Of all the destinations in the world, I'll wager that Africa offers the best family vacations. Where else can you see the beloved creatures that inspired a dozen Disney movies, or pack healthy fun in the great outdoors into once-in-a-lifetime, child-friendly itineraries? Where else can you enjoy superb settings, fine dining and excellent service at a price that won't blow your budget?
An East Africa family safari offers a range of adventure activities in luxury lodges and private safari villasgeared for family vacations, plus plenty of attractions to please everyone: mom and dad, children, grandparents, and even teenagers.
We know because we go on safari with our families. The variety and novelty of an East Africa family vacation provides a rich setting for you to reconnect with each other and a wonderful way for children to learn about nature, encounter completely different cultures and see wild animals close up in their natural habitat.
What you need to know
When it comes to giving you expert travel advice, we don’t sugar-coat what you need to know. An East African adventure vacation should be about making family memories and having unforgettable experiences - not dealing with challenges. Our Africa Safari Experts always put your family’s safety and comfort first and, because we are independent travel advisors, we never recommend any location, lodge or activity that we’d consider unsuitable for our own families.
Where you go and what you do on your East Africa family vacation is determined by the ages of your children.
Under 8 years: East Africa is a malaria area and we don’t recommend taking young children into areas where malaria is a risk. For the best family vacations for under-8s we recommend South Africa’s malaria-free reserves.
8 – 12 years: Ideally, choose a lodge that offers closed or private vehicles, a junior ranger programme and has professional guides who enjoy sharing the wilderness with youngsters. Under-12s will love the excitement of nature walks, learning basic tracking skills and picnics in the bush.
13 – 18 years: Teens are mature enough to join you for game drives in classic open safari vehicles. If you have a sensitive teen, it’s a good idea to discuss the possibility of witnessing dramatic predator-prey interactions on game drives, especially in the Masai Mara or Serengeti during the Great Migration. It’s important that your teen understands that nature is all about balance, where hunters and prey are a necessary and a normal part of the cycle of life. We recommend choosing lodges that offer multiple activities, like walking, boating, cycling or horseback riding as well as game drives.
Our Top 5 family safari vacation experiences in East Africa:
Feeding Rothschild’s giraffes at Giraffe Manor (Nairobi, Kenya): who doesn’t want to meet one these graceful, leggy creatures over breakfast in a beautiful manor house?
Visiting the Daphne Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage (Nairobi, Kenya): meet cheeky little elephants from all over Africa at this incredible orphanage where they are being carefully prepared to return to life in the wild.
A collaboration between the Jane Goodall Institute and Kenya Wildlife Services, the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary (Ol Pejeta Conservancy, Kenya) offers a safe, natural refuge to about 40 chimps from across Africa, including individuals evacuated during the civil war in Burundi.
Climbing Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa's highest peak and, thanks to its comfortable trekking routes to the summit, the most-climbed mountain in the world. None of the routes to the top require technical climbing skills making Kilimanjaro an ideal and incredible family adventure (kids over 12).
Gorilla trekking in Uganda's Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and Rwanda's Volcanoes National Park can be a life-changing experience - living in close-knit family groups like human families, gorillas display many of our emotional gestures, from affection to delight, surprise and even sibling squabbles.
Our Top5 East Africa lodges for family safari tours:
Kichwa Tembo Bateleur Camp (Kenya) offers Big 5 game viewing (including the Great Migration) plus guided bush walks, night drives, early morning hot-air balloon flights and, best of all, the fantastic WILDchild program with specially trained rangers and child-centred activities around conservation and local culture.
Solio Lodge (Kenya) is a small and intimate camp on a private ranch overlooking dramatic scenery. This lodge welcomes children and offers both day and night game drives plus guided nature walks, horse riding and helicopter flights.
Singita Serengeti House (Tanzania) is a luxury, serviced safari villa for families enjoying a fully tailor-made vacation that is private from start to finish, including professional guide, game drive vehicle, swimming pool, chef and spa treatments.
Sweetwaters Serena Camp (Kenya) is set in the Ol Pejeta Conservancy overlooking a watering hole where animals come to drink and graze. The reserve is home to the largest black rhino sanctuary in East Africa, as well as the Sweetwaters Chimpanzee Sanctuary. Enjoy Big 5 game drives, guided nature walks, animal encounters at the sanctuary and camel treks.
Looking out over a waterhole, Acacia House (Kenya) is ideal for families with under-12s who will take full advantage of the toy-filled playroom, baby pool, bush TV and kids-only loft bedroom. Safari activities include game drives and fly camping at nearby Naboisho Camp.
The best family safari is a private safari
Going on a private safari means that your family’s whole itinerary is shaped around their tastes and preferences. It’s the best way to get the most out of a once-in-a-lifetime vacation – nothing beats exploring with a professional guide in a private vehicle at your own pace, taking private transfers (no need to wait on a tour company’s schedule) and, most importantly, focusing on what really interests you all.
Going private requires a savvy Africa Safari Expert who uses her firsthand travel experience and destination knowledge to tailor-make your vacation. She’ll match the action to your family’s energy levels and make sure the menus and meal times suit your fussiest eater.
It’s the best way to book the family safari holiday of a lifetime.