Safari for Kids: Our Best Places to Stay in Africa

A safari might not be the first activity that comes to mind when planning a vacation with young children, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better experience that exposes your little ones to nature, wildlife and traditional African cultures. It’s agetaway that’s both entertaining and educational for the youngest in the family.

Seeing the awed and amazed expressions that grace children’s faces while learning the secrets of the African bush is a joy you won’t want to miss. Top lodges and camps all around Africa are noting the importance of having a safari for kids and are now offering specialist junior ranger programmes to grow their interest and knowledge through age-appropriate, safe guided activities.

Here are our favourites spots to visit in Africa when going on safari with kids:

Insider tip: Some lodges insist on a private vehicle when travelling with young children, but where they don’t, we advise opting for one anyway. When using a private vehicle on game drives, you’re able to dictate exactly how long you stay at each sighting and how long you’re out in the bush for – which will really come in handy if your little one gets restless while out.

 

1. Kwandwe Ecca Lodge
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, South Africa

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The Eastern Cape is a laid-back and affordable malaria-free destination that is perfect for first-timers or those holidaymakers doing a self-drive road trip along the Garden Route from Cape Town. At Kwandwe Ecca Lodge, children become honorary members of the Blue Crane Conservation Club, named after South Africa’s endangered national bird. As 'Blue Craners', they get animal checklists, take a pledge to ‘live green’ and learn about conservation on the excellent ‘Bugs & Bones Walk’ to identify animal droppings, tracks and skills, and the rich insect life of the wilderness.

For children keen on water,  there are supervised 'Minnow’s' fishing trips. There is an opportunity to plant the indigenous spekboom, a succulent that is one of the Top 5 carbon-storing plants in the world, as a way for the children to off-set their own holiday footprint. For a safe thrill, little ones can go on their own ‘Stripes & Hooves’ game drive to view non-aggressive and non-predatory game like zebras, monkeys and giraffes.

2. Tswalu Motse Lodge
Kalahari Desert, South Africa

Tswalu Motse Lodge

The Kalahari may seem inhospitable to outsiders, but it’s one of the easiest environments to take children for many reasons. For one, it’s malaria free, so no need for medication. It’s also generally sunny, which means that few days are spent inside due to rain and kids can spend hours tiring themselves out in the swimming pool.

Motse Lodge in the Tswalu Private Game Reserve offers a Junior Ranger programme that’s designed to cater for children of all ages and includes exciting supervised activities like archery (the kids make their own bows and arrows), tracking animals on foot, and identifying and casting different spoor. Every Junior Ranger gets their own backpack full of fun guides and tools, and they are taken on interesting, educational bush walks. Not to mention that staff always have an answer to the inevitable, ‘But why?’

3. Morukuru Farm House
Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

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In addition to welcoming children on game drives, Morokuru Kidz at Morukuru Farm House aims to make every junior ranger in training feel special. Armed with their own backpack of goodies, the little ones head off on guided spoor-tracking lessons and mini bush walks, returning to make a souvenir scrapbook with their finds, photos and memories. And when they’re not exploring outside, little ones can be found baking biscuits, playing board games or enjoying a videogame.

4. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge
Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia

Sossusvlei Desert Lodge.

At andBeyond lodges, all kids get a WILDchild backpack filled with bush-oriented goodies like scrapbooks, stickers and a survival tool. At Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, they take advantage of Namibia’s clear night skies and total lack of light pollution for lessons in stargazing, where an expert patiently explains amazing cosmic phenomena. During the day, they take inspiration from the ancient ways of the San Bushmen and get creative with ostrich shell art to make necklaces, learn about dune history while playing in the sand and enjoy some monkey ball art, using local fruits as a canvas.

