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South Africa Family Safari: Luxury, Wildlife and Adventure for All

OVERVIEW

The South Africa family safari has long been a favored choice, and offers some of the continent’s best and most popular luxury safari experiences. Some of the most amazing wildlife is located a short drive from the airports, so you can easily go on safari for either a few days or an entire week.  Many lodges are designed to accommodate the special needs of families, and offer fun activities for children like petting zoos, cooking experiences and crafts.

WHAT WE LOVE

  • King's Camp: Located in the Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, King’s Camp is one of the only places in the world where you can see rare white lions in the wild. The "Big Five" (elephant, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo and black rhinoceros) and many other species are spotted here as well—pretty much on a daily basis. There’s even a waterhole on property, around which you and your children can observe elephants and impalas sipping and socializing from the cool, shady distance of the viewing deck. King’s Camp accepts children 6 and older, and for a true splurge book the Waterbuck Private Camp: a four-bedroom villa that comes with its own safari vehicle, ranger, butler and chef.
  • Royal Malewane: Situated within the famous Kruger National Park, Royal Malewane is the utmost in luxury and style for all family members. In addition to classic safari drives, children can get up-close and personal at the Moholoholo Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, where animals and birds—including eagles, owls, vultures, wild dogs, lions and leopards—are nursed back to health. The lodge also offers a number of subdued activities, from safari bedtime stories, painting, and necklace beading for younger children, to guided bush walks and tracking activities for the older ones. There’s also a delicious and varied children’s menu, and travelers of all ages will thrill at the opportunity to take a hot air balloon over the African plains.
  • Jaci's Safari Lodge: Under-fives are not allowed on the regular game drives at Jaci’s, but no worries—Jaci’s actually offers daytime drives exclusively for kids, as well as a score of other activities from which parents are mostly banned (unless, of course, they agree to not “behave like adults”). Children at Jaci’s also get their very own menu, and families can choose to stay in one of the lodge’s full-service luxury tree houses—perched high above on solid wooden stilts—to give the kids a magical treetop safari experience.
  • Jamala Madikwe Royal Safari Lodge: Lifted directly from the pages of an African storybook, the billowing white tents at Jamala Madikwe, cluttered with turn-of-the-20th century explorer’s gear, will transport your child into another era. While parents enjoy the exquisite food and trips to the spa, kids can play in the pool and explore the Lodge’s backyard—which is no less than the plains of South Africa, filled with exciting opportunities for encounters with wildlife.
  • Tswalu Kalahari: One of our favorite family friendly (and family-run) lodges, Tswalu’s Junior Ranger program has been carefully designed to meet your kids’ approval: every child is welcomed with a backpack full of guides and tools, as well as an opportunity to weigh in with staff on how they want to spend their time. Popular activities include archery (with handmade bows and arrows) and kid-specific bush walks that are fun and educational (though Tswalu is also one of the few lodges happy to include younger children on private game drives). Free babysitting is also available around the clock, and Tswalu does the children’s menu one better by letting kids help cook their own dinner!
  • Cape Town: Before or after your family safari, it’s definitely worth exploring Cape Town, Africa’s most family-friendly big city. There’s plenty to do for folks of all ages, from swimming with the penguins at Boulders Beach to visiting the Two Oceans Aquarium (with over 3,000 sea creatures) to a thrilling cable car ride up Table Mountain. Most of the city’s five-star hotels offer babysitting services as well so parents can go out and enjoy the city’s vibrant dining and nightlife scene after the kids are safely tucked in bed.

 

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Weather in South Africa varies according to region. The best time for game viewing in the north and central interior is during the cooler, dry months of May to October. Cape Town has is own weather pattern, and the best time to take advantage of the city's beaches and various outdoor activities is during the hot, dry season months of November through March.
  • Keep game drives short.
  • Keep plenty of drinking water and other snacks on hand.
  • Make sure to take regular bathroom breaks – before setting out and at every stop.
  • Bring children's binoculars and/or digital cameras.
  • Jamala Madikwe and Tswalu Kalahari (both noted above) are non-malaria parks and are therefore recommended for those travelling with small children. 
  • And, remember: for many kids—and adults—an African safari is a once in a lifetime experience. Don't rush: get out of the vehicle wherever and whenever it's allowed, don’t be afraid to linger at destinations, and stop whenever your child wants. Even if it’s “just another impala,” you never know when they’ll get the chance to see one again!