Best Family-Friendly Safari Destinations in Africa

September 26, 2019
Jodi Lucas
Jodi is an adventure enthusiast and Douglas Adams groupie who supports these addictions through travel writing. When she’s not hitting Cape Town’s surf, you’ll find her trawling pre-loved bookstores for a leather-bound volume of The Ultimate Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy.

Africa – there is nowhere else on the planet quite like it. On this continent, where humans first came into existence, untamed wildlife, barely touched landscapes, and ancient cultures have survived the passage of time.

It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it destination abounding with 144 World Heritage Sites, over 3,000 different cultures, a kaleidoscope of landscapes, and a Noah’s ark of wildlife.

While there’s a little something for every kind of traveler in Africa – from scaling lofty mountain peaks to sandboarding on rippling desert dunes, trekking tropical rainforests, and exploring cosmopolitan cities – yet going on a safari is on everyone’s bucket list.

It may be a cliche, but we’ve yet to meet a traveler who has not been filled with wonder when measuring their footprint against the tracks of elephants just passed or watching epic battles between predator and prey.

Solo travelers, honeymooners, city slickers, and adrenaline junkies alike flock to the continent’s remote savannahs for the chance to be out in the rugged wild to witness the circle of life in motion.

But, things change when you have to factor kids into the equation, especially when it comes to safaris in Africa.

A whole bunch of things to be considered: safety, malaria risks, long distance-induced boredom, and distance to medical care all need to be factored in. It can be daunting and you may be wondering if it is even worthwhile to go on a family safari in Africa.

The answer to that is a resounding yes!

An African safari with kids is a truly unforgettable experience. There’s no better way to escape the humdrum of daily life than by being out in the wild, seeing iconic animals, learning about how they survive in the bush, and being taught the value of conservation.

It can be challenging to find family-friendly safaris that are accessible and safe, while also providing enough entertainment for the kids. So, we’ve put together a list of our favorite family-friendly African safari destinations.

South Africa

South Africa is one of the best safari destinations for families.

For starters, it’s almost entirely malaria-free and there’s a wealth of activities to keep both the young and young at heart happy on holiday.

Whether you’re overlanding from Cape Town to Victoria Falls, exploring the Garden Route, or traveling from Johannesburg to the Kruger National Park there are endless safari options for the whole family.

 

Where to safari with kids in South Africa:

Boasting over 20 national parks, South Africa ranks as one of the best African safari destinations. Throw in the country’s world-class facilities and easy to navigate infrastructure, and you’ve got a hassle-free family safari holiday.

From easy nature walks in the lush Tsitsikamma National Park to family camping in the Karoo and child-friendly horseback safaris in Addo National Park, South Africa is tailor-made for an adventurous family vacation.

For that classic safari experience, the Kruger National Park should be at the top of your bucket list.

Spanning nearly 2 million hectares, the Kruger is unrivaled in the diversity of its wildlife and family-friendly facilities. This park is ideally set up for taking kids on safari – featuring fenced rest camps and accommodations replete with swimming pools, restaurants (with most offering special children’s meals), and play areas.

Generally speaking, the south of Kruger National Park is more child-friendly than the north in that the distances are not so great between get-out points, the landscape is varied, and the game is more plentiful.

 

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Right on the border of South Africa and Mozambique, we spent the week at Kruger National Park. We have been a few times over these 15 years of visiting family and friends in South Africa. And nothing compares to the animals in Kruger. We were leaving the park after a full day in our 10 seater rental van, the park was closing, the sun was setting, and we hadn’t seen rhino’s all day. Then, suddenly we saw all of them. They were on both sides of the van and covered in red dirt from a fun day being a rhino. It was the perfect end to our Kruger drive. Think a safari in South Africa has to cost a fortune? Take a look at my budget friendly and family friendly safari in South Africa blog post.

A post shared by 🌍 Kate ✈️Family Travel Writer🚡 (@mominzurich) on

 

Activities for kids on safari in South Africa:

There are plenty of things to do for kids on safari in the Kruger National Park.

To combat the boredom, the park has an action-packed children’s program which includes highlights such as traditional arts and craft classes, touch and feel bushwalks led by a trained guide and even safari game drives tailored for little ones.

Age restrictions for children in South African National Parks:

Children under the age of 12 are not allowed on SANParks wildlife walks, and those under six are prohibited from the park’s wildlife drives. Although, if you’re traveling with children under six years old, consider hiring a car and going on a self-driving day tour that’s close to the park.

Best time to go on a family safari in South Africa:

The Kruger Park is an all-year-round destination, with each season bringing its own highlights.

But, if you’re traveling with children, then consider visiting the park in the dry winter months (June, July, and August) when the malaria risk is lowest and the daily temperatures are mild. The wetter summer months from November to April are the riskiest and as such – young children, pregnant women and older travelers – are advised not to go into the area.

Vaccinations for kids prior to a safari:

Because of the hazard of malaria, it is advisable to take only children above the age of five into the park and to get medical advice before visiting Kruger. If traveling with children, it’s best to choose areas that are less than an hour’s drive into the park.

Travelers are advised to be proactive in preventing mosquito bites by using repellents and protective clothing between dusk and dawn and to sleep under mosquito nets. So an extra precaution, consider child-friendly medications that can be taken.

For a malaria-free family safari in South Africa, Addo National Park and the Madikwe Private Game Reserve both offer the quintessential Big Five experience and kid-friendly facilities.

