Say the word ‘safari’, and immediately one pictures the acacia-studded African savannah, dotted with game and overarched by an impossibly blue sky. Home to some of the last truly wild places on Earth, Africa is a continent of sheer wonder - especially for young children with dreams of adventure and exploration. An African safari is the ultimate family bonding experience, and for parents, it is an experience made all the richer after seeing the magic of the bush through the excited eyes of their children.
However, picking the right safari destination can be difficult with young kids in tow. One needs to take into account accessibility, safety and the age restrictions often imposed by the lodges themselves. However, there are some lodges that recognize the importance of including younger guests in the celebration of Africa’s natural beauty, by going the extra mile to make them feel welcome. Here are the most kid-friendly lodge options for each of the continent’s most iconic game-viewing nations.
The Motse, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve, South Africa
Located near the Botswana border in the verdant stretches of the southern Kalahari desert, Tswalu Kalahari Reserve offers the ultimate exclusive safari experience. With just ten private vehicles offering the opportunity to come face-to-face with critically endangered species like the pangolin and the desert black rhino, it’s a pretty special place. A major plus point for those with young children is that unlike many African game reserves, Tswalu is malaria-free—meaning that families can avoid taking costly prophylactics.
All children are greeted with a backpack full of fun guides and games, and kid-friendly lodge The Motse offers three dedicated family suites. Through the Tswalu Junior Ranger program, kids can take part in educational activities including guided bush walks, spoor identification and archery. Private all-ages game drives mean that no one gets left out, while complimentary child-minding services allow parents the occasional moment alone. Best of all, with daily scheduled flights from Cape Town and Johannesburg, Tswalu is relatively accessible.
Mara Intrepids, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya
For those that want their luxury tempered with a dash of untamed wilderness, the Maasai Mara’s Mara Intrepids tented camp is an excellent choice. Located at the meeting point of the Mara’s four game-viewing areas, the camp lies at the heart of a reserve renowned around the world for Big Five sightings, and for the breathtaking spectacle of the annual wildebeest migration. The camp itself is also known for its outstanding children’s programs, including the Adventurer’s Club for younger kids, and the Young Ranger’s Club for teens.
Through these programs, little ones are taught about Kenyan wildlife and bush survival skills by native Maasai naturalists. A highlight of the Adventurer’s Club is an obstacle course, designed to teach children about the difficulties faced by wild animals and ignite in them a passion for conservation. Older children also have the opportunity to assist with the lodge’s ongoing conservation work and to meet other children from the local Maasai tribes. Mara Intrepids includes its own airstrip and is a 45-minute flight from Nairobi.
Sossusvlei Desert Lodge, Namib Desert, Namibia
Cradled amidst the breathtaking formations of the Namib Desert sand dunes, Sossusvlei Desert Lodge promises a safari experience with a difference. Expect atypical game sightings of rare species like oryx, Hartmann’s mountain zebra and aardwolves; and adventurous activities ranging from nature hikes to quad-biking and hot-air ballooning. Most activities are available for children aged six and older, whilst child-minders are on-hand to take care of the youngest family members when necessary for a reasonable additional fee.
Children are invited to join the WILDChild program, an initiative shared by all andBeyond lodges. On arrival, kids will be given a bag containing a logbook, crayons, and pencils; whilst the youngest will also get to take home their own Africa-themed soft toy. Activities geared specifically towards children include learning the constellations of the peerless Namibian night sky and taking part in traditional Bushman games. Sossusvlei Desert Lodge is also malaria-free, and a private airstrip makes the lodge conveniently accessible from Windhoek.
Luangwa Safari House, South Luangwa National Park, Zambia
One of the African continent’s most underestimated safari destinations, Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park is home to impressive numbers of big game, as well as more than 450 species of bird. Situated on the edge of a natural watering hole, beautiful Luangwa Safari House offers families with kids over the age of seven an idyllic home away from home. With a maximum of eight guests, flexibility is a key part of the Luangwa Safari House experience - allowing families to tailor their safari to their exact interests and requirements.
The staff at Luangwa Safari House are used to young guests, and potential activities include nature walks, game drives, and cultural visits to Kawaza Village. There, children can play football and learn native dances whilst interacting with their Kunda counterparts. On days when the kids would rather stay home, they can enjoy the plunge pool, practice their craft skills or help the chefs bake cookies, all under the supervision of the lodge hostess. Luangwa Safari House is a 40-minute drive from Mfufe Airport after a 90-minute transfer from Lusaka.
Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania
Those wanting unadulterated luxury need look no further than Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti, a spectacular destination in the heart of the iconic Serengeti National Park. As well as an infinity pool, a luxury spa and a fitness center, the lodge boasts 77 immaculate guest rooms - giving children the chance to interact with other families. Children under 11 sleeping in the same room as their parents stay and eat for free, whilst those aged 11 to 17 enjoy a 50% discount on all of the lodge’s amenities. Babysitters can also be hired as needed.
All kids are welcome at the complimentary Kijana Klub, which gives them the chance to take part in an array of activities ranging from Maasai beading to African storytelling and Swahili language lessons. Nature walks give younger children the opportunity to experience the bush in safety, while older kids can contribute to wildlife research projects at the Discovery Centre. Four Seasons Safari Lodge Serengeti is a 45-minute drive from Seronera Airstrip, which can be accessed via transfer from either of Tanzania’s international airports.