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Where are the best destinations for a Family-Friendly African Safari?

Nicola Shepherd By Nicola Shepherd
24 Apr 2020
Tanzania - family safaris - Singita.jpg

Family safaris in Africa are, for me, one of the most rewarding experiences one can ever have. Quality time with your loved ones, exploring Africa’s great wildernesses together, seeing breathtaking wildlife and getting to know the country’s warm and welcoming cultures – these will create memories that last a lifetime!

But should you ask me the BEST country for a family safari in Africa, I would find it very difficult to give you a definitive answer!

 

What should you consider when choosing a family safari to Africa?

There is just so much to choose from, and it all depends upon your particular family, their ages, hobbies and proclivities. It also depends upon your sense of adventure. How outdoorsy are you? Do you like camping out beneath the stars?

Do you enjoy learning about other people’s culture? How crazy are you about wildlife? Do any of you cycle, horse ride, walk/trek, canoe? Are any of you keen on photography? As you can see – there are so many questions, and the answer to each could then divert you to a different country.

 


Age is also important. For those with very young children (from birth to around four), might prefer to be in a malaria-free area – which really only means South Africa. I have taken my family to visit relatives in Cape Town every year and we have always enjoyed the Cape and the safari experiences further afield. What I would most recommend is doing something as a family which contributes to the overall benefit of the region, both to their communities and to their wildlife.

This can be done in many ways, but rather than simply walk away having had “the most awesome holiday ever”, why not come back and say “that was life changing - we made a difference to those people and to the wildlife”? Wouldn’t that be simply so much more fulfilling?

 

So – how does one do that? By taking part of perhaps a lion collaring, a rhino notching or an elephant collaring. This is all pretty complicated, so needs some time to organize (select the animal, ensure the vet is in place, etc.) and you will then experience what it is like to be part of life-saving work in the field. It is thrilling, satisfying and so emotionally moving.

For example, with lion collaring, one is guarding against livestock and people being killed, whilst saving the lion at the same time. This is important, as Africa has already lost 50% of her lion population due to poaching.

Then, if it is culture you are interested in, then East Africa really comes to the fore. Tanzania has 128 different tribes, whereas Kenya has around 43. These tribes are still very much true to their culture, whilst adapting to westernization in part. Here one has a real chance to savour a genuine experience, and let’s face it, the reason one takes one’s family to Africa is part vacation but part education; they are inextricably linked!

 


Whilst 50% of the African safari experience is the wildlife, without doubt, the other 50% most definitely is the people who leave such a lasting impression on one’s life!

Namibia is another amazing country which is so incredibly beautiful and really good for anyone who wants to spend time learning more about the wildlife through the eyes of scientists and researchers – from cheetah to lion and elephants.

Which country should you visit? By age group:

Very young children 0 to 5 years: South Africa (Why? Because it is non malarial)

  • Take a private villa or lodge or tented camp on safari.
  • Go on a game ranger’s course during your stay.
  • Learn to identify wildlife prints in the sand or grasses and take plaster of Paris samples of them and learn the medicinal properties of trees and plants.
  • Be part of a private rhino conservation experience, horn notching and chipping.
  • Be part of a lion collaring experience.
  • Learn to bake in the bush and listen to stories around the fire at night.

 


  • Have fun cycling, fishing, swimming, horse riding.
  • Learn about the local culture.
  • Learn about the night sky with its stars and planets.
  • See whales and spend time at the coast.
  • Have some fun time in Cape Town and visit the aquarium and the waterfront.
  • Learn to paddle board or surf.

 


6 years and over: Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique

  • Take a private villa or lodge on safari.
  • Go on a game ranger’s course during your stay.
  • Go on a private tented mobile camp, just for your family for just one night or several nights, depending upon how adventurous you are!
  • Go out with scientists or experts and learn about the wildlife they are studying (lions, wild dog, elephant, cheetah, zebra etc.).
  • Learn to identify wildlife prints in the sand or grasses and learn the medicinal properties of trees and plants.
  • Learn how to paddle a canoe or target practice with a gun at coke cans.

 


  • Learn how to make fires with no matches.
  • Learn how to make a bow and arrow and how to shoot it.
  • Go on a quad biking safari, camping out at night.
  • Go on a horse riding safari, camping out at night.
  • Go on a camel trek safari, camping out at night.
  • Learn to bake in the bush and listen to stories around the fire at night.
  • Have fun cycling, fishing, swimming, horse riding.
  • Spend time in a Maasai village, learning all about their culture.
  • Go out with anti-poaching dogs and learn how they work.
  • Spend time with a local Bushman tribe and learn how they hunt.
  • Spend time with the local Hadzabe or Datoga tribes and follow them on a hunt.

