feature admiring the view from the top of table mountain

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Why comedian Urzila Carlson loves South Africa family holidays

South African-born Urzila Carlson is a stand-up comedian who regularly performs at live events including the Melbourne International Comedy Festival and Just for Laughs at the Sydney Opera House, and appears on television shows such as Spicks and Specks and Have You Been Paying Attention? She lives in Auckland, New Zealand, with her wife and two children, aged six and two.​

admiring the view from the top of table mountain
Admiring the view from the top of Table Mountain
Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Benoni, which is the same place Charlize Theron is from. It’s 30 minutes east of Johannesburg.

Where did you holiday in South Africa with your family as a child?

We would go to a game farm called Ingwelala and we spent most school holidays and long weekends there. It was some of the best times as a child because we had so much freedom, and could just run around in the bush to our hearts’ content.

a rhino in front of a safari vehicle in south africa
A rhino in front of a safari vehicle in South Africa
When did you move to New Zealand and why?

I moved to New Zealand in 2006 because my partner (at the time) and I decided we wanted to raise kids near the ocean and where it’s a different pace to South Africa.

How often do you return to South Africa?

I try and get back at least every couple of years because it’s my home and will always be, regardless of where I live. I love South Africa and it’s in my blood. I take my kids every time because I want South Africa to be part of them too and ensure they understand the culture and the language/s.

urzila spots an elephant at a waterhole
Urzila spots an elephant at a waterhole
How has South Africa changed over the years?

I try and get back at least every couple of years because it’s my home and will always be, regardless of where I live. I love South Africa and it’s in my blood. I take my kids every time because I want South Africa to be part of them too and ensure they understand the culture and the language/s.

urzila carlsons children on safari
Urzila Carlson's children on safari
You took your kids to South Africa earlier this year. What did you do?

We did everything! Game watching, ocean swimming, we went to the Palace of the Lost City in the North West Province and we even did side car tours in Cape Town.

What are the top attractions for families?

You cannot go wrong ever, in all time as long as time exists, if you take your family to a game safari. You can go to the Eastern Cape and see the big seven (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo on land; Southern Right whales and Great White sharks in the ocean).

a side car tour in cape town
A side car tour in Cape Town
Can you recommend any family-friendly restaurants in South Africa?

You can take your kids to Spur Steak Ranches – they have a playground and child minders in every restaurant. In saying that, I took my two to all the restaurants I wanted to eat at and the kids were catered for every time.

What makes South Africa a great destination for a family holiday?

The exchange rate! Kid friendly! Activities up the wazoo! Amazing food! Great coffee! Amazing sights! And have I mentioned the exchange rate?! South Africa is the most beautiful country in the world and it’s super easy to get there!

the family on safari in south africa
The family on safari in South Africa
Do you have any tips for flying to South Africa with kids?

There are no tips, even flying short haul with kids can be a pain, but what I find easiest is to book the later flight out of Perth and that way they at least sleep part of the flight because it’s night time. We were very lucky, both of ours slept the entire way from Perth to Johannesburg, but when flying back they slept 20 minutes combined. So my suggestion is to book nothing to do the day after landing –give yourself the chance to eat comfort food and recover from the flight.

see the big seven including leopard on safari in south africa
See the big seven including leopard on safari in South Africa
Any other advice for families considering or planning a holiday in South Africa?

Just go. Don’t overplan, try to go with the flow. Hire a 4×4 because some of the best restaurants/experiences/views are off road.

Urzila Carlson is the Australasian Ambassador of South Africa Tourism.

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