Welcome to our blog that is all about South Africa’s safari regions and properties we love to send our family guests.
Child Friendly South Africa Holidays
The four primary regions (there are a few others so let’s focus on the main areas) for child friendly South Africa holidays include:
- Kruger National Park
- Private game reserves around the Kruger region
- Madikwe Game Reserve
- Eastern Cape
This blog will give you an insight into each one, its offerings and our pros and cons lists to help you think about what would suit you best for your family safari holiday to South Africa.
KRUGER NATIONAL PARK SAFARIS
Perhaps South Africa’s most famous safari destination, and very child friendly for South Africa holidays is Kruger National Park. It is home to the sought after Big Five (Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo, Lion, Leopard). It is easily accessible from Johannesburg, either short scheduled flight away or a decent 6 hour drive in a hire car or with one of our private drivers. More on that below.
There is a huge diversity of great accommodation for families. Keep in mind the negatives are
- the national park gets really busy
- no off roading allowed
- no game drives allowed
- It is not malaria free if you are travelling with really little ones
Our positives for Kruger family safaris are
- affordable options
- great self drive or fly in packages available
- wonderful wildlife
- great guides at the camps who are used to working with children
GREATER KRUGER PRIVATE GAME RESERVES
Now the exciting developments with conservation over the years have seen the creation of what we call the ‘Greater Kruger’ and that is some 2 million hectares of protected land thanks to the national park and surrounding privately owned land that has been given over to wildlife. Each one varies in size from 11.500 to 65,000 hectares. There are few fences so wildlife cam roam freely in this enormous area of wilderness. There are a number of private reserves adjoining the Kruger and dotted around the region.
Each one is unique offering a style of their own in terms of accommodation and experience. The positives and commonalities are this
- Private concessions allow less people which means less vehicles resulting in a more immersive family safari holiday
- off roading is allowed so you get closer to the action
- game drives at night are allowed so you see nocturnal wildlife in action
The oldest reserve and best known is Sabi Sand Game Reserve, home to Singita, Mala Mala, Lion Sands, Londolozi and many others. Other game reserves includes Manyaleti, Kapama, Timbavati, Thornybush, Klaserie, Balule Nature Reserve and the Makalali Conservancy.
The negatives would be
- higher price
- malaria area (so we wouldn’t recommend if you have young babies)
This is still my preference for taking our own family on safari. It’s the ultimate in wilderness reward so number one child friendly South Africa holidays destination.
How to get there
Greater Kruger safaris
The three major airports that serve the Greater Kruger Area with scheduled flights are Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport (MQP) at Nelspruit; Hoedspruit Airport (HDS) near Hoedspruit and Skukuza (SZK), the more recently opened airport.
You would choose MQP for accessing Kruger National Park through the Paul Kruger Gate and Skukuza for lodges in the southern Sabi Sand region.
If you are staying at private reserves and northern Sabi Sand or needing access to the northerly Kruger gates, you would choose to fly into HDS.
We organise private transfers from the airport to your accommodation and some properties provide a complimentary shuttle. So we look at what would suit your needs best.
If you are self driving family holiday makers then you can drive to Kruger. Just allow 6 hours for the journey. Whilst it is relatively straight forward, there are often delays like road works and blocks plus you will need pit stops for toilet and food breaks.
MADIKWE GAME RESERVE
This conservation area is located in South Africa’s North West Province and borders Botswana. It has a variety of landscapes from grasslands, forests to rocky Tshwene Tshwene hills. Wildlife here is abundant especially elephant and plains game. It is known for its predator action with lion, leopard and wild dog in residence.
The benefits of Madikwe are many
- Malaria free
- Many properties here accept children of all ages
- Babysitting and children’s programs in abundance
- Off roading and night game drives available
- Cap on the number of tourists so it is not as busy as Kruger National Park
- Easy to access from Johannesburg by road or air
To highlight negatives is difficult because it certainly is a family safari crowd pleaser. We would say it lacks tented style accommodation if that is what you seek and perhaps its concentrations of wildlife are not as large as in some other areas. It also has telegraph poles and wires you see running through the reserve but it’s only really obvious when you try to get a photograph close by and it obscures your shot! This isn’t unique to Madikwe, indeed most of the reserves have this.
Check out the video below done for guests who spent time in South Africa on safari in multiple areas, namely Chitwa Chitwa, a private reserve within Greater Kruger and Madikwe plus Tswalu, not listed in this article yet certainly work visiting as a family if you have extra time and budget for it.
THE EASTERN CAPE SAFARIS
Located on the east coast of South Africa, this area is certainly a place of rugged splendour with pristine coastlines, virgin sub tropical forests and bush areas that feel untouched.
In a section of the Eastern Cape you will find a myriad of safari offerings both government run and private. It is the ultimate place to start or end a Garden Route family holiday self drive or private tailormade.
The pros of an Eastern Cape family safari are
- malaria free
- diverse offering of private and national parks
- great range of accommodation from cheap to five star luxury
- self drive is easy
- Close to the Garden Route
- Easily combined with other regions
- Many properties welcome children of all ages
- Wonderful child minding, babysitting and programs for kids on safari
- Big Five in many of the reserves
The negatives of the Eastern Cape in our opinion are
- the fully fenced wilderness so it not only looks ugly, but limits the range of wildlife
- Diversity of quality so you have to be careful where you go and stay
- busy region particularly in summer so driving can be a nightmare
For these reasons, it is a great option for first time family safari goers wanting an affordable safari holiday and the opportunity to spot the big five.
AGE OF KIDS ON SAFARI
Whilst just about every lodge in South Africa accommodates older children, not all cater for those under 12 so we need to make sure we know the ages of the whole family before we get started.
Children under five do not go on the full game drives with adults for safety reasons, particularly when driving into lion and leopard sightings.
Each lodge has their own regulations about the age that children can join in on various activities and we make sure the kids can do everything they wish to whilst there. Often times it is best to hire a private guide and vehicle so you are not restricted by other travellers and to allow your children more comfort.
More and more properties are offering dedicated children safari programs not to mention child care and babysitting services.
Safety is paramount and you are responsible for your children. They will not be allowed (nor will you) to wander on your own at night or during the day and young ones cannot bush walk.
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