We can make it happen for you and the family. Regardless of age, experiencing your very first game drive whilst on safari in Africa is truly magical. One never forgets the beauty of the light, the wildlife sounds that buzz all around, the smell of the earth and bush and getting close to some of the world’s most stunning creatures.
Africa is impactful for children as a holiday destination, we know first hand. Children who engage with the wildlife, immerse themselves in a wilderness and experience new and dynamic cultures first hand undoubtedly grow and learn in a way that’s impossible through iPads and iPhones, books and movies.
There is something for families with children of all ages in Africa, from babies to pubescent teens and almost adults!
Here are our top family safari properties from Southern Africa (East Africa to come) for families with children at different ages.
BABES IN ARMS
If you have a baby in the family don’t worry, you can still go on safari.
Madikwe Safari Lodge, Madikwe (Malaria free) South Africa
This is one of our favourites. It has an entire lodge, Lelapa that is dedicated to families and the suites are massive with space for a cot. Parents can enjoy game drives whilst qualified and lovely babysitters (camp staff who have children themselves) look after your little ones. Whilst they sleep, the babies are in your room and when awake, the staff often walk up to the main area with them to play and crawl around if they are on the move already.
Staff are brilliant in preparing what you need when it comes to milk or baby food, so we just give them a heads up in advance that you are travelling with little ones. Meals can be served in your room if you want a night in rather than dining up at the main area. Lunches too are great in your room if you want time with baby. There is ample space with a sitting area indoors, a plunge pool with outdoor furniture, outdoor shower and massive glass panels with views of the bush from the bedroom and bathroom to marvel at. The main lodge embraces children and babies, so don’t feel you can’t mingle with other guests and have your little ones with you. Tears and tantrums are human nature and here, it is never an issue because the lodge is designed for families.
If you have a few children with you who are slightly older, there is the fantastic children’s educational centre where activities abound with colouring in, beanbags, movies on animals, skulls and bones and all sorts. Guides are trained to work with children and they head out on ‘bumbles’ through the bush for mini safari experiences – shorter than what adults experience just due to attention spans.
TODDLERS ON SAFARI
Travelling with families that consist of a toddler is very common and there are plenty of options. We like to ensure safety first, so it’s important to consider lodges that have limited heights where children could fall. Plus we want them interacting and doing things rather than just being ‘babysat’.
Kwandwe Melton Manor, Eastern Cape South Africa
This is an exclusive use safari property in malaria free Eastern Cape with fantastic wildlife and a family friendly atmosphere. There are four ensuite bedrooms designed around a central courtyard and lovely pool – note it’s not fenced so you cannot take your eyes off the kids. Stay here and you get a private safari vehicle complete with a team of tracker and ranger which means you go on safari at times that suit you and the family. You also get your own chef to prepare your meals and a butler to service your needs. Babysitter can be provided with advance notice. This is the ultimate family safari in a frontier farmhouse style property that oozes charm, warmth and character.
KIDS ON THE MOVE
Once kids are on the move, we like to keep them busy! Here are two picks that combine beautifully.
Royal Chundu, Zambia Safari
Zambia’s first Relais & Chateaux property, Royal Chundu on the Zambezi River boasts two lodges, River Lodge and Island Lodge. Both are child friendly, we prefer River Lodge and its Children’s Club because it offers things like treasure hunts, frogging safari, butterfly and insect capture and release, fishing tag and release, cosmic safari, birding, cooking lessons and more! Children under 2 will be cared for by child minders at the lodge whilst parents can enjoy their safari activities. This is ideal for kids aged baby to teens.
Flatdogs ‘Jackalberry Treehouse’, South Luangwa Zambia
One of our all time favourite family experiences, this property is for those with children old enough to be brave and sleep in a platform up in the trees and sit still long enough for a few hours of game driving. Accommodation is a treehouse with two bedrooms either side of a main lounge area and table where your private meals are served. The tree you are in is food for elephants so you get wildlife wandering right by and eating from ‘your tree’. We recommend from 8 +
TROTTING AND TREKKING TEENAGERS
If your teenagers love to horsehide or walk, Africa is ideal. Horseriding for teenagers of all riding abilities abound in South Africa, Botswana and up in the Masai Mara.
For trekkers, why not climb Mount Meru together if Kilimanjaro is too much? Or trek to see gorillas or chimpanzees? And there are great walking safaris and mobile camping safaris where you get private guides, great tents, home cooked meals on open fires and nights out under the stars.
