February 21

Wilderness Playground: A Family-Friendly Safari in Africa and What to Expect

By Tania de Kock on February 21, 2023

As much as we love going on safari and getting to know Africa's greatest wildlife species, we also understand that some parents can be hesitant about bringing their little ones to our continent. And yes, there are many family-friendly lodges in Africa to choose from! However, choosing the right one is not, well, child's play. You want to ensure that they will take your family holiday seriously and do everything in their power to ensure a stress-free experience for parents and a fun-filled adventure that will captivate your kids' hearts too! We break down what you can expect from taking your kids on safari and give you our list of the best places to go, as handpicked by our very own Travel Experts.

A family on safari in Kruger National Park

A family-friendly safari in Africa will create lifelong memories

Your Family-Friendly Safari in Africa and What to Expect 

Does a love for wildlife run in your family? Then you should pass that on to the youngest generation too! Children love going on safari…that is, child-friendly safaris. The reality is that a typical "grown-up" safari will bore them, making them antsy and potentially ruining the experience and disturbing the peace for wildlife.

Before you decide to call it quits, you can rest assured that many lodges cater specifically to your youngsters. From shorter drives to adding fun activities to keep them engaged and more, here's what you can expect from going on a family-friendly safari in Africa.

Family-friendly safari in Afrrica

Rhino Africa's founder and CEO David Ryan on safari with his children

Is it Safe to Go on a Safari with Children?

Of course! If you travel with the best safari company (as Africa's Leading Safari Company, that's us!) and stay at the right lodges, you have nothing to worry about at all.

Animals act on instinct, and they can often seem like naughty little children (especially our baboons!). However, when staying at the right lodge, you can rest assured that your guides and everyone else, from the housekeeper to the bartender, will be one step ahead of the wildlife, keeping you safe. They know these animals like their own family and therefore know precisely how to put them in their place.

Furthermore, most child-friendly safari lodges are fenced, ensuring no dangerous predators can reach you. Staff often accompany you safely to your rooms for added peace of mind. Or, if you're worried about malaria, don't be. There are plenty of malaria-free regions for your family-friendly safari in Africa.

A young boy looking at a tortoise on safari in Africa

Introduce your little ones to Africa's wildlife families

What Can You Expect When Going on Safari with Children?

Depending on where you go and plan to stay, you can look forward to family suites, usually two suits or tents interlinked by a living room area. These differ from lodge to lodge, but they give you a space where you can rest easy knowing that your children are within earshot and easy reach while you still enjoy some privacy. Other lodges will offer private villas so that you don't have to share facilities (or even staff) with other guests. And this is definitely our favourite way to travel with children!

Furthermore, many lodges gift children with welcome packs to make them feel right at home from the get-go. There are also many activities to keep them entertained, some which you can do as a family and others that will give parents a chance to escape to the spa, pool, or adventurous activities unsuitable for children.

Some lodges even go as far as to design a menu for kids, featuring those dishes that always paint a satisfied smile on their faces. Forget Wagyu steak – we all know they want a good ol' burger and chips.

Baking is just one of the fun activities your children can participate in while on safari

Baking is just one of the fun activities your children can participate in while on safari, Image Credit: andBeyond

Our Favourite Destinations for a Family-Friendly Safari in Africa

Our Travel Experts have travelled far and wide with their families, choosing only the very best family-friendly safari lodges in Africa. And not only has it got their seal of approval, but their children's too! Here are our top picks for family-friendly destinations and safari lodges in Africa.

1. Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa

With plenty of family-friendly (and, in particular, child-friendly) accommodation options to choose from, Madikwe Game Reserve is perfect for your next breakaway. It's found in the North West Province of South Africa, a malaria-free region, and is one of the biggest game reserves in the country. Exclusive-use accommodation is available, which gives you access to your own private facilities (no sharing or worrying about your children disturbing other guests!), as well as a private butler, game vehicle, guide, and more. 

Home to the Big 5, you can also look forward to special sightings of endangered species like the African wild dog if you're lucky. There are also over 350 bird species to admire, and the rest of the usual suspects you'd like to see on safari, like hyenas, zebras, cheetahs, antelopes, giraffes, and more.

Because we all know how tiresome it can be to travel with children, you don't have to worry here as you can take a quick one-hour shuttle or charter flight from Johannesburg. Alternatively, you can embark on a four-hour road trip.

