Going on safari is a thrilling experience. Witnessing wild animals in their natural habitat, embarking on early morning game drives and learning about an environment so foreign to most of us. For kids, this bush experience can be the ultimate time of fun, experiential learning and getting to see animals like zebra, lions, elephants, buffalo and more outside of a book.
Thankfully there are many game reserves and lodges in South Africa who accommodate kids and even offer unique programs to keep their occupied and enjoying themselves while you get some free time. Here’s our top pick of family friendly game reserves and lodges in South Africa:
1. Riverdene Lodge, Shamwari Game Reserve
Situated in the Eastern Cape and one of South Africa’s most luxurious game reserves ( and malaria-free), Shamwari is located an hour away from Port Elizabeth. When visiting with your kids, Riverdene Lodge is your best bet as it provides special accommodation geared towards families. The lodge has a designated children’s coordinator who plans days of cultural, sports, arts and social activities for your busy bees. When indoors, kids can keep busy with puzzles, documentary DVDs, books, board games and puzzles. Facilities include gyms, supervised play areas and the Kids on Safari programme will allow them to visit animal rehab centers on the reserve.
The whole family can enjoy visits to the Rhino Awareness Centre teaching about the poaching plight of the rhinos, The Born Free Foundation which promotes the conservation of big cats and protection of their homes and the Animal Rehab Centre where registered vets look after injured or abandoned animals before releasing them back into the wild.
Things for Families to Note:
- Kids under 12 must be accompanied by a parent to all of the learning centres
- All swimming activities must be supervised by a parent at all times
- Children under 4 years old are not permitted on game drives or at the Born Free rescue centres
- Pre-booked childminding services are available at an additional cost.
For more information on visiting Shamwari with kids, Read More here.
2. Main Lodge, Kariega Game Reserve
Not all lodges allow kids of all ages on game drives, but at family-owned Kariega, they are more than welcome to enjoy both morning and afternoon game drives with their parents along with the river cruise. Malaria-free and situated along the Garden Route, The Main Lodge and Homestead accommodate children but Settlers Drift, River Lodge and Ukhozi Lodge only host kids 10 years and older.
Weather permitting children can enjoy the following ‘Kids on Safari’ activities such as a guided walk around the Main Lodge with a Ranger followed by a quick, fun test and reward of a Junior Ranger Certificate; creating moulds of animals tracks with plaster of Paris, fishing, canoeing, baking, flag making, rhino awareness, sand art and creating animal masks. While you enjoy a quiet dinner or to keep your children occupied in bad weather, the Main Lodge play area has play-dough, games, table tennis, wildlife DVD’s and children’s activities on between 11 and 2pm. Children over 16 years old can join guided bush walks and babysitting can be arranged if needed.
Things for families to Note:
- Babysitting is available at all times for R80.00 per babysitter per hour
- For children 5 years and under it is the ranger’s and General Manager’s discretion as to whether they can be taken to sightings of the more dangerous Big 5 for safety reasons.
3. Madikwe Safari Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve
A four hour drive from Johannesburg and Pretoria, Madikwe is one of South Africa’s largest game reserves with over 60 mammal special and 300 bird species. At Lelapa Lodge children are welcome and will find a wealth of activities to enjoy and make this time in the bush a treasured time for you as a family.
Bush orientation, bug CSI, Eco House playtime, dung tracking, baking, family safari drives, pizza making in the boma, star gazing, game nights and more await all children visiting Madikwe Safari Lodge. Parents can join the kids to play in the Eco-House or leave the kids there for some much-needed chill time. Arts, crafts, painting, drawing and more are all on the agenda of the Eco House
Things for families to note:
- Children between the ages of zero and five years stay free of charge and children aged six to fifteen pay 50% of the per person adult rate.
- Children under the age of 3 years old are not permitted on any of the daily safari drives.
- Children younger than 6 years old are not permitted on the scheduled daily safari drives that take place early mornings & late afternoons.
- Children aged between 3 and 5 years old may participate on a dedicated family safari game drive between 10:00am & 12:00pm daily. Parents are welcome to join this game drive too, subject to the availability of seats on the vehicle.
To book your family safari at Madikwe, Read More Here.
What our travel expert Romain has to say about Madikwe, “It is a private game reserve therefore the ranger can go everywhere in the reserve. We crossed the bush to see a lion family! It was fantastic! Moreover, this reserve is really close to Botswana, so it’s really easy to organize a combo Madikwe/Botswana.”
4. Kwa Maritane, Pilanesburg National Park
Nestled on the slopes of an age old volcano within the malaria-free Pilanesberg National Park lies Kwa Maritane Bush Lodge only two hours drive from Johannesburg. Here parents are able to sign their 6-12 year old kids up for the Junior Ranger’s programme which aims to encourage conservation education and an appreciation for nature and natural resource protection.
Children will learn about the national park’s history and join wildlife walks whilst learning about the bird calls, identifying animals and plants. They will get the chance to collect eight activity badges and stickers before receiving a certificate a Junior Ranger Pledge ceremony.
For more information on a family safari, visit Kwa Maritane.
5. Jock Safari Lodge, Kruger National Park.
Within the grand Kruger National Park lies Fitzpatrick’s at Jock which is a three room stand-alone lodge offering families personal service and activities geared towards their size, children’s ages and weather. Outdoor activities for the Kids on Safari programme includes night walks in the camp, junior ranger training while on the kid’s drive, closed vehicle game drive to and from Skukuza, visit to the Stevenson Hamilton Museum, arts and crafts, play dough session and mini chef time.
Things for families to note:
- All swimming activities must be supervised by parents at all times.
- Game drives for children younger than 6 years old are conducted in closed vehicles as per rules and regulations of the Kruger National Park.
- Child minding is done by lodge staff and can be arranged with reservations prior to arrival at an additional cost.
- Please ensure that all children bring good walking shoes, a large hat and sunscreen as well as any medicine used to treat allergies.
To book you bush getaway with your children, visit Jock Safari Lodge