Enjoying a Family Safari in Southern and East Africa
Setting off on a family safari holiday is something really special that you'll all be buzzing about for years to come. After all, an African safari is a huge adventure for both little kids and big kids (commonly known as parents) alike. Catching the pure amazement on your childrens' faces as they encounter their very first elephant or giraffe is an incredible feeling - one that you'll wish you could bottle and keep forever.
If you're planning a family safari, there are a few important things to keep in mind in order to ensure that every member of your family gets the most out of your trip. Safari lodges each have their own set of rules where children are concerned, so it's really crucial that you choose the right lodge for your clan.
Whilst just about every safari lodge accepts older children, many do not cater for children under the age of 12, so this is definitely something to consider when you're initially browsing through your safari options.
children on game drives
As a general rule, most lodges do not permit children under the age of 5 years to join long adult game drives. This is purely to protect the safety of your kids and ensure that everyone gets a top notch safari experience. Game drives require sustained quiet and patience, which are both big asks from an over-excited child in Africa! Noise and sudden movement can attract unwanted attention from the wildlife or scare it away altogether, so they are real safari-spoilers that can put all the participants at risk. As small children are so wonderfully unpredictable, it's just not a safe environment for them.
Each lodge has it's own rules, so you should be sure to double-check exactly what these rules involve before booking your safari. After all, what could be more disappointing than finding out that your 8 year old cannot join you on game drives when you check in at the lodge?! Of course, we're here to help you find the best safari option for your family and ensure that absolutely nothing of this sort happens to you.
We've compiled a list of family-friendly lodges to set you off in the right direction. Many of these lodges offer brilliant chilldren's activity programmmes for any kids too young for adult game drives, featuring a whole host of fun-filled activities from ‘bush bumbles' and themed picnics to insect walks and traditional storytelling. Other lodges will offer babysitting services to look after your little ones while you're out on safari.
Alternatively, it may be possible for your family to hire a private vehicle and driver so that your whole brood can head out into the bush together on bespoke game drives according to the ages of your kids. This can be a useful way to get around any age restrictions, but please do bear in mind that it will involve additional costs.
Finally, if you're planning a family trip to East Africa, using a private driver-guide could be the perfect solution. Not only does this bring the overall cost of the safari down (as it is booked on a Full Board basis and avoids costly flights between safari destinations) but there are no age restrictions involved.
The lodge offers comfortable accommodation in 24 comfortable thatched rondavels looking up at the sweep of Ubizane Mountain. The chalets each have a fully equipped kitchen and all bedrooms are en-suite with ceiling fans.
Guest Rating: 4.8 / 5.0 based on 4 ratings
The camp can accommodate a maximum of 30 guests at any one time. The tented rooms are raised up slightly on earth mounds, overlooking the river and the plains.
Guest Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 based on 22 ratings
The rustic, unfenced Wildside Safari Camp consists of 20 en-suite tented chalets, including 4 family tents as well. Dining in the restaurant is an informal affair, where other guests soon become friends.
Guest Rating: 4.4 / 5.0 based on 7 ratings
Lakeside Lodge is situated on the banks of Lake Entabeni and offers 24 luxurious, elegantly furnished en-suite bedrooms. View Entabeni's famed hippos from the comfort of your own private deck with the ever-changing colours of the Entabeni Mountain reflecting in the lake.
Guest Rating: 3.7 / 5.0 based on 3 ratings
Ravineside Lodge comprises of tranquil thatched wooden lodges on stilts with bird's-eye views. Each lodge has 3 or 4 luxury en-suite bedrooms with an African ethnic theme, making this ideal for families or groups of people travelling together.
Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge accommodates a maximum of 44 guests in 3 different room types. The rooms have been carefully positioned high up on a ridge to take full advantage of the spectacular views over the hills and valleys of Hluhluwe-uMfolozi Park while at the same time giving each room maximum privacy.
Rhino Ridge Safari Lodge: Stay 4 nights for the price of 3Valid: 1 May 2016 - 30 June 2016.