African wild dogs at Madikwe

African wild dogs on safari at Madikwe, Image Credit: Little Madikwe Hills

Why your family will love it 

  • The Kids Club is dedicated to giving your children the best experience possible
  • Some lodges offer child-friendly lawns and gardens where kids can roam free just like the wildlife but safely confined from them with a security fence
  • Many different child-friendly accommodation types to choose from, namely Morukuru Family Madikwe with three individual homesteads (Farm HouseOwner's House and River House), Motswiri Safari LodgeThe Bush HouseTuningi Safari Lodge, and Tau Game Lodge and other family-friendly options
  • Babysitting services to give parents a breather and the opportunity for a date night under the stars 
  • Exclusive-use accommodation options for all the privacy you could desire 
A child learns about the African bush

There are plenty of safari activities designed for kids at Madikwe

2. Tswalu Kalahari Private Game Reserve, South Africa 

Escape to a truly unique slice of South Africa at Tswalu Kalahari Private Game Reserve, located in southern Kalahari. Our country's largest private game reserve, it's revered for many reasons, but our favourites include its unique wildlife and landscapes, fine dining Klein Jan Restaurant, and family-friendly, personalised approach to the safari experience. Plus, it's in a malaria-free region!

With a very distinctive ecosystem, over 80 species of mammals, and desert-adapted black rhino, unusual black-maned lions, aardvark, meerkat, pangolin, and so much more, it's almost as if Africa's most vulnerable creatures seek out Tswalu as their haven.

Your children will love learning more about Africa's wildlife in what Tswalu calls their "outdoor classroom", and the accommodation and safari schedule are explicitly designed for families.

Pangolin in Tswalu

An entirely distinctive ecosystem with unique and diverse wildlife

Why your family will love it 

  • A private safari guide, tracker and vehicle welcoming children of all ages on game drives and offer a flexible schedule 
  • Three of their "Legaes" (which means small house) at the Motse Lodge are perfect for families, whereas they also have the exclusive-use Tarkuni Lodge for bigger families
  • Activities ensure no one will get bored, from game drives and bush walks to picnics, pizza making and cookie baking
  • Junior Ranger programme includes archery, spoor identification and casting, and teaching kids how to track animals
  • Tailored dining to meet your needs, and you can order anything from purées for babies to handmade burgers and fries for bigger kids
Tswalu Tarkuni Lodge exteriors verandah

A relaxed and calm dining experience, Image Credit: Tswalu Turkuni Lodge

3. Kwandwe Game Reserve, South Africa 

Kwandwe Game Reserve is located alongside the Great Fish River in South Africa's Eastern Cape. A conservation-focused game reserve, they believe in making every safari moment meaningful. 

The wildlife here is something to behold, from the Big 5 to more unique and endangered species like the crowned eagle, blue crane, and black-footed cat. And besides your standard early morning and late afternoon game drives, guests can also go on bush walks and night safaris. 

Our favourite family options include the Family Suite at Ecca Lodge, which can sleep four and offers complete flexibility with a private safari vehicle and a play centre for children. For exclusive-use villas, you can explore their Uplands Homestead and Melton Manor House.

Family on a game drive on safari at Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

The best way to bond as a family is on safari, Image Credit: Kwandwe Private Game Reserve

Why your family will love it 

  • Welcome gifts for children, including an activity book, animal checklists, themed games, crayons, pencils, a pledge to "live green", and more
  • Tailored safari experiences to make sure every family member is happy, including game drives at flexible times of the day
  • An extensive list of activities, from scavenger hunts and fishing trips to getting creative with beading, baking, pizza making, educational games and African bedtime stories 
  • Childminders can be arranged at no additional cost if parents want some alone time 
  • Exclusive-use accommodation options for all the privacy you desire 
Kwandwe Ecca Lodge

One of the top family-friendly lodges is their Ecca Lodge, Image Credit: Kwandwe

4. The Garden Route, South Africa 

The Garden Route is perfect for you if you're looking for a self-drive trip combining safari and beach. It's widely known for being the ultimate road trip route, with plenty of interesting stops and breathtaking views.

Found in South Africa, it's famous for its range of family-friendly safari lodges options. Not only are they malaria-free, but they also cater specifically for children. For example, Gondwana Private Game Reserve with its Family Bush Villas or Fynbos Villas offers an exclusive-use experience ideal for children. 

Elephants drinking from pools at Gondwana Game Reserve

Wildlife sightings that are life-changing, Image Credit: Gondwana Private Game Reserve

Why your family will love it 

  • The malaria-free region makes it a great choice for families with babies, pregnant women, or the elderly 
  • Many game reserves are close to one another and other coastline attractions to explore 
  • Lodges like Gondwana offer a complimentary Junior Ranger program to keep children entertained
  • Exclusive-use accommodation options with flexible schedules 
  • Childminding can often be arranged if parents want to break away for a date night
Fynbos villa at Gondwana

Your Fynbos Villa at Gondwana, Image Credit: Gondwana Private Game Reserve

5. Kruger National Park, South Africa

How could we ever omit the OG of Southern African safari reserves from this list? The Kruger National Park is legendary, not only because of its baffling diversity and number of wildlife species but also for its renowned luxury lodge offerings, many of which welcome children with open arms.

