Ah, those care-free overland trips from our 20’s, when we threw a toothbrush, some sunblock and a swimming costume into a bag, and went travelling across Africa. Now we’re a little older, a little more settled (but not enough to want to stop exploring!), and many of us have become parents.
Travelling With Children
Things change when the kids come along, especially travelling. A whole bunch of things need to be considered – safety, malaria (young children should not be taken into malaria areas), long distance-induced boredom, distance to medical care etc. All of these should be considered carefully, before travelling.
Holidays in Africa are magical for adults and children alike – there’s nothing more thrilling than seeing animals in the wild, learning about how they survive in the bush, and being taught the value of conservation. And nothing better than a bush walk with a trained guide who specializes in educating children. No more staring at screens, let’s get outdoors.
Choosing Where to Go
Picking the right place to go is vital. While some safari camps and lodges don’t allow children under a certain age, many welcome kids and offer an array of activities suitable for them. Game-viewing drives and walks often have limitations on ages due to safety considerations, and some places offer exclusive vehicles to families, allowing for shorter, child-friendly trips.
Here we list eleven of our favourite spots in southern and East Africa that are ideal for holidays with kids – some offer activity clubs, others have ‘Kid-Ranger Courses’ and many offer baby-sitting, so that the parents can get some down-time too!
Kwandwe Ecca Lodge, South Africa
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, in the malaria-free Eastern Cape, provides a magical safari experience to families with children. On 54 000 acres of gorgeous bushveld, the reserve is home to The Big Five and more. Ecca Lodge has six stand-alone suites with an interactive kitchen and play centre for kids.
Children visiting Kwande join the Blue Crane Conservation Club, and receive a welcome gift pack. Activities include:
- A daily ‘Hooves & Stripes’ game drive – just one hour, to accommodate short concentration spans – is offered for kids over five. Non-dangerous animals like giraffe and zebra are viewed
- ‘Bugs & Bones’ Walk –looking for insects, bones, tracking
- Indoors, there’s face painting, sand art, beading, baking, pizza-making, cookie-baking and chocolate fun (moulded insects, chocolate spider webs!)
- Minnow’s fishing trips (with a ranger)
- Supporting conservation and giving back – planting spekboom, gardening projects, joining in at the local school
And best of all: experienced childminders are available (with prior arrangement), so that parents get to relax too!
Umngazi River Bungalows, South Africa
Umngazi River Bungalows and Spa is set at the mouth of the Mngazi River, near Port St Johns, on the pristine Transkei Wild Coast. With bungalows set amongst the bushes and a central lodge with dining rooms (including one specifically for kids!), play areas and more, it's an ideal place for a family holiday.
Umngazi, while not a safari spot as such, is the perfect, off-the-beaten-track family holiday destination in a wild coastal setting. They offer a plethora of activities – swimming, dune surfing, fishing, boating, bike riding, and more. There’s also a ‘Creative Corner’ for those days that indoor is preferable, and a trampoline and playground. A nanny service is offered (hourly or daily).
Ant’s Nest, Waterberg, South Africa
Situated in the malaria-free Waterberg, Ant’s Nest and Ant’s Hill welcome children of all ages. They are located in a beautiful private game reserve which boasts over 40 species of animal, including wildebeest, giraffe, zebra, rhino and a vast array of antelope.
Ant’s offer wonderful activities for all ages of kids – bush walks and drives, horse and pony rides (led for the little/inexperienced), snake and reptile talks, bug and spoor walks, archery and more. They’re also happy to move around meal times to suit little people routines, and nobody will flicker an eyelid if the kids come to supper in their pyjamas!
Jock Safari Lodge, South Africa
Named after the beloved dog, Jock (of the Bushveld), Jock Safari Lodge in the Kruger National Park offer families Fitzpatrick’s Lodge (after Jock’s owner, Sir Percy Fitzpatrick). This is a 3-bedroomed, fully-equipped house. On arrival, the host/ranger will discuss activity options to suit each family’s needs.
