Most Australians know George Gregan as former Wallabies Captain,
Aussie sport hero and all around nice guy.
As Elisa Elwin recently discovered, George has also made more appearances for Australia’s national team than any other player in rugby’s history and while George travelled to Africa many times over his 16 years at the top level, he didn’t get to holiday there and see it as a relaxed tourist.
Thanks to The Classic Safari Company, that has been rectified, with George taking his gorgeous wife Erica and their three kids – son Max (11), and daughters Charlie (10) and Jazz (eight) on a long overdue African holiday.
Catching up in Capetown
As with any long haul journey with kids, it’s smart to factor in some recovery time on arrival so everyone can chill out, rest up and prepare to explore a new city and a new culture. Which is exactly what the Gregans did, enjoying a few days in beautiful Capetown.
This spectacular coastal city is the perfect place to start a South African sojourn, and the break here also allowed for George to catch up with some old friends from his rugby days. George’s former team mate and sometime opponent Tiaan Strauss hosted a braai (barbecue) with wives and kids en masse adding to the fun of this reunion. Aussie kids meeting South African kids and enjoying the accents sprinkled with “yah” and “sharp” made for a perfect afternoon of fun over masses of delicious meat.
Capetown for Kids
Cape Town is a fantastic family destination for kids: there’s plenty to do, whether you decide on playing ball on one of the many pristine beaches, visiting the heady heights of Table Mountain, visiting Simon’s Town to see the penguins, or strolling around in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. The best way to spend a day is to take advantage of one of the hop-on, hop-off buses. Get your bearings, see what this beautiful city has to offer and don’t forget to spend some time on Table Mountain. It’s gorgeous.
Next stop Zambia
The River Club in Livingstone was a firm family favourite of the Gregans which is not really surprising as it’s ranked one of the Top 50 lodges in Southern Africa and one the top 500 Hotels in the World. The owner, Peter Jones, made the Gregan tribe feel right at home, not just within the confines of the divine property itself, but also in the local community. The family had the chance to visit Simonga village, with the Gregan kids cheering their Dad on and taking part in a kid’s footy clinic at the village school. All part of a normal day on holiday when your dad is George Gregan.
Another big highlight for the clan was tiger fishing in the Zambezi River. Yep! Not real tigers of course, but fish with razor-sharp teeth and defined stripes along each side. The kids friendly fishing adventure was a real joy as the family sat under a gazebo set up on the river. Hooks were baited; fish caught and set free and cold drinks served. No wonder they wanted to come back for more.
Sensational Sabi Sands
Sabi Sands was the last stop on the Gregan Tribe’s adventure. Savannah Lodge, situated in the Sabi Sand Private Game reserve, hosted George and his family for three magical, wild-animal-filled days. This private game reserve is the oldest in South Africa and covers an area of over 60,000 hectares, bordering on the famous Kruger National Park. Savannah Lodge lies in an area where sightings of the Big Five are so frequent, it’s not unusual to spot lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino in a single game drive as happened for the Gregan five on their dawn and dusk safaris.
Choosing the sensible and child-friendly option of a private vehicle meant the family could go at their own pace and the kids could ask all about the animals they saw without bothering others in the vehicle. Under the expertise and wisdom of their guide, they learnt quickly about using their ‘nature voices’ to keep as quiet as possible when watching the endless parade of wildlife including the rare joy of spotting a female leopard and watching her closely for over 20 minutes until she padded silently away. The littlest Gregan, Jazz, even got to spend time up front of the vehicle in the Spotters chair.
George recalls a trip he made to Zambia when he was just five years old and knows that on this journey he has given his own three children their own life long holiday memories.
Top travel tips from George
Most important when flying on smaller internal flights with a 20 kg limit per bag. Even sticking to that weight limit George said they didn’t need everything they brought.
Check all health requirements for the area you are travelling well prior to departure. Get all the relevant immunisations and pack a kit for any emergencies especially if you are with your kids in remote areas.
George and his family flew South Africa Airways.
When to go
Sunny all year around, with December to February being the hottest, there is no real off-season for travel.
The currency is the South African Rand (ZAR). At the time of writing, AUD $1 buys ZAR 9.4
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A message from the heart
George and Erica’s son Max was diagnosed with Epilepsy in 2004. The experience of being with him in hospital led to the Gregans establishing the George Gregan Foundation in August 2005. The twofold purpose of the Foundation is to raise funds to train medical practitioners who specialise in the treatment of children suffering from epilepsy and other neurological conditions.
The second is to build playgrounds in children’s hospitals designed to give the young patients and their families somewhere to safely go together away from the wards. There are now playgrounds in Westmead, Randwick, and the Brisbane Children’s with one on the way to full funding in Canberra. The mission is to provide every dedicated children’s hospital in Australia with an all access outdoor playground.
The George Gregan Foundation
does not receive any government funding and is entirely funded by donations. To find out more about how you can be involved or help phone 1300 306 608 or visit www.georgegreganfoundation.com.au