With the full "The Lion King" cast on display that will delight your kids, this is the safari destination of their dreams. The reserve is home to over 1,982 plants, 120 reptiles, 52 fish, 35 amphibians, 517 birds and 147 mammal species.

One of our favourite accommodation options for families include Thornybush Nature Reserve'Little Saseka Camp, which is perfect for small families with a two-bedroom villa. An exclusive-use option with a private deck and pool, everyone will be smiling as soon as they enter their new home away from home! 

Elephant family bathing in water at Thornybush

Your children will be delighted to see wildlife all around, Image Credit: Katharina Riebesel

Why your family will love it 

  • Exclusive-use options at some of the most luxurious accommodation options
  • Private game reserves are perfect for families as they offer more flexibility, the ability to go off-road, on walking safaris and night game drives (ideal for teens)
  • Many of the reserves offer child programs and babysitting services
  • Wide range of wildlife and high density means you're guaranteed to see plenty of each game drive
  • Easy to reach, making it a great destination to add to your Cape Town, Victoria Falls or Botswana itinerary in particular 
Three children watching the Lion King via projector and screen out in the open bush

Keeping kids entertained with a movie night in the bush at Saseka, Photo Credit: Thornybush

6. Serengeti National Park, East Africa 

The Serengeti National Park in Tanzania has inspired many poems, novels, and films. It's a massive park with varying terrain and plenty of wildlife calling it home, including the famous Big 5 and plenty of birdlife.

If you visit when the Great Wildebeest Migration is passing through, you'll be privy to some of the most dramatic sights straight out of a National Geographic documentary. This annual natural phenomenon is when about two million wildebeest, accompanied by zebra and antelope, make their way across the plains in search of greener pastures. This, in turn, lures predators, who take advantage of this travelling buffet.

When it comes to family-friendly accommodation options in the Serengeti, you should choose carefully, as many are tented camps. andBeyond has great family-friendly options, like their Klein's Camp, Serengeti Under Canvas, and Grumeti Serengeti Tented Camp. They also have their WILDchild Programme designed to educate and delight your children aged 3-12 years with fun games and activities. 

Wildebeest storm the open plains of the Serengeti

Wildebeest storm the open plains of the Serengeti

Why your family will love it 

  • On the Great Migration route so that you can see the action in real life (seasonal)
  • Action-packed days for children and adults alike, with many lodges catering for children with dedicated activities and treats
  • Perfect safari destination to combine with a beach getaway in nearby Zanzibar Archipelago 
  • A hot air balloon safari is a must for the parents when visiting Serengeti National Park
  • An authentic safari experience without having to sacrifice the luxuries you love
Tented camp room Grumeti Serengeti

Tented rooms with incredible views

7. Maasai Mara National Reserve, East Africa 

The Maasai Mara National Reserve in Kenya is another stop on the Great Migration route. Not only is it admired for its seemingly never-ending landscapes, vibrant red sunsets and baffling diversity and density of wildlife, including the Big 5, but its local Maasai Mara culture, with their colourful attire and fascinating culture, have also lured guests from across the world.

The Maasai Mara has a thriving big cat population, as well as over 100 mammal species, 570 wild bird species and more than 50 birds of prey.

There are plenty of great camps for families with children. We personally love Singita's Mara River Tented Camp, not only because of its prime positioning to see the Great Migration cross the Mara River but it's also geared for children.

Wildebeest crosses Mara River in Kenya

Dramatic Mara River crossings during the Great Migration

Why your family will love it 

  • One of the highest wildlife concentrations on Earth 
  • Great safari choice if you want to see the Great Migration in action, but also a year-round safari destination
  • Accommodation options like Singita's Mara River Tented Camp offer a Mini Rangers' Course that teaches youngsters about outdoor survival, animal tracking, astronomy, and tree and bird identification
  • The "Tano Bora" or "Magnificent Five" cheetah coalition resides here 
  • Many different activities to keep the entire family entertained 
Private plunge pool view of the river

Unobstructed views of the Mara River, Image Credit: Singita Mara

Make Your Next Family Holiday the Best One Yet

You'll be one big happy family in Africa! Contact our Travel Experts, and let's start planning your dream African family holiday! They'll love you for it. 

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About the author 

Tania de Kock

Tania has always been an avid reader, which ultimately led to her life-long dream of becoming a best-selling author. She loves travelling, super spicy food, South African wine, and cats! When she's not reading with a glass of wine, you can find her at the nearest beach or camping, running or hiking in the mountains.

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