Closed vehicle game drives, junior game ranger training and night walks within the camp are offered for the kids. The house is equipped with games, puzzles and books and children can learn to cook with a ‘Mini Chef’s’ lesson! Child minding is provided, to allow parents to have some down time and to go on game drives.
Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namibia
Set amongst the hills and sand dunes of the Namib Desert, Sossusvlei Desert Lodge offers families a malaria-free desert safari. It’s an area of vast open spaces, huge skies, spectacular desert colours and breath-taking night skies.
Kids join the WILDChild programme, and receive a backpack containing bush-orientated goodies and a scrapbook. Activities include star-gazing, tracking, finding water and food in the desert and learning about local customs and traditions. Childminders can be arranged during activities and meal times.
Camp Kalahari, Makgadikgadi, Botswana
The pans at Makgadikgadi hold a special magic for adults and children alike. At Camp Kalahari, accommodation is in traditional Meru tents with covered en-suite bathrooms. A family tent is available, which is two adjoining tents with an inter-leading bathroom.
The central area is thatched and cool and holds a library, comfortable lounge and dining area, where the chef is happy to adapt meals to suit kids. A thatched pool area provides a place to cool down in the African heat.
Kid’s activities include Bushman-guided walks, to learn about their ancient customs, how to make bows and arrows, traditions and survival methods, quad bike riding (over 12), camping under the stars, visiting Chapman’s Baobab and watching the hundreds of meerkat that call the area home.
Chinzombo, South Luangwa, Zambia
Kids are well catered for at Chinzombo Camp in the beautiful Luangwa Valley in Zambia. It’s located on the river, with six villas – including a family one – each with its own pool to cool down in. This is the ultimate in luxurious African Safari.
They can learn the Zambian way to eat and make traditional clay pots and animals in the village.
Singita Pamushana Lodge, Zimbabwe
Located near the Gonarezhou Transfrontier Park in south-eastern Zimbabwe, Pamushana is an untamed wilderness and has a number of villas suited to families of four or more.
The lodge will tailor an activity programme to fit your children’s age and interests, and can include bush walks in the camp, fishing, visiting the local communities, baking with the chefs, swimming, and star-gazing. Babysitting is offered, to give parents a break.
Ngorongoro Crater Lodge, Tanzania
Teach your kids not only about the African wild, but let them live some Geology too. Ngorongoro Crater Lodge is, as its name suggest, on the edge of the crater, with spectacular views across the game-rich crater floor.
The lodge recommends travel to Tanzania only for kids older than eight, and they are part of the WILDChild programme. Children receive a backpack on arrival, which contains various bush-orientated goodies and a scrapbook. Shorter game drives can be scheduled for trips with the kids, and childminders are available.
Mara Intrepids Camp, Kenya
Located overlooking the Talek River in the world-renowned Maasai Mara National Reserve, Mara Intrepids Camp is slap-bang in the middle of the four Mara game-viewing areas. It’s Big Five country with accommodation in luxury family tents with views over the river.
Kids are kept enthralled by the Adventurer’s Club, where Maasai naturalists teach them the wonders of the African bush – its plants, animals and how to survive. There’s even a fabulous obstacle course that shows kids the challenges animals experience living in the wild.
Giraffe Manor, Kenya
While not located in the bush, Nairobi’s Giraffe Manor is a treat for adults and kids alike. Who’s never wanted to eat breakfast with a giraffe? Set in the leafy suburb of Langata in Nairobi, this old colonial building is on 140 acres of land with indigenous forest, which is home to a large herd of Rothschild Giraffe. They regularly poke their heads into the windows of the manor, especially in the mornings and evenings, when they know a snack may be being served!
Just up the road from Giraffe Manor is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust elephant orphanage. This organisation does amazing work in conservation, rehabilitation and education and the Elephant Nursery is open for an hour a day – the kids will love it!
Contact one of our ABS consultants, who will be happy to help you find the perfect safari for you and your family.