PART 2 of course features the safari properties in South Africa that we like to send our family guests (and our own families of course).
Firstly, a quick overview of the main safari areas in South Africa.
Region name and short description
|Kruger National Park – Big Five (Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard) safari destination, main NP gets very busy as locals visit daily too and no off roading allowed and no night drives.||NO|
|Sabi Sand Private Reserve – Big Five safari and outstanding wilderness, off roading allowed, day and night game drives.||NO|
|Madikwe Game Reserve – Awesome reserve offering Big Five safari (more difficult to see all the Big Five compared to Sabi Sand), brilliant lodges geared to families because it is malaria free, so no tablets required.||YES|
|Eastern Cape – A number of private reserves tailoring for all ages and budgets with the added incentive that it’s malaria free. Ideal for self drive holidays as the finale, starting in Cape Town, driving up the garden route ending on safari in the Eastern Cape.||YES|
Greater Kruger Region
Camp Jubulani is located in the greater Kruger area and offers the fantastic Zindonga Villa, a family unit available exclusively for your use. Up to 4 adults and 2 children can stay here and for a third child, an additional supplement is applied.
All children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult on game drives, bush walks and elephant back safaris. Please note participation in the elephant back safari will be at the sole discretion of the Elephant Master after careful consideration of each child’s temperament.
Exeter River Lodge is one of Danica’s favourites for teenagers and as a new mum, she would know what to look for! 0 – 2 years stay free of charge in a cot that is set up when you arrive. No game drives or walks or activities are offered, so the little one has to be with you or with a babysitter. 3 – 5 year olds stay free with 1 or 2 adults and can join you on shorter game drives. 6 – 16 year olds pay 50% of the rate and can head out on game drives and walking bumbles around the lodge with a guide learning about the smaller wildlife of Africa. 12 – 16 year olds are allowed on all game drives and nature walks, so this is the top pick for teenagers! Rooms are spacious and have plunge pools that overlook the creek bed where elephants wander almost daily, a highlight for all ages.
Kambaku is an affordable and friendly option and ideal for children 4 years plus who are able to go on game drives and children over 12 can go on the bush walks. Private vehicles can also be arranged for a fee if you have kids under 4.
Kapama is another affordable safari gem with a few different lodges that welcome families and children of all ages.
Here you can get an all round safari experience, friendly service, comfortable rooms and stunning wildlife interactions without leaving the comfort of your room (or plunge pool as pictured here!)
Always receiving outstanding reviews from families, it’s worth considering as your finale to a self drive Cape Town, Garden Route family holiday.
Ok… this region is a tough one because properties are endless! So here’s just a handful.
Hillsnek Safaris is a hidden gem. Owner run, authentic tented camp with awesome facilities including main lounge, dining and pool with deck.
Children 2 – 11 pay a child rate and share a family room with parents. It’s a small property and books out well in advance, so we recommend you plan at least 12 months out to include this one in your itinerary.
Just imagine sitting by the pool as a family and this guy wanders up for a drink?
Kariega has a few accommodation options on their property and focus on family experience.
Children can go on game drives with their families and the safari river cruise too, even walks around the immediate vicinity (pictured). There is also a play area with wildlife DVDs, books, toys, blackboard and table tennis. Between 11am and 2pm children can enjoy a number of safari activities with the guides from guided trail walks, spoor casts using plaster of paris, interactive games, target practise , creating their own bushman paintings and learning survival skills demonstrated by the ranger. Babysitting is available for around R60 per hour which is less than $10.
Kwandwe is another great one offering comfortable accommodation, great activities for families to experience together and mid range rates. Children under 6 stay free. 6 – 16 pay child rate when sharing with parents. At Kwandwe, kids can stay at Ecca lodge plus Uplands Homestead and Melton Manor. Only children aged 12+ can stay at Great Fish River Lodge.
Kwandwe offers exciting and stimulating safari activities for kids. The reserve has a Blue Crane Conservation Club to keep little ones enthralled and entertained.
On arrival you’ll get a welcome gift with animal checklists, themed games and activities. Activities are Bugs and Bones walks, sand art, mould making to name a few plus beading, fishing, baking and pizza making at the ‘chef in training’ area plus DVDs and popcorn when weather is rubbish (very rarely). Children under 5 cannot go on game drives unless private vehicle is booked. There is an hourly stripes and hooves adventure drive daily after breakfast where children and parents can head out to view non aggressive wildlife.
Madikwe Game Reserve
This is our favourite family reserve because not only does it offer Big Five wildlife, the accommodation options and activities for children are exceptional.
