We know what you’re thinking: How on earth can I go on an African safari with kids? What about safety and rigid schedules and my antsy seven-year-old? And aren’t safaris geared toward adults? Where do I even BEGIN?
Great news! You can take your family on safari to safe, accommodating destinations where your active, curious kids are adored and enriched, not merely tolerated.
You don’t have to wait until they’re “old enough” for your children to experience the magic of Africa. You can open their world—and their hearts—today.
Transformative travels like these aren’t just about inspiring passion for our wild places. They’re about making unforgettable memories together. We’re talking serious quality time on once-in-a-lifetime adventures. For the whole family.
Explore Kenya’s people and landscapes with your little ones by camel-back. | © Ol Malo
Here, we’ll share five of our all-time favorite safari with kids destinations. And if the locations alone don’t convince you, we’ll also make our case for why you absolutely should take your kids with you. Plus we’ll share three essential tips for planning the perfect safari adventure for the entire family.
The 5 Most Magical Places to Safari with Kids
Unlike most others in the safari business, Extraordinary Journeys can customize any tour to make it kid-friendly and perfectly suited to the stage in life your family is at right now. So why wait? The options are practically limitless.
Expanding your children’s small world with eye-opening travels to Africa can be life-changing. Just ask EJ co-founder, Elizabeth Gordon, who grew up living and traveling on this beautiful continent. She now spends her days helping other families do the same alongside her mom and co-founder, Marcia, plus their expert team of family safari specialists. Here are Elizabeth’s top-five choices for the best and safest countries to visit with your little ones.
1. South Africa
This classic go-to is perfect for first-time travelers to Africa, especially Americans. The U.S. dollar is consistently stronger than the Rand, which helps you get more for your money.
The former Dutch colony also retains a distinctly European flavor, creating a unique fusion of cultures.
If convenience, familiarity, and guaranteed English-speaking interactions are what your family wants and needs, South Africa is your best bet.
For local safaris, we love Sabi Sands, which has one of the world’s highest concentrations of leopards.
Across the country, we’re also fans of malaria-free reserves, like Kwandwe and Madikwe. Though malaria is easily preventable anywhere we send our travelers, opting for malaria-free reserves means you can skip the pre-trip doctor’s visit, forget the hassle of daily pills, and still enjoy the same great bush experience.
These reserves offer thousands of acres of private wilderness areas across the Southern Kalahari desert; throughout the Eastern Cape’s mountains, rivers, and plains; and into the dramatic Waterberg Mountains—and beyond. With ample exotic wildlife, including elephant, lion, and rhino (to name just a few), your kiddos are guaranteed to be amazed at every turn.
One of South Africa’s most attractive selling points is that you can break up your wild adventures with city tours. Cape Town, for instance, offers hiking, paddle-boarding, sand-boarding, Cape Peninsula tours, and many more excursions that we customize for families.
But the learning doesn’t stop there!
Do you have a fish for a kid? We recommend hiring world-class freediver, Hanli Prinsloo, for the day while in Cape Town. She will give you and your curious young ones an entirely new view of her beloved ocean—and the importance of caring for and protecting it.
(Side note: Hanli and her partner, Peter Marshall, a former USA Swimming National Team member, are two of the warmest, most positive people you’ll ever meet. They’ll treat you like family and show you around all their favorite local spots.)
A staple in our portfolio, Kenya holds a special place in the hearts of our founders and team.
What makes it an ideal vacation for families is its flexibility and variety. You won’t get the city-slicker options of South Africa, but we’re over-the-moon about Kenya’s private conservancy options, which can take the conventional bush experience and personalize it to your family’s day-to-day needs.
Unlike national parks, conservancies and privately-run camps and lodges don’t operate under strict guidelines or set itineraries.
In other words, if the girls want to go horseback riding one morning while the boys sleep in, then the whole family can reunite over lunch and an afternoon hike. Everyone wins!
Or maybe you’d like a game drive—but only after grumpy-pants takes their nap.
Your schedule, your call.
With activities across many conservancies running the gamut—including walking and driving safaris, horseback riding, visiting local villages, enjoying scenic helicopter flights or bush picnics, and more—there’s something for everyone, even the pickiest among you.
Read one mom’s personal account of her family’s safari to Kenya, and learn why it’s worth visiting Kenya’s private conservancies.
After a long day of exploring on foot, the incredibly warm show of hospitality at owner-run Tafika Camp in Zambia makes all travelers, big and small, truly feel like family and friends rather than transient guests.
