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 5yrs 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.
Accommodation at Zululand Tree Lodge consists of luxurious thatched chalets raised above the floor on stilts. Each of the 24 luxury 'Tree Lodges' include an en-suite bathroom with shower, a kingsize double bed, a bar fridge, tea/coffee making facilities, and a private balcony with enchanting views into the surrounding forest.
Guest Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 based on 4 ratings
The main lodge rooms combine luxury and comfort with an African theme. Complete with en-suite bathrooms, the rooms lead onto a West facing balcony which offers breathtaking African sunsets all within steps of the pool.
Guest Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 based on 2 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: 4.0 / 5.0 based on 1 ratings
Migunga Forest camp offers 19 semi-luxury tents, all tastefully and simply furnished, and with a large attached bathroom set underneath a canopy of acacia trees. The tents each have their own raised platform with its own private veranda, allowing very personal privileged view of the surroundings.
Guest Rating: 3.0 / 5.0 based on 1 ratings
The 15 rooms are spacious and all have en-suite bathrooms with hot showers and toilets. For those chilly upland nights enjoy the warmth of your own African-style firepot.
All of the 24 en-suite and air-conditioned private chalets are beautifully furnished and fully equipped to ensure your absolute comfort. Relax on your own private patio, star gazing and listening to the sound of the bush settling for the night.
Guest Rating: 4.6 / 5.0 based on 20 ratings
A true African bush experience awaits you at Wildside Safari Camp, nestled against the cliffs of the Waterberg Mountain. The 20 luxury en-suite tents have an authentic safari feel.
Guest Rating: 3.0 / 5.0 based on 2 ratings
Ikoma has 31 semi-luxury traditional meru tents each under thatch with its own en-suite bathroom, modern furnishings and a private veranda. The central restaurant and bar area boast a large camp fire - an ideal spot to unwind with a drink after a long days exciting game viewing.
Guest Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 based on 6 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.
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.
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.
Guest Rating: 4.5 / 5.0 based on 2 ratings
There are 10 luxury rooms in total, 2 with double beds and 8 with twin beds. All rooms have en-suite bathrooms, and are equipped with a hair dryer, tea/coffee station, satellite TV and a mini bar fridge.
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: 4.5 / 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.
Guest Rating: 5.0 / 5.0 based on 2 ratings
Exclusivity is assured with only 8 luxury tents, all with private viewing decks, mosquito nets, fans and a luxurious en-suite bathroom with Victorian bath and outside shower. The 2 family tents offer space, luxury and comfort for parents and children and the generous en-suite bathroom also has Victorian bath and open inside shower.
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.
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.
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.
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...