 


  • Walk up the oldest sand dunes in the world in the Namib Desert.
  • Take a yacht charter in Mozambique, Tanzania or Madagascar and fish, snorkel and dive.
  • Take a dhow safari around the islands of Mozambique, either staying on the boat or camping out on different islands every night.
  • Snorkel, swim with dolphins, scuba dive, fish.

16 and over: Zambia, Zimbabwe and Botswana

  • Take a walking safari which can last from two days to a week – however long you would like it to be. One learns so much more on foot and it’s a far more immersive experience! This can still be combined with a traditional game view safari in a vehicle.
  • Stay in a private villa, lodge or tented camp.
  • Have a private, mobile, tented camp erected just for you and your family.
  • Visit Victoria Falls or Livingstone where you can bungee jump, go white water rafting and micro-lighting, amongst others!
  • Visit an animal rescue sanctuary in Victoria Falls.

 


  • Go on a canoe and walking safari on the Lower Zambezi in Zimbabwe.
  • Go canoeing on the Lower Zambezi in Zambia.
  • Learn about the local culture.
  • Go on a walking holiday in the Eastern Highlands in Zimbabwe.
  • Be part of a wildlife collaring or go out with lion scientists in Zimbabwe.
  • Go on a horse riding safari in Botswana.
  • Go on a quad bike safari in Botswana, sleeping out on the pans in the Kalahari Desert at night.
  • Take a mokoro (canoe) safari through the Okavango Delta in Botswana.
  • Go on a walking safari in Botswana.

 


What are my favourite family safari experiences in Africa?

For me, there have always been fantastic memories to be created whilst with my family on safari to Africa and I wanted to share some of the most stand-out memories amongst many happy times we have had together.

We visit family in Cape Town each year and then do a bit of exploring for ourselves. One visit that really stands out for me is when we went with a fabulous local guide to Hout Bay. We were driven along the gorgeous coastal road with the drop and the ocean beneath us to spend the morning on the paddle boards. We then did a treasure hunt along the promenade, ending up at the Green Biodiversity garden.

 


Our guide had all this planned for us and we learnt about Rhino conservation (a project close to my heart), Nelson Mandela and ancient secrets in the biodiversity garden. We then went up Table Mountain in the afternoon. She had even brought a gourmet picnic for us to have on the beach! It was such a magical day and our guide was great with the children, so knowledgeable and enthusiastic – and best of all, everybody had fun!

Another glorious, sun-soaked holiday we were lucky to experience was a dhow sailing safari around the Quirimbas Archipelago off the coast of northern Mozambique! We spent several days on our own private dhow (a traditional sail boat) with a private crew, who took us to several different deserted islands and beaches where we camped out each night.

 


We went for walks along glistening white sands, swam with wild bottlenose dolphins, and snorkeled over pristine coral reefs, wondering at the diversity and vibrancy of the sea-life we saw. For me, the flexibility of this was a major benefit. We could do what we wished each day, visiting local island communities when we wished, helping to fish for our supper from the dhow, and then ending in luxury at a beautiful lodge on Ibo Island!

A really special memory that I will always treasure was watching my then-eight year old daughter spending time in Kenya with Maasai children. Our guide John and tracker Johnson took us to a local village and acted as her interpreters as she sang and danced with the children and they taught each other songs. The fact they didn't know each other’s language didn't matter at all. I have never seen such laughter on both sides of the fence!

 


When is the best time to travel to Africa for a family safari?

So, let’s look at times of year. The main school holidays tend to be summer (June through to September) and December. Both are fantastic times to go on safari in Africa. That’s a good start! April school holidays are also good as well as October, but the breaks tend to be shorter then.

Whatever you decide though, what you can be assured of, is a vacation of a lifetime. Unlike so many other vacations, African safaris tend to be jam packed with things to do, meaning that your children never have time to get bored – that dreaded word for all parents! It is also fabulous knowing that you are travelling somewhere and making a difference to that region – that always sits well with most of our psyches!

If you would like any more information about family safaris to Africa I would be delighted to discuss this further. Please feel free to contact me directly or at The Explorations Company. You can also explore the Video Library for some escapism!

 

 

 

Images used by kind courtesy of:

Madikwe South Africa, Cottar’s 1920s Camp Kenya, Escape and Explore South Africa, Ibo Island Lodge Mozambique, Karisia Kenya, Angama Mara Kenya, Wolwedans Namibia, Leobo Private Reserve South Africa, Singita Tanzania, Wild Horizons Zambia, Somalisa Camp Zimbabwe, Mkombe’s House Tanzania

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