AFRICA FOR FAMILIES
Family beach holidays in Africa
There’s nothing like an African safari with the family – and nothing like escaping for a few days of R&R on a beach afterwards. When it come to African holidays, this is the dream combo. It’s a brilliant way for the whole family to chill out, and for your kids to experience another facet of Africa’s exquisite natural environment.
Africa’s amazing variety of family-friendly beaches and islands will leave you spoilt for choice. The turquoise waters hugging Africa’s east coast are warm and oh-so blue, and filled with a diversity of marine life that will inspire any budding David Attenborough or Jacques Cousteau. Families can snorkel go snorkelling together, head off on marine safaris, or hop on boats to go dolphin spotting or whale watching. There are endless stunning beaches and islands to explore – and so many fun-packed activities to delight the whole family at each one.
Let’s face it, a beach holiday needs to be about more than just lazing on soft sandy beaches when you have kids – they will need things to do! So where should you go?
Africa has roughly 30,500 kilometres of coastline, including too many jaw-dropping beaches to count.
The list of choices is long and stunning but the best, in our opinion, can be found in Tanzania, Mozambique, South Africa and the Indian Ocean islands of Seychelles, Mauritius, Madagascar and Zanzibar (yes, we know this is officially part of Tanzania, but it’s so good it deserves its own special mention).
Oh, and Lake Malawi, too (trust us). Fun, safe and utterly spectacular, a holiday at any one of these family-friendly beaches and islands in Africa will complement a safari perfectly.
The exotic spice islands of Zanzibar in the Indian Ocean are a brilliant destination for a family getaway on an African beach, especially if you’re an adventurous family with school-age children or teens.
Lying off the coast of Tanzania, the Zanzibar Archipelago is made up of two main islands: Unguja (a.k.a “Zanzibar”) and Pemba, as well many smaller islands.
Boasting beaches famous for their white sands and luminescent, turquoise waters, spending time on the beach is obviously a top priority for visitors here, but there are so many other fun things for families to do on these colourful islands: take day trip to Jozani Forest to see the red colobus monkeys, or Prison Island (despite the name it’s actually gorgeous) to check out the giant tortoises; enjoy endless water sports or hire a dhow, one of the traditional wooden sailboats Zanzibar is famous for, and sail into the sunset; visit the Zanzibar Butterfly Centre; or wander through Stone Town and sample tasty street food – make sure you try the local pizza (which looks nothing like traditional pizza!).
The coastline of this south-east African country is one of the most stunning stretches of white sand on the entire continent, with perennially warm Indian Ocean waters making this a superb year-round beach holiday option. Another plus? Some of these gorgeous beaches are only about two hours’ drive from Kruger National Park, so they’re perfect for a beach-and-bush combo holiday. Parents with small children should bear in mind that the country is malarial, but active families with older children who are interested in marine life will love this destination, where they can enjoy water-based activities such as swimming, big-game fishing, taking a voyage around clusters of postcard-perfect islands aboard a traditional dhow, and even fly-camping on a deserted Indian Ocean island. They’ll also love exploring richly coloured coral reefs and seeing amazing marine life (including whale sharks and manta rays) – Mozambique and the exquisite islands that lie off its coast is where you’ll find some of the best scuba diving and snorkelling on the planet. There are two archipelagos that are justly famous for their beauty; family-friendly eco-resorts and lodges; and world-class diving, snorkelling and water sports: Bazaruto and Quirimbas.
The Quirimbas Archipelago, just off the far north coast of Mozambique (near the Tanzanian border) is an exclusive private island escape that’s widely recognised as one of the most beautiful beach destinations in all of Africa. Comprised of 32 small islands, the only downside is that it takes a significant amount of effort to get to this area. Further south you’ll find the Bazaruto Archipelago, which is more family-friendly and easier to access, making it a popular choice for families wanting to combine a beach holiday with a safari in southern Africa. Here you’ll find Mozambique’s only marine park, the Bazaruto Archipelago National Park, which is one of the world’s top diving locations and home to dugongs, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, whales and stingrays. There are five Bazaruto Archipelago islands, including Bazaruto and Benguerra, where you’ll find the high-end hotels where most families tend to stay.
Other things to do on a beach holiday in Mozambique include swimming with dolphins (ethically) off the coast of southern Mozambique, near the town of Ponta do Ouro; and turtle watching and releasing on Vamizi Island (five of the world’s seven sea turtle species, including hawksbill and green turtles nest on Mozambique’s coastline). More affordable than the Seychelles and less built-up than Mauritius, Mozambique might not have been on your beach-holiday radar, but it absolutely should, if you’re after an unforgettable family adventure on balmy beaches.
Just off the coast of Mozambique, the island of Madagascar is a fantastic destination for families with older children, who like their beach getaways with a side of unique scenery and animals. Fun fact: Madagascar is the fourth-largest island on the planet, and an incredible five percent of all known animal species live here and nowhere else.
This is the place where you can visit numerous national parks to spot Madagascar’s famous lemurs and maybe even a chameleon; explore lush rainforests and sandy deserts; stroll down Baobab Alley (a sight you won’t forget quickly); and check out Madagascar’s tsingy – a stone forest of thin, needle-like rock formations that are simply epic.
