seriously I get you, but I don’t think you can have both, well not entirely. If the place you go to has sitters and you are able to leave them with the ladies, take advantage and go on a drive yourself or have a couples spa treatment or dinner together alone. We chose for our son to be looked after during most of the drive as it was too long for him, and stressful for us to take him along. We really enjoyed it with our eldest, and we relaxed with our rusks at the look out point or during sundowners. I honestly don’t think family holidays are ever truly relaxing for moms, we pack, we unpack, check snacks and entertain. But I forget all that when I see the joy on my kids faces. Toys and snacks help in the long car drive, and plan your trip around their sleep times.
They are also geared for glamorous bush weddings and group events. I have seen so many photos of beautiful weddings held at the reserve.
If you have any questions about our stay or want to know more about taking your kids to the bush, leave a comment below.
Thank you to Bayala Private Safari Lodge and Camp for hosting us