If you’re looking for a family holiday the kids will never forget, an African safari is hands down the way to do it: there’s the vast beauty of Africa’s varied landscapes, the sheer thrill of being on a game drive and the opportunity to get up close and personal with some of the most exciting creatures on the planet. We asked tailor-made tour operator Lightfoot Travel for tips on creating the perfect family safari experience.
Solio Lodge – Solio Game Reserve, Kenya
One of the most relaxed safari lodges in Africa, there are no early wakeup calls or long car rides at Solio Lodge, so it’s ideal for kids. Aside from the wonderful safari experience, activities include horse riding, mountain biking, trout fishing in the Aberdare National Park and helicopter excursions to Mount Kenya. This is an amazingly intense wildlife experience in Kenya’s first private sanctuary.
Madikwe Safari Lodge, Lelapa Lodge – South Africa
Lelapa means “family” in the Tswana language, and this unique property is appropriately great for kids of all ages, with a treehouse, a pool, a kids’ club and the amazing Eco House where both children and adults can paint, draw, make animal models, attend lectures and touch some of the live specimens at the centre. This is a place where parents can relax, sip their coffee and know their kids are having the time of their lives.
Ants Nest – Waterberg, South Africa
A true bush home, Ants Nest is relaxed and peaceful, with a stable of horses and ponies that are well trained, responsive and have extremely good temperaments. There’s also a trampoline and swimming pool, a nanny service, separate meal-times for the children and a chef who can whip up kid-friendly food. Try feeding the rhinos at the home of Ants Nest owners, Ant and Tessa Baber. After hearing all the awful stories about poaching, it’s magical to see these animals up close.
Sala’s Camp – Maasai Mara Game Reserve, Kenya
This authentic bush camp enjoys a spectacular location to catch the mighty wildebeests as they cross back into Tanzania at the end of their migration. A family tent sleeps up to four people and a special programme for children sees resident experts teaching young guests the secrets of the bush. Make sure to ask Mark the manager to whip up some of his homemade Oreo cookies!
Morukuru – Madikwe Game Reserve, South Africa
Morukuru comprises three separate houses – Owners, River and Farm; Farm is particularly recommended for families as it’s more out in the open with a huge space for kids to run around in, and incredible outdoor baths. On arrival, children receive their own Morukuru Kidz backpack; activities include mini bush-walks, scrapbook-making and spoor-tracking lessons. Children of all ages are welcome on game drives here.
Giraffe Manor – Nairobi, Kenya
Like something straight out of a fairytale, Giraffe Manor’s herd of resident Rothschild giraffes literally pop in for breakfast and nibble food straight off your plate, often giving guests a kiss or two on the way out! “The memory of this magnificent place and the animals will remain with me forever. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve seen in Kenya,” said a Lightfoot guest.
Mushara Bush Camp – Etosha, Namibia
Set against the backdrop of Namibia’s finest game-viewing region, this laid-back camp eschews some of the luxuries of its sisters, but still caters superbly for children; it has a special play area with books, games and toys, super-friendly child-minders and great learning opportunities. Take a walk in the private Mushara reserve, or visit the national park, Etosha, where it’s common to drive yourself around during the day, but guided drives are also available.
Chongwe House – Lower Zambezi, Zambia
This four-bedroom safari house, complete with private guides, vehicles, housekeepers and chefs, lets families tailor-make their safari experience. Mealtimes and game viewing are flexible, and kids have a free run of the house. The staff are exceptional with children, too, and will entertain them should they tire of joining their parents on every game drive. The quirky house manages to evoke The Flintstones in design, while remaining extremely luxurious and spacious.
Gibb’s Farm – between Manyara and Ngorongoro, Tanzania
Located on a working farm, this place is educational for children and adults alike. Guests are encouraged to immerse themselves in the local community, with school visits, town tours and a Helping Hands Safari. Learn how to milk a cow, harvest vegetables and bake bread on the farm before venturing out to view the magnificent elephants and hippos native to the region.
Young Explorers Safari – Botswana
This specially designed safari for families is based at two adventure camps – Footsteps Camp (Okavango Delta) and Saile Camp (Linyati). Both are deep within Botswana’s vast wilderness, and while very comfortable, offer rustic touches such as bucket showers and canvas “walls”. The staff are specially trained to look after younger guests; activities include making bows and arrows, bush walks, fishing and game drives. Kids get to brush up on their bush knowledge with quizzes before a final presentation ceremony.