The Ultimate Guide for Bringing Kids on a Safari in Africa

As a mother of three young children, I’m all for introducing children to the wonder of African wildlife: the bush is a natural arena for learning about the cycles of the earth, the predator hierarchy and the fascinating ways animals adapt to their environment. But planning a safari holiday with children or for families is not easy as many game reserves and lodges aren’t welcoming to children – while others are. Here is your ultimate guide on bringing kids on your safari holiday with you – where to stay, the top lodges and game reserves that are family friendly, babysitting services, tips, and tons of great helpful information.

Read on for your Guide to Bringing Kids on African Safaris. Click below to skip ahead to the various topics.

More on safari planning? Read on 8 Tips to Save Money When Planning your African Safari.

The Ultimate Guide to Bringing Kids on African Safaris

1 – Should You Go? 3 Things to Consider When Planning a Family Safari Trip
2 – Safaris with Babies Safari (0 to 2.5 years)
3 – Watch Out for that Tricky Age from 2.5 to 5 Years
4 – Children from 7 Years and Up

1 – Should You Go? 3 Things to Consider When Planning a Family Safari Trip:

Father and SonHowever before sallying forth into the bush on safari, some reflection on the health issues and on your own children’s temperaments is advisable.

Malaria is a concern in most, but not all, safari areas of Southern Africa. We recommend that small children under the age of five, (as well as pregnant women), do not go to malarial areas as the difficulty of treating malaria increases when small children are concerned. Older children simply take the same precautions as adults. There are non-malarial safari areas that also offer excellent game-viewing: the three main areas being the Eastern Cape, the Madikwe Game Reserve and the Waterberg.

Child’s Enjoyment: thinking about an issue from the child’s point of view is never more appropriate than in the bush. Imagine – you are five years old and 1½ hours into a game drive. It was really fun at first and you loved seeing the elephant and the baby zebra but now the ranger at the front just keeps on talking and you haven’t a clue what he’s saying. You’re hungry, and you’re getting cold and ….you really, really need to go to the loo but Mum says you can’t because we’re looking for a pride of lions which were sighted near here … wherever here is. You’re bored and you want to go home now! It doesn’t make for a happy family holiday, especially when you’ve paid a fair bit of money for your safari.

Daily Routine: the other aspect to consider is that a safari is, for a few days, a fairly specific way of life. Some kids will easily adapt into the routine of morning and late afternoon activity interspersed with quiet time, ideal for reading or sleeping. However more boisterous kids may find this more difficult especially in the winter months where enjoying time at the pool may not be such an obvious option.


2 – Safaris with Babies Safari (0 to 2.5 years)

First Giraffe SightingGame lodges that accept children are well-equipped to look after babies and toddlers. A baby-sitter is booked (preferably ahead of time) and she comes to your chalet or room approximately 30 minutes prior to the start of the game drive. This allows you to settle your baby or toddler with her before setting off. However please note that you should aim to bring all food and milk requirements with you to the lodge, (a wide selection is available from supermarkets in South Africa), as game lodges will generally not hold any stocks.

Baby-sitting at Lodges. The baby-sitter is usually a lady from the staff complement. She may have had some first aid training, and she will probably be a designated sitter and used to looking after different children, but she won’t be a trained nanny, and as importantly she will not necessarily be able to read stories, play games or generally occupy or amuse your children. Again this won’t be such an issue for a baby or a toddler but is important to remember if you have a four year old and you are staying at a lodge that doesn’t offer a kiddie drive for younger children.

Accommodations for Families. Usually families ask for either family rooms or family suites (two connected bedrooms either with their own bathrooms or sharing one bathroom.) It’s important to remember that the latter are less commonly found in safari lodges. Many chalets or tents only take one extra bed so parents may need to separate if their children are too young to sleep by themselves. (Remember children will be more scared in a safari environment than in a normal hotel room). Other chalets can take two children (either on two extra beds or one sleeper couch) but never three children.

Safari lodges with two bedroom or three bedroom chalets/houses:

  • Ulusaba Rock Lodge, Sabi Sands Game Reserve, Kruger
  • Uplands or Melton Mowbray Manor, Kwandwe Game Reserve, Eastern Cape
  • Morukuru Game Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve
  • Nare Suite, Jaci’s Safari Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve
  • Long Hope House, River Bend Game Lodge, Addo National Park, Eastern Cape


3 – Watch Out for that Tricky Age from 2.5 to 5 Years

Enjoying the vacationHowever which lodge to choose requires slightly more thought when your children are between 2½ and 5 years old. The policy of most game lodges is not to allow children under six years on a game drive as their attention span tends to be shorter than the typical three hour game drive, they may not be able to stay quiet, or sit still, at critical moments thus endangering the vehicle, and they may not be able to follow the ranger’s instructions so easily.