While Zambia may not be regarded as the most sophisticated African safari destination, it pays off in uncrowded camps in game-rich areas. And because it isn’t as commercialized as other destinations in Africa, Zambia offers more value for your spend, too—and who doesn’t love a great deal?
Read about the incredible experience one of our Safar Specialists had on her tented, off-the-grid adventure to Zambia.
Plus, Zimbabwe is home to five World Heritage sites, including Mana Pools National Park, Matobo Hills, the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, and Khami Ruins National Monument. Not to be missed among the five is stunning Victoria Falls (hello, bucket list!), the starting point for our Purely Zimbabwe itinerary.
For kids and adults alike, the Elephant Express might just be a dream come true. If you have little ones who adore trains, this dual-engine single tram through Zimbabwe’s Hwange National Park is a guaranteed delight and a fun change-up to the typical game drive. The ability to let your kids roam about the train is an added bonus for little legs that need to move!
The program’s emphasis is on learning how to track game both on foot and in 4×4 safari vehicles. Children learn how to make small animal traps, start a fire with two sticks, recognize different animal spoor, identify a range of birds, and much more.
Bottom line: Wherever your wild heart wants to wander, we can craft the ideal family trip for you.
The Case for a Safari with Kids
There are simply too many reasons to mention why we adore Africa, but high on our list is the lasting impression it can have on your children. There’s nothing else quite like a safari with kids.
Unrivaled Contact with Nature and Wildlife
Seeing the vast spread of the Milky Way in Namibia’s dark skies. Feeling the pull of the Zambezi River beneath your canoe as you cruise by elephants on the bank. Watching a pride of lions stalk a buffalo through the glassy waters of the Okavango Delta. Meeting a Samburu warrior in full regalia. Experiencing the heart-pounding adventure of the Serengeti Plains, home to the largest natural animal migration in the world.
Moments like these are the reason we fell in love with safari—and why we believe you and your children will become just as enamored as we are.
An Introduction to Stewardship and Conservation
Sure, trips to the zoo may suffice for babies and very small children—for now. But once they’re old enough, nothing can compare to seeing scores of exotic creatures roaming freely and naturally across the sweeping savannas at sunrise or sunset. You might be surprised how much these awe-inspiring, real-life encounters impact their young, impressionable minds.
Just take a look Elizabeth Gordon. Her mother (and EJ co-founder) raised her in Kenya, and since 2008, the duo have worked together to introduce as many people as possible to the magic and wonder of Africa while simultaneously investing in its conservation through EJ.
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Environmental threats and social factors continue to threaten precious regions and communities. It takes passion and dedication to conservation and community to ensure that we don’t lose them.
Connecting with nature and new cultures face to face transforms how we relate to the world around us and can inspire our next generation to continue protecting it. You may well have a steward-in-the-making when you head for home.
By exposing your kids early to the world beyond their backyard, you’re investing in our planet. You’re helping to keep its ecosystems resilient and pristine, and you’re also keeping our four-legged (and two-legged) friends in good standing.
Memories to Last a Lifetime (and a Welcome Digital Break)
Eager for a change of pace and plenty of space, literally and figuratively, to reconnect as a family? There’s no place better than on a safari with kids.
Here’s what one of our clients had to say about her safari to Tanzania with her two granddaughters:
“The organization of our safari was perfect, and I took the personalized guide EJ provided me on every excursion. It was helpful and made our trip very manageable. Our driver was excellent, spotting animals long before we did. We checked 19 different animals off our list and saw many beautiful birds. We also saw magnificent lizards and trees. The sunsets were glorious, the lodges were comfortable and exotic, and service everywhere was friendly and impeccable. To experience all of this splendor with my two granddaughters was truly a life-changer. We’ll never forget it.”
Getting out into Africa’s finest safari with kids means there’s no excuse—and often no ability—to scroll through social media feeds, binge the latest Netflix show, or even check in on all those work emails. That means you and the kids can slow your roll (or scroll) and relax around a fire pit, huddle in a cozy game-viewing vehicle, or unwind together at the table over dinner.
We may love our digital screens, but it’s even better to sneak a peek at life beyond them. We promise.
How to Plan a Safari With Your Kids: 3 Essential Tips
We understand that a hand-crafted safari is an investment for the whole family. But during in our decade-plus of sending families to Africa, we’ve discovered a few tricks of the trade that can make or break that special vacation with your brood.
Here is a quick-hitting summary of Elizabeth Gordon’s top tips for pulling off that trip of a lifetime with the kids. After all, adventures are always best when they’re shared, especially when the company is your kin.