Ants Nest, South Africa
This place specialises in family African Safaris and they have Ants Nest and Ants Hill, two private style bush homes on a private reserve in the malaria free Waterberg region of South Africa’s Limpopo (kids love saying Limpopo).
Here, families can horse ride, walk, game drive and more very safely because the reserve is not home to the dangerous predators like lion and leopard. They do have giraffe, rhino, buffalo, zebra to name a few. Guides are awesome with kids and make it a truly memorable experience. Take a look for yourself. http://www.waterberg.net/family_safaris.php
Grestoke Mahale, Tanzania Primate Safari
This is a stunning luxury lodge on the edge of Lake Tanganyika and behind it is the rainforest and mountains where chimpanzees reside. Arrive by boat, enjoy fully inclusive stay and great activities like boating, fishing plus the highlight, chimpanzee trekking.
Young Explorers Footsteps, Okavango Delta & Linyanti Botswana Safari
This fantastic package is designed to offer families the chance to discover the wonders of Botswana’s true wilderness and wildlife. There are two different camp locations, the Okavango Delta and Linyanti. Both are offered as exclusive use with just six guests in three specifically designed twin bedded tents complete with sewn in floors and ensuite bathrooms. One tent can sleep three if you need a younger one with you. Activities are planned with the entire family in mind. Parents enjoy peace and quiet whilst the guides entertain kids with a myriad of activities to suit all ages like hunting, tracking, dung throwing and more! (yes dung throwing is always a hit). We recommend 8+
Desert Homestead Outpost, Sossusvlei Namibia Safari
Namibia’s highlight is surely its massive desert! So why not stay at this place and we will get you the family apartment. It sleeps 4 with bedrooms, bathroom, shaded sun deck with excellent panoramic views of endless grasslands and the distant mountains. Desert adventures abound with walks, horse riding and game drives!
Planet Baobab, Botswana
Here, the average age of a tree is 4,000 years, the landscape is lunar and the accommodation is very cool. With a giant ant-eater out the front, you won’t miss it. It is a well known watering hole for travellers and great for kids. Here, you sleep in traditionally styled Bakalanga huts with ensuite showers. There is a fantastic pool to enjoy and the main area is really colourful with super friendly staff to ensure you and the kids have a great time. Why go here? It’s all about the remoteness, sleeping out under the stars, quad biking (dry season that is) and having meerkats climb all over you! This is where a super friendly habituated meerkat colony has called home and you can head out early morning to see them rise and shine. You’ll also learn about Batswana culture, visit a local cattle post and enjoy a delicious traditional lunch. Visit Nxai Xini Pan to see ancient stone tools and fossils and walk in a baobab forest. In wet season, you may be lucky enough to witness the second largest on land wildlife migration with 35-75,000 zebra and wildebeest. It is Southern Africa’s last and little known annual migration.
Okaukuejo, Etosha National Park Namibia
Namibia is awesome for families, especially if you like to self drive. This place has family chalets with 2 bedroom units complete with kitchenette and braai (barbecue) area. Air conditioning for comfort, lounge area, fridge and tea and coffee station. Even better, we like to upgrade you to a Premier Waterhole Chalet which is a double storey chalet with a balcony overlooking the waterhole. There are 2 bedrooms, downstairs has 2 single beds and upstairs is a double bed. Again all the mod cons and creature comforts for a great stay. Kids will love watching animals come to drink whilst sitting snacking on local delights or waiting for their BBQ dinner (come on Dad!).
1. Not every country has a great range of family friendly properties for all ages of children. It is important to know this up front because it may influence your decision on where to go
2. Much of Southern Africa and East Africa are prone to tropical diseases and is malarial (not all). This means children may need to take malaria tablets and have some vaccinations
3. Some properties don’t take children under 12
4. Some properties don’t allow children on game drives unless they are 12 + or you hire a private guide and vehicle at an additional fee
5. Some safari activities are not suitable to younger children. For instance, gorilla and chimpanzee trekking is restricted to 15 +. Walking and Canoeing also have restrictions that vary from place to place.
6. Babysitting and nanny services are often available. Some safari properties have play areas, kids clubs even kids menus
7. Room allocation is important. In safari camps, children are not able to sleep in a room on their own due to safety. So that often means parents have to take a few children each if a family room / unit is not available.
8. Whilst this all sounds too hard, it isn’t because we know where is best for your family to go! Travelling with children in Africa is a pleasure because in general, Africans love kids and are always super friendly plus the rewards of open wilderness and abundant wildlife are endless just like the memories!
Get in touch today if you want to chat about a potential safari holiday to Africa with the family.