There are plenty of adventure activities for teens and older kids to enjoy, such as guided ATV tours, trips in dugout canoes, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain biking, kite surfing, camping on the beach and, at certain times of the year, whale watching. But if it’s beaches you want, Madagascar boasts some of the finest in Africa, with beautiful resorts on white sandy shores and great snorkelling in crystal-clear waters. There are many more islands off the coast of Madagascar that you can explore too – don’t be offended if you hear the word “Nosy” – in Madagascar, this word means “island”!
One of the most luxurious beach resorts in Africa is in Madagascar, it’s called Miavana and like nothing else on earth.
Okay so it’s not, strictly speaking, a beach (after all, it’s hundreds of kilometres from the coast!), but Lake Malawi must be included on any list of the best spots in Africa for a family holiday by the water.
Its palm-fringed shores rival those of any beach, and it’s an adventure paradise for active kids and teens who love kayaking and sailing, or perhaps snorkelling or diving in its blue, blue waters, amid the largest number of fish species found in any lake in the world.
You can always join in… or just watch from a hammock on the shore, drink in hand.
If you’re planning a South African escape – maybe even a leisurely self-drive holiday – there are so many beaches that will tempt you along the way. Just minutes from the centre of cosmopolitan Cape Town you can be on famous sandy beach of Camps Bay, but don’t miss other top local spots such as Llandudno, Boulders Beach, Oudekraal and Melkbos Beach.
Stretching some 600 kilometres, the KwaZulu-Natal coast offers a subtropical climate, lush vegetation, a super-chill vibe and golden, sandy beaches just perfect for families.
The Garden Route, known for its sublime coastlines, warm waters and diverse marine life, is one of the few places on the continent where you’ll be perfectly situated for both a beach holiday and a safari experience, with beautiful properties situated right on the ocean, and backing onto big nature reserves.
Here, if you’re lucky, you can spot the “marine big five”: great white sharks, southern right whales, seals, penguins and dolphins – and then head inland to spot some of Africa’s iconic animals. Between June and November there’s a good chance you’ll be able to do some land-based whale watching too, as migrating humpback whales pass by.
This gorgeous Indian Ocean island is one of Africa’s most family-friendly beach destinations. And because it’s just a short flight from Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg, it’s a brilliant option for any family wanting to combine a safari in southern Africa with some beach bliss.
The island is ringed by white-sand beaches on which stunning, world-class holiday resorts enjoy prime real estate overlooking the calm, sapphire ocean. Most resorts boast vast swimming pools, or you can laze on a sun lounger right on the beach, just steps from the water. Pretty much everything else is close at hand too, making these resorts a convenient and stress-free option for families.
You can drop the children off at the on-site kids’ club (most resorts have one) and enjoy some well-deserved “time off” while the young ones have the time of their lives under professional supervision. But there’s so much you’ll want to do all together as a family – this is a tropical playground, with idyllic beaches, calm lagoons and coral reefs just perfect for snorkelling and diving. Adventurous families can also partake in other water sports, such as water skiing, parasailing and windsurfing.
Mauritius’s resorts cater to every taste and offer such outstanding service that it’s not uncommon for visitors to forego the other attractions of the island and just hang out at their resort and the nearest beaches. But if you do want to venture further afield, you can take the kids hiking or horse riding in the forested hills; check out the Port Louis or Grand Baie markets; or head inland to Chamarel, home to the incredible Chamarel Waterfall and the colourful sands at Terres de 7 Couleurs (“Seven Coloured Earth”).
You might think that the glamorous Seychelles archipelago is just for honeymooners and couples on a romantic break (famous newlyweds who have honeymooned here include Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cornwall), but it’s also an idyllic destination for a family beach holiday. There are more than 150 islands in the archipelago, characterised by rounded granite boulders rising from white sandy beaches lapped by the blue, blue waters of the Indian Ocean. It’s a brilliant destination for families wanting an island getaway after an Africa safari. On powder-soft beaches lie award-winning resorts and stylish villas with family sized-rooms aplenty, superb service and children’s clubs offering daily activity programmes that focus on the local fauna and flora, including giant tortoises, exotic birds and the unique Coco de Mer nut, the largest and heaviest seed in the plant world. Bonus point: there’s little risk of malaria, cholera and yellow fever in this part of the world.
It’s a water baby’s playground, where families can enjoy an extensive range of water sports and activities, including snorkelling and scuba diving. Many of the islands are ringed by coral reefs that teem with marine life, so you won’t have to swim far to see kaleidoscopes of tropical fish. You might even spot a turtle swimming past – or, at certain times of the year, watch hawksbill and green turtles lay their eggs on Bird Island, a private island that’s home to giant tortoises and a plethora of birds and other wildlife, where you can immerse yourself in nature.
Other great adventures to enjoy on a family holiday to Seychelles include zip-lining across the jungle, cycling around La Digue island, or simply island hopping to explore the islands of the archipelago by boat. When it comes to a family beach holiday destination, the islands of the Seychelles archipelago are hard to beat.