Jaci’s Safari Lodge is a friendly, relaxed property with standard rooms and family suites depending on your needs, size of family and age of children. Guides are family focused and even children aged under 4 are taken on separate ‘jungle drive’ for just 30 – 60 minutes during the day which parents are welcome to join when they get back from their morning game drive.
Madikwe Safari Lodge is a fantastic property and one of its three lodges focuses just on families! Lelapa Lodge connects all generations through adventure and safari.
Lelapa actually means family in the local dialect. You can expect the spirit and comfort of being at someone’s home from the moment you arrive as a guest, and leave as a friend!
Because this is our favourite, here’s the full detail.
There are twelve huge size suites with bedroom, ensuite bathroom and giant bathtub plus outdoor shower, deck area with plunge pool and sun loungers plus a fireplace and lounge sitting area. Children of all ages are welcome and those under 5 stay free. Ages 6 – 15 pay 50% of the adult rate.
There are awesome children’s activities here including the Eco House, an entire building dedicated to children’s activities of course focused on wildlife and conservation. Babysitting is available for a small additional fee and well worth the service so you can enjoy boma (campfire) dinners and activities whilst your little ones may be sleeping. Everything is perfect for children – food is made to your precise requirements and very healthy… although toasted marshmallows around the campfire is a must! There are two large family suites here with twin beds and comfortable sleeper couch.
It’s the activities that really sell this family safari experience and it’s wy in South Africa, it remains our number one family destination.
- Adult safari drives are available to all children who are 6 years and older. Open safari vehicles are used.
- Family safari drives are available to all children between 2 and 6 years old. Open safari vehicles are used. These drives are offered just after breakfast so as not to rush the wakeup process, and where possible they try and give each family their own vehicle for this game drive. Although they don’t approach or go into lion or elephant sighting areas, for safety reasons, it is an exciting opportunity for the kids to go out with their parents into the bush and enjoy seeing so many incredible animals.
- Bush orientation entails a number of fun and interesting bush skill activities, for example learning which tree to use to make a toothbrush or which trees have edible properties. Kids will also learn how to find their direction in the bush, make fire and find water.
- Bug CSI is offered by your field ranger, who takes the kids around the lodge area identifying the different bugs, tracks and interesting plants and writing up a list of everything that was seen and identified. The Lodge provides notebooks for sketching and writing which can then be taken home as a souvenir.
- Dung tracking introduces your kids to the important role this plays in animal tracking and being a game ranger. Different animal dung will be identified during a drive and the kids will get to learn about the animals’ diets and other understandable behaviour patterns that can be read from their dung. Notebooks are provided which allows kids to mark off each spoor that they identify.
- Track pack with plaster of paris, where kids make moulds of animal tracks found whilst on the family’s safari drive. They will be collected a little later when they have dried!
- Painting/drawing/colouring in, a range of options that they try and make relevant to what was seen on the drives during your stay. These can be included in the notebook so that the memories the kids take home can be enjoyed by everyone.
- Washing the safari vehicle with their ranger – getting wet and muddy is all part of the fun for some children. So if your kids like to feel the squelch of mud between their toes, the lodge is more than happy for them to help the rangers wash the open safari vehicles after a drive.
- Baking in the kitchen gets the kids into the kitchen to try out their culinary prowess. They’ll get to decorate their own chef’s hat with coloured crayons, make and cut cookies and then decorate them with all sorts of exciting goodies. The cookies are enjoyed at lunch/tea time.
- Making pizzas in the new pizza oven in the boma. The process starts with making the dough and ends with a lovely hot pizza being served for lunch/tea. Note that the oven is only operated by the Lodge staff so as to ensure the safety of the little chefs.
- Soccer in the boma is a great way to burn off some of the boundless energy. This activity is not sponsored by FIFA, so if the parents prefer, we can also teach a little ‘non-contact’ rugby (one of South Africa’s national sports) or volleyball.
- The galaxy can be viewed from all the open wooden viewing decks. Either before or after dinner, your field ranger can arrange for a little show and tell about the stars and constellations that appear in our Southern hemisphere.
- Games night / afternoon allows you and your kids to engage with other families by challenging them to a friendly games competition. There is a wide selection of board and card games. The lodge provide drinks (cocktails for the parents) and snacks for this. In summer, this is a fun thing to do on the outdoor deck, and in winter around a roaring fire.
- DVD’s with homemade popcorn for when the weather is really, really bad, which is a rarity.
- All of the above activities will be hosted by camp managers, so if you wish to slip away for a little R&R you can do this knowing you won’t be missed because your little ones are in excellent hands!