Thus this is the tricky age when a child thinks that they’d enjoy a game drive, and their parents would dearly like to include them, and yet most lodges don’t allow it. But all is not lost!

Alternatives for this Age Group!
A number of lodges have taken a child-friendly approach. This varies slightly from lodge to lodge.

Special ‘Jungle Drives’ or Special Game Drives for children. This usually takes place after breakfast and is shorter and more focused on teaching the kids about the bush than in getting very close to large predators. However there are some points to note. The children will still need to have a babysitter when the adults take their drive so that you could find that you don’t spend much time together as a family. Another point is that these lodges usually then raise the age limit for the ‘adult’ game drive to eight years or more as they are providing a child-friendly alternative. However if you have a sensible, animal-crazy seven year old, she might find the kid’s drive too ‘young’ for her whereas her four year old brother loves it!

Honeyguide Khoka Moya Lodges offering ‘Jungles Drives’:

  • Jacis Tree Lodge, Madikwe
  • Mark’s Camp, Lalibela, Eastern Cape
  • Honeyguide Khoka Moya, Manyeleti, Kruger
  • Tuningi Safari Lodge, Madikwe

Kids’ Centres. Alternatively your children all go to a central place where they can be entertained both inside and outside. A children’s ranger is on hand to take them out to look at the veld, perhaps even enjoy a short game drive. Or if they don’t want that, they can watch an animal video or join in an animal quiz.

Lodges offering Kids’ Centres:

Try a more ‘Accessible’ Game Reserve. These are lodges that generally don’t have so many (or any) large predators and where the game drives tend to be shorter (2 hours). The age limit on the drives can be as low as three years and there are many more children around so that if your four year old is a little boisterous, you aren’t left cringing with embarrassment. Kids usually love these lodges and the lack of predators mean that walks, mountain biking, canoeing and so forth are sometimes on the menu. Perhaps combining some time at one of these lodges with a night or two at one of the Big Five private game reserves will mean that parents and children are all satisfied.

Lodges offering Accessible Game Reserves:

  • Buffalo Hills, Garden Route
  • Kariega, Eastern Cape
  • River Bend, Eastern Cape


4 – Children from 7 Years and Up

UlusabaOnce your children are about seven years or more, the safari questions become easier. If a lodge takes children in the first place then they’re allowed to go on the ‘adult’ game drives once they are six years and older (seven or eight years for some lodges). All lodges try to put families together on a game drive, which could give you more flexibility, but there is no guarantee of this, nor can you guarantee that the other family has the same expectations or requirements as yours. So if you choose a safari lodge on the basis of its game-viewing rather than its kid’s programme, your children need to be comfortable spending 3 hours on a game drive.

Private Landrover. Some lodges allow us to book a private landrover just for your family. There is an extra supplement for this which is sometimes based on the number of spare seats left in the landrover. (So if you have a large family or you are bringing grandparents or friends along, this may not even cost much more).

Game lodges with great game-viewing and a flexible approach to children:

  • Vuyatela, Sabi Sands, Mpumalanga
  • Ulusaba, Sabi Sands, Mpumalanga
  • Mala Mala, Sabi Sands, Mpumalanga
  • Lukimbi, Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga
  • Jaci’s Tree and Safari Lodges, Madikwe
  • Uplands, Kwandwe Game Reserve, Eastern Cape
  • Chobe Chilwero, Chobe, Botswana
  • Kwando Lagoon, Lebala, Linyanti Swamps, Botswana
  • Kwando Kwara Camp, Okavango Delta, Botswana


Each family is different and the above is an overview of some of the considerations when choosing a game lodge for your family which include your attitude to malarial areas, the exact ages and temperaments of your children. Some families want to stay together and enjoy game drives altogether. If they have very young children, this may mean some compromise on the choice of game lodge or budgeting for the extra expense of having your own game vehicle. Other families would love the idea of the children having their own kid’s drive where they can meet other children and learn about the bush in terms that they appreciate.

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