1. Think Camps, Not Countries
When it comes to traveling to Africa with your family, it’s less about the right country, and more about the right camp.
Soaking in nature’s quiet ambience at a rustic bush camp won’t suit a rambunctious youngster needling mom or dad for “what’s next” every 15 minutes.
Age-appropriate safari with kids camps with desirable amenities are a must.
Swimming pools are always favorites. Kids can burn off extra energy in the water between activities, and it’s a great way to cool off during the midday heat.
We also know which lodges offer the best services to help with childcare, including babysitting. Some even have a playroom with games and activities, such as scavenger hunts and cooking classes, to occupy kids between game-viewing drives.
Here are three of our favorite safari destinations with special programming for kids:
- Kwandwe Ecca in South Africa puts together treasure hunts across the reserve, which incorporate learning some basic compass navigation.
- Singita Grumeti in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park offers a mini rangers program that teaches kids what it takes to guide in one of the world’s greatest wildlife playgrounds.
- Cottar’s 1920s Camp in Kenya’s Maasai Mara offers a unique glimpse into the Maasai Warrior School where these young men learn to master a number of skills including fire making; spear throwing; Maasai jumping, dancing and singing; bow and arrow practice; and stone throwing. Children can even participate in these rich generational traditions, including a blessing ceremony involving Maasai clothing, jewelry and henna.
Our programs are all about flexibility. Who wants a rigidly-scheduled safari where you have no say, especially when preferences will vary as widely as your ages?
On a typical safari, game drives occur in the early morning and evening. However, we’ve found that keeping kids engaged and moving in and out of the car throughout the day makes a world of difference. As such, we aim to work with properties that keep the schedule wide open and adaptable to your family’s needs.
At private conservancies, you can customize just about every activity to fit the times that work best for you and your clan.
We have families who opt to be out all day because they are having so much fun. We also can divide the group and have some folks stay back while others go out.
At Kenya’s Lewa Conservancy, for example, you have your choice of game drives, walking safaris, mountain biking tours, or horseback rides with Borana’s superb operation, Riding Wild. Even ATV Quad Bikes can be arranged to explore fun remote areas and visit local communities.
If you want to take it up a notch (literally), we can arrange for a private helicopter tour. Take your group on a scenic flight around Northern Kenya to see magnificent sites, such as Lake Turkana.
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For some culture and socializing, consider kicking it with the nearby school kids who love playing soccer. Our clients rave about the impact these encounters with local children have on their own kids.
It’s a moving experience for everyone, and the possibilities for connections like these are endless.
3. Keep Things Private
As in privately guided. We want to make sure you have exceptional guides (certain countries are offering amazing rates for private guides) because they are essentially traveling teachers for your kids.
The guides in our carefully-curated roster can teach your children an array of age-appropriate skills, including how to safely throw spears, make bows and arrows, drive a car, go fishing, collect ancient stone tools, climb a hill or a tree, or stalk a zebra.
Game viewing often comes a distant second to the rest of these hands-on experiences in the eyes of a child.
Again, this is where that wonderful flexibility comes in. We cannot overstate the value of private guides.
Take Footsteps Camp in the Okavango Delta, for example. Each family is appointed a dedicated professional guide, personal chef, waiter, housekeeper, as well as mokoro guides. The guides we love really know how to connect with kids and can sense if their attention is waning. As needed, they can redesign the day to better suit your children’s needs and interests.
Plus, in this scenario, you never have to worry about timing your day around other guests. It’s your call every time.
The perfect safari with kids destination exists. Our team of experts can help you plan the African adventure of a lifetime, and we wholeheartedly encourage you to bring your kids. There’s absolutely no need for them to be left out.
Never underestimate the impact a safari can have on your children. It’s not a stretch to say this is a transformative experience for most kids. Your kids will likely go home more well-rounded, aware of the world and their impact on it, and inspired to care for the people and wildlife they’ve encountered.
Think camps, not countries. Let us match your family with the safari destination perfectly suited to your kids. Enter the planning process with a flexible schedule in mind. Kid-centric itineraries with some built-in wiggle room will provide everyone a well-paced, relaxing, and fulfilling experience while on safari. And last but not least, opt for a privately guided adventure. Not only will your kids connect with the staff, you’ll get a well-deserved break from 24/7 parenting duties!
Plan Your Visit
Ready to start planning your family’s incredible African adventure? We make the process stress-free and enjoyable. Call or email us today to explore your best options for a safari holiday with children!
Then, start packing that suitcase because we’ve got all the details covered.