The magic of safari is magnified tenfold with children. For them, the prospect of a real-life Lion King is fascinating – even without the singing warthogs and dancing antelope. South Africa is an excellent choice for such an adventure as it is both malaria-free and easily accessed via direct flights into its major cities.
However, safaris no longer simply showcase the ‘Big Five’ (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and Cape buffalo). Many travellers now look for hands-on, child-friendly experiences beyond game drives – and South Africa has many from which to choose. Our list combines elegant, luxurious accommodations with thrilling activities to keep even the youngest adventurers entertained to guide your safari selection.
All properties in this family-owned safari group are luxurious, educational and small-scale, but the three in the Madikwe Game Reserve are best for children. Each lodge is available on an exclusive-use basis – meaning little darlings won’t disturb other guests – and feature chic, contemporary spaces that can be interconnected, should you be more than six. There are, of course, bespoke game drives upon which you can spot the Big Five, but what sets The Morukuru Family apart is its Safaris With Purpose program. This invites guests to participate in conservation activities such as elephant collaring and rhino chipping, a memorable, hands-on way to interact with these magnificent creatures.
Drawing on over 60 years of heritage, the team at Thornybush certainly know a thing or two about running a brilliant safari. Recent renovations and a newly opened Saseka Tented Camp keep it feeling fresh, although calling these stylish canvas-and-stone villas ‘tents’ does them a disservice. Children can partake in as many or as few activities as they please, with pursuits including ranger-led walks and bush art sessions during which they can create their keepsakes. Should parents wish to have some time to themselves – for an evening out, or perhaps to check out the onsite spa – babysitting is available. Conversely, a private chef can create a bespoke family dinner in any location on site.
Safari meets design hotel at this no-expenses-spared eco-resort, opening this summer. Comprising just 12 lodges – six of which can be connected when travelling as a family – it eschews safari traditions favouring bold, sustainability-first designs made from natural stone and ethically sourced wood. Game drives in whisper-quiet electric vehicles bring you closer to lions, leopards and rhinos than you dreamed possible, and an onsite solar farm powers the entire resort. Children will delight in activities that bring the landscape to life, such as wildlife photography and overnight camping in the high mountains.
Jabulani was founded in the late 1990s to care for a rescued elephant after whom the resort is named. It has since developed into a watering-hole-side lodge that offers five exquisite elephant encounters. When you’re not tracking or talking about elephants, suites are modish and tastefully echo the elephant theme (yes, they have folded your towel into the shape of an elephant), with discreetly arranged decks among the trees. The Jabu Juniors program offers activities covering conservationism, animal-spotting, or arts and crafts for children. For adults, experiences like sunrise hot air ballooning and helicopter flips provide a bird’s-eye view of this remarkable place.
The remote nature of this lodge means that you must arrive by private plane at its airfield, where a personal guide will welcome you. You’ll stay in one of its thatch-and-stone legae at the foot of the Korranaberg mountains, which are rustic, elegant and designed for families. Upon arrival, each child will be met with a backpack full of tools and guides, and they can choose from experiences such as archery and animal tracking. But what of the wildlife? Lions, cheetahs, rhinos and giraffes are in no short supply, as are rarer creatures such as meerkats and pangolins.
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