African safaris are pure family magic. You’ll stay among some of the world’s wildest landscapes, spot a cast of iconic African animals and learn valuable cultural and conservation lessons. Planning your trip can be an overwhelming task though, from picking your safari destination to finding the best kid-friendly lodges. So, here’s the inside scoop on how to plan your perfect African family safari.
Planning a family safari: what to consider
Every family is different, and only you know what makes yours tick, but generally, the best safaris involve a mix of adventure, education and wildlife spotting. Think about your kids’ interests and abilities, then plan a tailor-made itinerary that suits. Here are some key aspects to consider:
Top family safari destinations
It can be hard to choose which safari destination in Africa would suit your family best, so here’s a look at some of the top choices.
South Africa’s Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal region and Kruger National Park enjoy sunny, dry weather during the UK’s Easter, May and October school holidays, while northern destinations like Madikwe and the Kruger area are great for summer breaks. English is widely spoken and given that there’s just a two-hour time difference with the UK (one in the summer), there’s no jetlag. Favourable exchange rates mean your money goes further too and good main roads make South Africa ideal for family self-drive adventures on the lush Garden Route.
When it comes to safaris, there are plenty of places to spot the Big Five in South Africa, from famous Kruger National Park to malaria-free private game reserves like Shamwari on the Cape. For a varied trip, add some beach time or a boat tour to see the Marine Big Five: whales, penguins, dolphins, sharks and Cape Fur seals. South Africa is perfect for safari and the city breaks, which combine urban sightseeing in Cape Town with taster safaris in the Eastern Cape Game Reserve.
Where to stay in South Africa – our top pick for families
Shamwari Game Reserve lies on the malaria-free Eastern Cape and is known for its Born Free Big Cat Sanctuary and Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre. Family-friendly facilities abound, from interconnecting rooms and flexible mealtimes to a Kids on Safari programme. The camp’s adventure centre is a haven for kids, with a rock-climbing wall, treehouse and zipline. For under fours, Shamwari has a professional childminding service.
Kenya and Tanzania
You can’t get better than Kenya or Tanzania for a classic, Lion-King-style family safari. Both destinations offer ideal weather for summer, October half-term and Christmas breaks. Although many popular destinations require malaria medication, it’s worth it for the chance to visit legendary parks like the Maasai Mara and Serengeti. You can even enjoy bucket-list wildlife spotting during the Great Migration between July and September.
Experience family-focused safari lodges with private 4×4 vehicles, kids’ clubs and activities. For a dose of world-schooling, introduce your children to fascinating new cultures with respectful visits to local villages. After an action-packed safari, head to the sun-soaked coast for some beach time. Kenya boasts white-sand beaches in Diani, while the idyllic spice island of Zanzibar awaits in Tanzania.
Where to stay in Kenya and Tanzania – our top picks for families
Sarova Mara in Kenya’s Maasai Mara has two-bed safari tents for a luxe glamping experience. The fenced camp has a pool, the Ozone Kids’ Club and tailored activities for all ages, including crafts and nature walks. In Tanzania, Lemala has family accommodation like Nanyukie Lodge in the Serengeti, which has stilted safari tents, a kids’ club and guided walks for children aged six to ten.
Zimbabwe offers an extra splash of adventure if you’re traveling with teenagers, as you’ll come face-to-face with mighty Victoria Falls. The world-famous Smoke that Thunders can be explored via adrenaline-pumping ziplines, helicopter trips and white-water rafting, which daring teens will love. The falls are spectacular all year-round but water levels are highest in the February and May school holidays.
An essential Zimbabwe itinerary will also include safaris in wildlife-rich national parks. In the Summer and October half-term holidays, animals congregate on the banks of Zambezi and huge herds of elephants and buffalo can be seen in Hwange National Park. Head off the beaten track with an unsurpassed Zimbabwe tour, which features a trip to UNESCO-listed Lake Kariba and Mana Pools for water safaris where you’ll see everything from crocodiles to hippos and 48 species of birds.
Where to stay in Zimbabwe – our top pick for families
Bomani Tented Lodge in Hwange offers a true slice of wilderness, with family tented suites. Enjoy game drives and bush walks, as well as exciting night drives and canoeing. Teens will love the chance to take part in a pump run, where you’ll deliver supplies to the park’s water pump stations and waterholes, which provide a vital water source for animals and people all year-round.
If you’re a self-drive kind of family, head to Namibia. The country is famed for its epic road trips which will take you from some of the world’s tallest sand dunes in the Namib Desert to the eerie, shipwreck-littered Skeleton Coast and wildlife-fringed waterholes at Etosha National Park in the north. During the UK summer holidays and October half-term, the temperatures in Namibia hover around the mid-20s and dry season means animals gather around waterholes, providing supreme sightings.
As well as traditional safaris in Etosha National Park, Namibia offers family-friendly tours such as sandboarding and searching for creepie crawlies in the Namib Desert, as well as dolphin-watching cruises from Walvis Bay. Private nature reserves like Okonjima enjoy less-crowded safaris and the chance to meet rescued cheetahs at the AfriCat Foundation. At Onguma Reserve on the outskirts of Etosha, you can even take a walking safari and stay in a luxury tented camp.
Where to stay in Namibia – our top pick for families
Okonjima Plains Camp, a former cattle ranch turned conservation success story, offers a two-bedroom family unit and pool as well as endangered species game drives. At Onguma Bush Camp, kids will love the afternoon young explorer’s walk and can spend time swimming and playing on the sprawling lawns. Stay in one of the chic family lofts and enjoy wildlife watching at the waterhole from the comfort of camp.
Your journey will start with one of our UK team – someone like Gemma, who's travelled extensively in Tanzania. They’ll shape your ideas into the trip of a lifetime. But they won't do it on their own. They'll draw on the expertise of our contacts on the ground, connecting you to the people who'll make your holiday one you'll always remember - the rangers who'll ensure you'll spot the best wildlife, the village chiefs who'll give you a genuine insight into local life and the camp managers who can recommend the very best spot to enjoy your sundowner.
Freephone an expert 01306 744 656