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It can be both wonderful and difficult for a child on safari. The wonder obviously lies in the adventure and the animals, and the difficulty lies in keeping quiet and fidget-free for long periods.
I remember being ordered to sit silently in a hide next to a waterhole in Zimbabwe when I was twelve, and it was one of the most challenging things I had ever done, or, according to my parents, didn’t do. It is for such reasons that many of the luxury lodges in Africa don’t cater for children under age 16. But there are several that do.
And they do it remarkably well! Think bushwalks, junior ranger training, butterfly/fish/insect catch-and-release, arts, crafts, games and special game drives.
Here are our favourite child-friendly lodges in Africa that will welcome your little ones with open arms. They have several facilities and activities tailored to keep the rascals busy and inspired until they pass out in their cosy safari beds for the night. There are also several malaria-free safari destinations such Madikwe and the Garden Route/Eastern Cape.
Image credit: Londolozi Founders Camp
Hosted at Londolozi, the Londolozi Cubs programme packs in a bunch of fun and fascinating activities to give your kids more than just an understanding of their role in managing and conserving Africa’s incredible biodiversity. Here, children learn about themselves, other people and cultures, about building friendships and trust, and about survival in the wilderness. It’s ideal for wannabe young rangers. The Cub’s Den is equipped with fish ponds to splash around in, Land Rovers to pretend-drive, camp-out tents and an educational centre focusing on wildlife. Your kids can go on bushveld excursions, guided by the Cub Coach, a dedicated and expert naturalist, who oversees all the children’s activities. Please note, it is recommended that Londolozi be notified beforehand if you’re coming with kids.
Accommodation: Varty Camp and Founders Camp at Londolozi both accommodate children between the ages of 4 and 16 years old.
Activities: Game drives (children of 6 years and older); paper mache; candle making; baking; spoor identification; bird watching; bug catching; African dance; bead making; singing and drumming; gumboot dancing; dung spitting; fishing; and more.
Image credit: Sanbona Gondwana Lodge
The Sanbona Gondwana lodge hosts a special “Kids on Safari” programme with plenty to keep the little ones active.
Accommodation: Only 3 hours from Cape Town, the Gondwana lodge in the Sanbona Game Reserve is the perfect family lodge offering numerous facilities and activities geared specifically for a family safari. There are 12 large suites and a children’s playroom with TV.
Activities: A range of outdoor activities are available to children of all ages, including an interpretive trail through the garden of Gondwana learning about animals that occur on the reserve as well as tracks and important plants. Visit the sites where the San people left their legacy on the rock faces at Sanbona, where the ranger will interpret the scene so that the children can create their own ‘rock’ art. Children can partake in various social, sporting and art activities such as bead making, clay making activities, face painting and star gazing. There is also a wide selection of indoor activities including art with scrapbooks, paper, scissors, glue crayons, pencils & paints. Puzzles of varying sizes and difficulties covering a broad age range. Documentary DVD’s on various conservation topics and animals, animated movies. A selection of entertaining and educational children’s books and fun board games.
The child-friendly Royal Chundu hosts the Chundu Children’s Club, a bespoke kids on safari programme aimed to entertain and accommodate your little ones. There are several activities offered by trained staff, subject to length of stay and guide availability.
Accommodation: Royal Chundu offers accommodation at either the Royal Chundu River Lodge or Katombora Island Lodge, both incredibly positioned on a piece of untamed Africa with rapids protecting it up and downstream, granting guests 15kms of unspoilt, safe and private river usage.
Activities: These include a treasure hunt, a frogging safari, butterfly and insect capture and release, fishing tag and release, cosmic safari, birding, cooking lessons with the Chundu Chefs, and much more. Children under the age of 2 will be cared for at the lodge by trained child minders while parents enjoy Sunset Cruises.
Watch Royal Chundu Children’s Club Video for an inside look:
Image credit: Tintswalo Manor House
Tintswalo Manor House is a comfortable, exclusive-use lodge for larger families and friends with a fenced garden and children’s rooms close to parents.
Accommodation: This luxury exclusive-use villa in the Manyeleti Game Reserve has three en suite bedrooms, one with an interconnecting children’s room and another the palatial master bedroom.
Activities: Children are allowed on game drives at the discretion of the guide, but not on game walks. Tintswalo’s special children’s programme offers a fun, educational bush experience in the Manyeleti Private Game Reserve where the Big 5 as well as plenty of plains game roam.
Image credit: Madikwe Safari Lodge
Madikwe Safari Lodge is very child-friendly, many of the staff have kids of our own, so they know what an unforgettable experience it is for children to be in the bush. They encourage parents to bring their children with on safari and cover all the bases, from child-friendly food to a full range of activities. Added bonus: Madikwe doesn’t charge for kids six years old or younger. They also don’t charge additional costs for any of the activities.
Accommodation: There are two large family suites in Lelapa Lodge (Lelapa is Tswana for family) which are perfect for families with up to two children, ten years old and under. Each suite has twin beds and a comfortable sleeper-couch.
Activities: Adult safari drives are available to all children who are 6 years and older while family safari drives are available to all children between 2 and 6 years old. Although the family drives don’t approach or go into lion or elephant sighting areas, for safety reasons, it is an exciting opportunity for the kids to go out with their parents into the bush and enjoy seeing so many incredible animals. There is bush orientation, bug CSI, dung tracking, animal track moulding, painting, drawing, baking, soccer, star-gazing lessons and even more.
Machaba is located in the game rich Khwai area of the Okavango Delta and caters for children as well as to the seasoned safari traveller. Children aged five years and younger stay free and children 6-11 pay standard child rate, which is 50% of the adult sharing rate.
Accommodation: Machaba has 10 luxury tents overlooking the famous Moremi Game Reserve. Two of these tents cater specifically for families. The family luxury tents allow for two children under 12 years of age two adults. There can be space made for additional children upon request.
Activities: There is a swimming pool for the children to swim and play in and game drives, nature walks, mokoro rides are also available. No children under 12, however, are allowed to participate in mokoro and game walk activities.
Victoria Falls River Lodge has a great ‘Junior Explorers’ programme. The idea is for the children to embrace the outdoors like a true African Explorer and learn all about the fascinating flora and fauna of the wild surrounds. There are also bushwalks, fables by firelight and a range of games to keep the kids busy.
Accommodation: There are family suites on offer which have an adjoining tented room to the main ‘tent’, with one single (3/4 sized) bed and one bunk bed, where up to three sharing children (younger than 17 years old) can sleep comfortably; allowing their parents a bit more privacy.
Activities: Kids can join their guide on a game drive to learn all about the animals and plants. These are aimed at children aged from 4-7 and should be accompanied by at least one parent. There are guided walks within the camp surrounds and riverbanks immediately in front of the lodge. This is geared for children of ages 4-11 years. At the end of the day, there are stories around the fire of traditional African tales and if the weather is not agreeable there are a range of games for indoor entertainment.
A Final WordShould you like to find out more information about these safari lodges mentioned or discuss things further with an expert consultant , please contact us and we’ll help tailor-make you the perfect trip!
A Final Word
Should you like to find out more information about these safari lodges mentioned or discuss things further with an expert consultant , please contact us and we’ll help tailor-make you the perfect trip!
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Tamlin has been exploring, writing about and photographing Africa ever since her first job as a photojournalist for Getaway Magazine. She's lived on an island, eaten with lions, sailed catamarans in the Indian Ocean, tracked wild dogs with Kinglsey Holgate, and white water rafted down the Zambezi and has kept just about every airplane ticket that has crossed her hands.
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