Guest Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 based on 2 ratings
There are 16 luxury rooms in total. All rooms have en-suite bathrooms, and are equipped with a hair dryer, tea/coffee station, satellite TV and a mini bar fridge.
The exclusive Eagle's Nest, with 4 en-suite rooms, nestles high on a hill overlooking Entabeni Lake and Mountain, and is ideal for families or groups of friends travelling together. This luxury wooden and stone lodge built on stilts provides a perfect setting with spectacular bird's-eye views.
The luxury accommodation is in 9 well-appointed stone and thatch en-suite chalets nestled in the clifftops overlooking the river. Each chalet has its own private deck with a hammock, offering incredible views.
Guest Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 based on 23 ratings
Each chalet is tastefully decorated and furnished with the emphasis on outstanding comfort. Central facilities include a large viewing deck and splash pool with a 180 degree view of the river shaded by an old leadwood tree.
Settle in at your choice of one of 13 luxurious private suites - there are 7 Luxury suites for couples, 2 Family suites for up to 2 people, 2 Executive and 2 large Presidential suites. All suites are air conditioned, spacious and tastefully decorated, with en-suite bathrooms.
Guest Rating: 4.0 / 5.0 based on 3 ratings
Set against a backdrop of lush green mountainous vegetation, exclusive accommodation in 47 air-conditioned luxury thatched chalets and 3 suites, all with en-suite bathrooms, offer guests complete comfort and relaxation in a beautiful natural setting. Natural, bold colours stand confident and proud, enhancing an ethnic feel throughout the lodge.
Guest Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 based on 1 ratings
Bongani's rooms are ideal for families, groups or individual travellers and are set atop the Malelane Lebombo Mountains with private decks featuring magnificent wraparound views. All chalets and suites, each with 2 en-suite bathrooms and a private deck, are a subtle blend of timber and thatch, spaciously spread out across an impressive mountain ridge, within easy walking distance from the guest areas perched above.
The 24 intimate air-conditioned en-suite rooms at Shiduli feature rich, earthly tones and aromatic timber. The huge romantic beds fitted with crisp white linen are swathed in flowing mosquito nets under the canopy of a thatch roof.
Chisomo Safari Camp features 22 safari tents, set in the African bushveld, under majestic apple leaf, jackalberry and tamboti trees. All tents, with en-suite bathrooms, are facing the beautiful Makhutswe River and wildlife can be viewed from the decks as it emerges from the reeds for grazing.
Africa on Foot Camp has 5 chalets (2 of which are family units), ensuring an intimate and personal safari experience. To truly immerse yourself in the rustic bush experience, all chalets are equipped with lanterns while plug points in the main area can be used to charge your camera batteries.
Guest Rating: 4.4 / 5.0 based on 22 ratings
Woodbury Tented Camp is set in the heart of the reserve, and the tranquil surroundings of the open bushveld allow you to truly experience a quiet getaway. The centre of the camp is an airy, thatched entertainment area, where you can soak up the African sun.
The 8 spacious, tastefully-decorated suites offer the highest standards for comfort and complete relaxation. Each en-suite room, comprising a bedroom, lounge, deluxe-bathroom, wardrobe and veranda, is fully equipped with mini bar and tea/coffee making facilities.
Guests have a choice of 4 en-suite air-conditioned bedrooms. There is a central area with a large patio, lounge and indoor kitchen area.
Guest Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 based on 4 ratings
The 5* Nambiti Hills Private Game Lodge offers intimate and luxurious accommodation. There are 8 luxury suites and one honeymoon suite, and each suite has a private viewing deck and an interior featuring a contemporary eclectic mix of local African design.
Many safari lodges, particularly in South Africa, offer special children's activities for their younger guests.
These obviously vary from lodge to lodge, but in general the majority of the will include a shortened game drive, bush walks in search of insects, footprints and animal dung, and traditional story-telling.
You can find out more and see a selection of lodges offering these activities here...