5. Royal Malewane Africa House
Thornybush Game Reserve, South Africa

Africa House

Situated in the heart of Thornybush Game Reserve bordering the greater Kruger National Park, Africa House offers an unprecedented luxury safari experience for families. Sleeping up to 12 guests, this beautiful safari holiday house is truly a home away from home, with wonderful views of the surrounding bush. Families will appreciate the services of their own private guide, tracker and vehicle, while children will enjoy the many facilities available to them: toys, games and books in the lounge, television with a variety of movies available, splashing about in the swimming pool and stargazing at night.

6. Madikwe Safari Lodge
Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

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The staff at Madikwe Safari Lodge definitely haven’t forgotten what it’s like to be a kid: their junior survivor bush orientation includes quirky lessons on which trees’ branches make the best toothbrushes, how to find direction in the bush, make fire and source water. ‘Bug CSI’ identifies different plants and insects found around the lodge, with youngsters encouraged to make sketches of them to take home as mementos. Spoor can be moulded in plaster of paris and, for those who aren’t squeamish, dung tracking will show them how to identify, well, animal poo.

But the fun for kids needn’t stop there when you leave malaria-free Madikwe. Combine your safari with a few days of fun and excitement at The Palace of the Lost City, the continent's most popular 'beach and ocean' resort.

7. Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

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The Masai Mara – along with the Serengeti in Tanzania – is the most famous of Africa’s reserves and scene of the annual Wildebeest Migration. At Kichwa Tembo Tented Camp, children get front-row seats to all the river crossing action – an opportunity not offered at other lodges. In quieter moments, they can delve into their WILDchild bag of treasures and go into the bush with professional rangers to learn about tracking, fishing, how to make a fire the Maasai way, how to make bows and arrows, and even play a game of soccer with the camp’s team. They can also visit a traditional Maasai village or manyatta, where they’ll test their dance moves in a Maasai dance competition and learn traditional beadwork.

8. Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge
Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa

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Because it shares unfenced borders with Kruger, the Sabi Sands is one of the best places in Africa for your kids to see the Big 5 (lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhino) and Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge was conceived with families in mind.

Sabi’s bright and cheerful EleFun Centre is painted with tribal Ndebele designs and opens out onto a play park with swings and other gear for climbing, jumping and using up all that youthful energy that parents might wish they still had. At EleFun, under-eights can take part in the Junior Trackers Programme, while 8- to 12-year-olds get to sign up as Junior Rangers. Qualified staff are always around to teach your children more about map reading, animal tracking, and the birds and bugs found in the garden. The day is broken up into nature activities, arts & crafts, and games like treasure hunts – all incorporating nature and ecology in an upbeat and easy-to-understand way.

9. Footsteps Across the Delta
Okavango Delta, Botswana

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Footsteps Across the Delta specialises in two things: walking and family safaris. When signing up for the specially designed Young Explorers programme, families have the exclusive use of the entire camp, as well as a professional safari guide, personal chef, waiter, housekeeper and (traditional canoe) guides.

With a strong emphasis on learning how to track game on foot and in a 4X4 vehicle, children will also be taught how to make small animal traps and start a fire from nothing more than two sticks. By the end of your African adventure, your kids will be able to recognise different animal spoor, identify a range of birds, pole a shoot an air rifle at tin cans, fish and even drive a game vehicle. They’ll receive a certificate, t-shirt and cap at the end of the safari – proof that they can ‘rough it’ in the African wild with the best of them.

10. Bumi Hills Safari Lodge
Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

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The tranquil setting of Zimbabwe’s Lake Kariba offers the perfect romantic backdrop for mom and dad to enjoy a little alone time on the water, whether it be an intimate cruise at sunset or nature walk, hand-in-hand, along the banks. What about the children, you ask? The Ngwana Club at Bumi Hills Safari Lodge keeps your little ones so busy, they won’t even notice you’re gone. African Bush Camps’ specially designed programme educates children about their surroundings through fun activities, from nature walks around the camp grounds and storytelling to cultural arts and crafts and cooking classes.

