Going on safari with your family is one of the most gratifying experiences you can give your kids. You’ll share the magic of seeing see wild animals up-close and they’ll learn much about the bush and their environment with specially designed kid’s programmes and activities. Here are our top family-friendly safari destinations in South Africa and Botswana.
If you have very young children you may prefer a malaria-free area so as to avoid the issue of malaria medication. The Eastern Cape and Madikwe Game Reserve in North West both offer malaria-free safaris.
Sibuya Game Reserve, Eastern Cape
Sibuya is situated on the banks of the Kariega River Estuary and is the only game reserve that is exclusively accessible by boat, so kids will be thrilled from the get-go. There are three camps to choose from with River Camp being the best for young families (Forest Camp and Bush Lodge both accept kids over 12). The four tented rooms have large fold-out sofa beds for the little ones and the chef prepares special kid-friendly meals. Activities include river cruises, canoeing, beach walks and swimming alongside traditional game viewing.
Click here for our Cape town, Garden Route & Eastern Cape Safari itinerary
Madikwe is a Big 5 reserve that, despite being the fifth largest in the country, is also one of the lesser-known, making it a hidden gem with fewer visitors. Most of the lodges are child-friendly and have family units or villas. Certain exclusive-use lodges offer private game drives that are entirely flexible according to your schedule. Children over 6 years can join normal safari outings while the very little ones will enjoy a “kiddies bumble” safari which is much shorter and avoids deliberate close encounters with dangerous game. Family-friendly lodges host an established kiddies program where children are entertained with fun and educational activities, including biscuit baking and decoration, plaster casting of animal tracks and ‘nature’ art. Baby sitting facilities are available so you can enjoy the freedom of a safari or dinner on your own.
Top tip: where possible opt for your own private vehicle. This allows you to determine your departures times, the length of your game drives and how long you stay at each sighting.
Click here for our Madikwe Safari itinerary
Kruger National Park
While the national park offers a range of lodges and camps, we prefer to book one of the private reserves for you that border the park and that make up what’s known as Greater Kruger. Private reserves limit the number of guests and vehicles at each lodge so the reserve doesn’t feel overcrowded. Not all private reserves have family-friendly lodges, but here are some of our best sellers that will tick all your boxes.
Good to know: Kruger is a malaria area and is home to the Big 5, factors which may influence whether you take your very young children.
Balule Private Game Reserve
Mohlabetsi Safari Lodge is a small camp with just six African rondawels and two family suites, each of which has two bedrooms with an interleading door. Sleeper beds can also be added to the rondawels for children. Mohlabetsi offers the full safari experience at comparatively very affordable rates, making it a great choice when travelling with your family. Kids will love the visit to the local Shangaan Cultural Village, where they’ll meet local kids and learn about the Shangaan way of life.
Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve
Chitwa Chitwa Game Lodge is named after the aging giraffe bull who once shared the owners Brink family home. The theme of family still runs strong here as they welcome children of all ages and allow kids under 3 to stay for free. There are special activities for little ones under six and a comprehensive programme for older kids who can also join their parents on game drives.
Don’t miss: a one-of-a-kind bush takeaway, the mobile Chitwa Pizza Truck, which is the first in the Sabi Sand Game reserve and a huge hit with the kids.
Timbavati Private Game Reserve
If you’re looking for an exclusive safari experience for your family, Geiger’s Camp in the Motswari concession in Timbavati is just the ticket. The camp has a traditional four bedroom lodge that can sleep up to eight and the sole-use option allows you to build your safari to your exact requirements with expert assistance from your guides. Your rangers are local guides who are renowned for their quality, and your camp chef can be flexible with fussy young palates. The lodge staff are known for superb personal service, as is evident in the effusive praise that we receive from our travellers who have visited.
Note: Children are only allowed at Geiger’s if you book the entire lodge, otherwise they must be over 16.
Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve
Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge is one of our most popular family safari lodges due to the EleFun Centre, a fully-equipped children’s facility within the lodge offering activities that are fun, safe and educational. The Junior Ranger programme is designed for kids aged 4 to 12 and includes bush survival, bugs & birds, spoor identification & child-friendly game drives. The centre features a secure outdoor play area that kids can use in between formal activities. The centre is fully staffed at all times, meaning you can go and enjoy your safari experience while the kids are in safe, capable hands.
Take a look at our Kruger safari itineraries:
If you’re keen to venture further afield than South Africa, the Young Explorers Safari in Botswana is our most well-known and long established family safari. You’ll have the sole use of Footsteps Camp, a six bed camp within the Shinde Concession of the Okavango Delta. The camp comes with a professional ranger, personal chef, waiter, housekeeper and specialised guides who will paddle you down the Okavango Delta in a mokoro (dugout canoe). The specially designed Young Explorers programme is geared towards the whole family, featuring activities for everyone as well as R&R time for you while the kids are entertained by your guides. At the end of the safari, kids get a Young Explorers certificate, t-shirt and cap and a healthy dose of bush cred!
Click here for a detailed look at our Young Explorers Safari