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Having had a son myself just over 19 months ago, I have started to pay a lot more attention to lodges that offer a more family friendly experience. Items such as fences around pools, adjoining / interleading suites, kids club, kid friendly game drives, etc are all now on my radar. So here is my take on the best family safari options in South Africa!
Malaria free areas such as the Eastern Cape and the Waterberg region is great for families with smaller children. The Kruger National Park has a malaria risk so we suggest this area be visited by families with older children but still try and avoid the high risk season.
There is such a wide selection of lodges available in both the 4 and 5 star market but here is just a few of our favourites and we hope that you’ll find one that would suit you and your family on your next family safari in South Africa.
Shamwari, Riverdene Family Lodge: this lodge is located near Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape. It’s location as well as it being malaria free, makes it the perfect lodge for a family safari in South Africa. The lodge offers 9 inter-leading rooms that cater perfectly for families. They also have amazing child friendly facilities such as a shallow area in the pool, a play room and jungle gym as well as an amazing ‘kids on safari’ programme to keep the little ones busy.
Sanbona, Gondwana Family Lodge: Sanbona is located approximately 300km from Cape Town, this is a gentle 3 hour drive/transfer. This is another malaria free lodge making is excellent for families. There are several options of room configuration at Gondwana so there is sure to be something to suit your family. Their ‘kids on safari’ programme is action packed. With activities such as the interpretive trail which invites children to learn about the animals on the reserve from the safety of the gardens to the educational activity book, your children will not only be learning new things but they will be having fun whilst doing it. Remember that children under the age of 4 are not allowed on game drives so these activities will be done while you are out enjoying spectacular animals sightings. Dining is a fantastic family affair as well where the children’s appetites will be well taken care of with delicious and tasty meals.
River Bend Lodge: located within the Addo Elephant Park, River Bend Lodge is accessible from Port Elizabeth. The drive takes approximately 1 hour, or for those wanting to take it up a notch, helicopter transfers can also be arranged! The lodge’s beautifully decorated luxury suites offer inter-leading doors for families. This lodge offers excellent babysitting options giving parents that much needed (and wanted) time off to enjoy a delicious (and peaceful) dinner! Their ‘kids on safari’ offerings are pretty standard but we just love the baking activity where your children can enjoy some time in the kitchen with the chef! Baked goods are best served with a delicious cup of tea!
Chitwa Chitwa: this lodge is located in the northern part of the Sabi Sands concession of the Kruger National Park. As this is a malaria risk area we suggest only taking older children to this area but still trying to avoid the high risk season. The suites can accommodate 2 adults with 2 children under the age of 12. Children aged 6 and above can join the game drives with their parents but this is still at the discretion of the ranger. For those not going on game drives they will be kept entertained by child minding staff with a variety of kid friendly activities. We love the face painting where your young ones can enter a world of make believe of their favourite wild animal!
Fitzpatrick’s Lodge at Jock: the lodge is located a little distance away from the main Jock Safari Lodge within the Sabi Sands concession of the Kruger National Park. As with Chitwa this is a malaria area. The lodge consists of 3 rooms making it ideal for a family with maximum 6 members. This lodge is geared 100% to families with their own ranger and chef catering to the family’s exact needs! The mini chef programme is just delightful and your children will have a blast preparing lunch with the help and guidance of the chef. The junior ranger activity is our favourite; the kids get to learn about animals, their tracks, call sounds and more while out on a kiddies game drive. These drives will steer clear of big cats as well as any other dangerous sightings such as an elephant in musth, etc.
If none of these lodges appeal to you for your next family safari in South Africa we have plenty of additional options available.
Travel time is family time!