11. Somalisa Acacia
Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe

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Another African Bush Camps property, Somalisa Acacia offers an enthralling safari getaway in Zimbabwe that caters specially to younger guests. The Ngwana Club specialises in a fun safari for kids, educating them on their surroundings and the local wildlife through activities like nature walks around camp, arts and crafts, and cooking lessons. The best part about Somalisa Acacia is its Elephant Pool, a watering hole right next to camp that’s regularly frequented by herds of elephants – there are few things more exciting than getting up close to nature’s gentle giants.

12. Singita Serengeti House
Grumeti Reserves, Tanzania

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The Serengeti plays host to nature’s greatest spectacle, the Great Wildebeest Migration. Singita Serengeti House’s enviable perch in the private Grumeti Reserve provides some of the best seats in the house to watch thousands of wildebeest, zebra and other plains game journey in search of better grazing. Not only will you and your family be able to see this natural phenomenon, you’ll also have exclusive use of the luxury house – including private onsite staff, a private safari vehicle and dedicated guide.

The Migration isn’t the only entertainment on the cards. Family bonding can take place over a match of tennis, watching a movie in the media room or taking a dip in the 25-metre infinity swimming pool. Serengeti House also has a Mini Rangers course that’s sure to delight children of all ages. Young explorers will have the opportunity to learn how to track animals, dabble in some astronomy, upskill in bush survival techniques, put their knowledge to the test in nature quizzes, and participate in various competitions.

13. Governors' Camp
Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya

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Between July and November, Govenors Camp becomes a hotspot for those seeking to see the Great Migration from the lap of luxury. Children will delight in seeing thousands of wildebeest and zebra migrate across the Mara in search of better grazing ground. But Governors aims to give children a more immersive experience than a few game drives with the family.

The Mongoose Club entertains, educates, and inspires children through a host of age-appropriate, fun and informative activities. Led by a local Maasai guide and his qualified, friendly team, children will learn the importance of ecosystems, tree planting and Maasai culture. By the end of your stay, kids will be able to identify animal tracks, footprints and birds, and use the camp’s telescope and laser star pointer to explore all the constellations in the night sky. Children will also be able to flex their creative bone when making their own pizzas, creating Maasai beaded jewellery and building handmade wooden bows and arrows – which come in handy during target practice.

14. Londolozi Varty Camp
Sabi Sands Game Reserve, South Africa

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Varty Camp takes a different approach to its safari for kids. Where all the other camps and lodges on this list have specially crafted children’s programmes, Varty Camp has its own ‘Children’s Philosophy’. This philosophy recognises that each child is unique, taking an individualised approach by finding the specific interests and activities that will maximise enjoyment for your child. Each child is assessed upon arrival by a ranger and qualified facilitator, and the plan is tailor-made from there, ensuring that your little one is thoroughly entertained and invested throughout your safari experience.

Your child is Varty Camp’s main priority, making it the ideal place for a family safari. Private family Land Rovers are available to ensure regular stops for kids to jump out and immerse themselves in the surrounding nature – touching, feeling, smelling and throwing as they go along. Back at the camp, a wide variety of activities are available to ensure all interests are met. This includes archery, tree climbing, fishing, movie nights, pizza making, sling-shot competitions, water-based games, Masterchef cook-offs, arts and crafts, and photography walks through camp.

15. Melton Manor
Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, South Africa

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Perfect for a family safari that includes young children, Melton Manor is an exclusive-use space that is homely, comes with a dedicated team of staff, and is ideally located in a game-rich, malaria-free reserve. There’s something for everyone, but especially children will delight in all of Melton Manor’s offerings.

The fun begins as you arrive and your little one is given a welcome pack of animal checklists, themed games and activities, gifts and a pledge to live green. Your private chef teaches kids a thing or two about cooking while preparing meals suited to each child’s taste, and the use of a private safari vehicle means that children of any age can participate in game drives. And, of course, there are many adventures to be had around the reserve: like following a trail of thought-provoking clues to find hidden items on a scavenger hunt, learning basic navigation by using a sun-compass, identifying major landscape features to find treasure on game drives, and many arts and crafts projects that include building a handmade kite and making ‘creature crumpets’.