Tanzania

More than any other destination, Tanzania is the land of safaris.

And, it’s a great safari destination for families with a sense of adventure. With almost unrivaled wildlife viewing in the Ngorongoro Crater, Africa’s highest mountain, and the tropical island of Zanzibar to enjoy, there’s something for everyone on a family safari holiday in Tanzania.

 

Where to safari with kids in Tanzania:

In every direction you travel, nature and adventure abound in this eclectic country.

Over one-third of Tanzania is under environmental protection, meaning you’ll find plenty of opportunities to teach the kids about the importance of conservation and witness true untamed wildlife.

To make it easier to plan your trip, Tanzania has been divided into regional circuits – all offering breathtaking landscapes, intriguing wildlife and a plethora of exciting safari activities!

In the southern circuit, the lovely lake Malawi and the scenic highlands offer plenty of space for kids to run around. While in the west circuit, chimpanzees swing from tree to tree in the jungles of Tanzania and rare roan and sable antelopes roam the Gombe Stream National Park.

To the north, you’ll find excellent classic safari opportunities that are family-friendly and a good selection of child-friendly accommodations and restaurants to top it off. In this popular safari circuit, wildebeest stampede across the Serengeti, elephants seek out water in Tarangire National Park, and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area bustles with the densest concentration of wild animals in Africa.

Activities for kids on safari in Tanzania:

There are a number of camps that welcome kids on safari and even offer tailor-made activities to keep the little ones enthralled on and off safari.

From learning about and spotting the Big Five on safari to meeting the Maasai, and exploring Tanzania’s jungles, it’s difficult to be bored in Tanzania’s northern circuit.

To top it all off, Zanzibar island offers travelers of all age a sandy slice of heaven to relax after a wild safari getaway.

Age restrictions for children in Tanzania Safari Parks:

While some safari lodges don’t have an age restriction, we would suggest children age seven years and older will get the most out of a family safari holiday in Tanzania.

Best time to go on a family safari in Tanzania:

If you’re going on a safari with kids in Tanzania, June through September are the ideal months to travel. The overall temperatures are cooler, mosquitoes tend to be fewer (although anti-malaria precautions should still be taken) and travel overall is easier.

Vaccinations for kids prior to a safari in Tanzania:

Check with your doctor about recommended vaccinations and the use of malarial prophylactics.

However, if you’re on safari in Tanzania with the kids, it’s essential to bring along mosquito nets and ensure that your children sleep under them. To be extra cautious, we recommend packing long-sleeved shirts, trousers, and socks for dawn and dusk and to always use mosquito repellent from home.

Namibia

With the world’s largest sandpit to explore, affordable safaris, and incredible wildlife viewing in Etosha National Park, Namibia is the perfect African safari destination for families with little adventurers.

While it may not be the easiest destination to travel, given its long distances and dry heat, these obstacles can be overcome with some sensible planning. And, if done right, Namibia has much to offer families seeking a safe African adventure.

 

Where to safari with kids in Namibia:

Namibia is a classic desert and safari destination with virtually no malaria, safe drinking water, excellent roads, plenty of self-drive options.

From the shipwrecked shores of Skeleton Coast to the Mars-like terrain of the Namib-Naukluft National Park, there’s plenty for little explorers to enjoy.

But for a family safari, nothing compares to visiting Etosha National Park in Namibia’s north. Boasting all the members of the Big Five, well-established self-drive infrastructures, floodlit watering holes, and photography hides, Etosha is the perfect place to introduce kids to the beauty of wildlife.

In addition to this, Etosha also has several family-friendly lodges, with fenced-off areas for kids, shallow swimming pools, and children’s playrooms – ideal for anyone traveling with kids in Namibia.

Activities for children on safari in Namibia:

From climbing some of the highest sand dunes in the world to clambering over rocks looking at ancient Bushmen rock engravings at Twyfelfontein and exploring the eerie ghost town of Kolmanskop near Luderitz, this desert country offers so much variety that kids on safari might even forget about their cellphones.

Age restrictions for children in Namibia National Parks:

Given the dry heat and distance, Namibia is not the easiest destination to travel in with small children but there are few attractions or facilities designed specifically for little explorers aged 7 and up.

Full-scale safaris are generally suited to older children and, for the active teenager activities such as horse riding, sandboarding, ballooning, and paragliding are sure to enthrall.

Best time to go on a family safari in Namibia:

Namibia is a scenic country and can be visited throughout the year.

But, if your main objective is to take kids on a safari, we recommend visiting in the Dry season from May to October. During this time, animals congregate around watering holes, the temperature is more bearable, and the climate is not suitable for the mosquitos.

Vaccinations for kids prior to a safari in Namibia:

Etosha National Park is a low-risk malaria region but as a precautionary matter, we do suggest that you consult your GP on Malaria Prophylaxis when visiting Etosha National Park from January to April.

Can you go on an African overland safari with kids?

To overland in Africa with children is not a decision to be taken lightly, but it is possible.

Due to the nature of overland tours, the minimum age limit is 18. However, younger travelers (10 to 17) will be considered depending on the tour, time of travel and availability.

 

Here are our top Family Overland Safaris in Southern Africa:

Best Family Friendly Safari Tours in Tanzania:

Top Family Friendly Safaris in Namibia:

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