An Africa safari with kids was on our bucket list to experience as a family, and it was honestly one of the best things we could have done in South Africa. We explored Kruger National Park with the kids, saw the Big 5 animals, spent days on safaris and had an experience that was beyond expected in Africa. There is something truly amazing about this country and I left my heart in Africa.
Taking the kids on a safari had always been on the shortlist of experiences we wanted to do as a family. But when we first set out on planning the safari I had so many questions and concerns I didn’t know where to start or things to consider when arranging an African safari. So many misconceptions or things I felt really clueless about. We knew of a few people that had been on a safari but none with kids.
So I have decided to pull together all the questions that I had to help others take their kids on a safari. Basically… all the questions I had nobody to ask. So here they are:
What You'll Find in This Post
- What you need to know before you go on an African Safari:
- Can children go on Safari?
- What is the minimum age for safari?
- Where is the best African safari?
- How to decide on Safari lodging?
- Is it safe to take children on a safari?
- Did you need to take malaria pills?
- What is the difference between the safaris?
- How long should you go on a safari?
- What is the best time of year to visit Kruger National Park?
- What is the best African Safari tours?
- Can you hire/rent a car for a safari?
- What are the Big 5 on a safari?
- What are animals you will see on African Safari?
- How much is a safari trip to Africa?
- Would we go back to Kruger National Park or another safari?
- What would we do differently?
What you need to know before you go on an African Safari:
Can children go on Safari?
Yes, they most certainly can go on a safari! Kids love to see and watch animals in their natural habitat, so why wouldn’t they be able to go on a safari?! I know, I had the same question and I’m not sure where the preconceived notion came from but YES kids can go on a safari. Our kids were 5 and 8 when we went.
What is the minimum age for safari?
It all depends on the camps that you are lodging at. My best advice is to read the details or contact the lodge for clarification on age restrictions. Some can accommodate babies, toddlers, kids, and some consider 12 year olds to be adult age.
Some camps will have restrictions on open-air vehicles or bush walks with kids and some are adults only camps. Each of the camps
We found, in gen
Where is the best African safari?
We debated on a few different areas in Africa but decided on Kruger National Park in South Africa for a few reasons.
- Price of Flights: We got a fantastic price to get to Cape Town on flights as compared to some of the other areas in Africa.
- Time of Year: We wanted to go in October, so the climate was a good fit for safari timing in Kruger National Park.
- Immunizations: Due to the shortage of Yellow Fever immunization we ruled out a few countries (ex. Kenya).
- This was our first African country and overall we felt most comfortable with going to South Africa.
We looked into other safaris in Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia, Botswana and other areas in South Africa. Honestly, I think any safari experience will be amazing so try not to get overwhelmed, because I know I was. Look through the remainder of the questions below and it should narrow down your search criteria.
Next on our list would be Botswana or Namibia, just to try somewhere new.
How to decide on Safari lodging?
We booked our safari lodging only 5 weeks before we arrive. We also ended up coming during a school break, so we stayed longer in Cape Town and honestly started to look for any lodging that was available and would meet the minimum age restrictions. Look further down to what we would do differently… this is one of them!
Now that I know a bit more, choose your lodging based on the animals you want to see. So if you are wanting to see lots of elephants you should stay at a lodge that has plenty full in that area, etc. But, if all else fails this method worked and got us to a safari. Next time, we will book earlier and book based on animal experience.
Is it safe to take children on a safari?
In my opinion, yes it is safe to take children on a safari. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have taken my kids! There is some danger for anyone on a safari, regardless of age. Safety with animals, driving or other factors. We listened and asked lots of questions from our hired guide and rangers from the camps for the common sense safety tips when on a safari. With our youngest being 5 at the time, the ranger did advise us at the beginning of every game drive just to ensure the kids were sitting at all times, but that may have been from more of the driving versus the animal danger. At no point did I feel unsafe or in danger on our safaris or in our camps.
Did you need to take malaria pills?
Yes, we chose to take malaria pills for our family. Mosquitos are in Kruger National Park and carry the disease, so there is a risk. Malaria Monday’s was medication day for our family, one week prior to entry into the region and four weeks following. It was the first time the kids had to take actual pills (no
What is the difference between the safaris?
Basically, there are 3 different types of safaris that you can take.
The first and most likely vision you have in your mind is the open vehicle safari. These are typically arranged and included in with the lodges that you book. So you will most likely go out in the early mornings and late afternoon for open-air safari. A ranger and animal tracker will accompany you on the game drives around the lodges private (or shared) land. If it is private land, the vehicle can go off-roading and not be contained to the roads. This can sometimes allow you to get closer to the animals.
Hired Driver/Guide Safari
Another kind of safari is where you can hire a local to drive you (either an open-air vehicle or closed vehicle) and drive you around the Kruger National Park. These are typically all day events but can be shorter if you arrange with the hired driver. A hired driver is a local who knows the areas of the parks, can gauge the type of animals you are interested in seeing, educate you about the
As the name precludes, this is where you drive yourself around Kruger National Park. So just as the locals do with
We did all three of these types of safaris, and each has their uniqueness to the experience so just consider what you are looking for in your safari. I do suggest though in this order first a hired driver (to learn a bit about the area), then self-drive (feel like a local) and lastly lodge safari (up close with the animals).
How long should you go on a safari?
We spent 1 week in the Kruger National Park area. 4 nights in one lodge and then 2 nights in another lodge. My suggestion would be to split it up between lodges, maybe 3 days of safari, especially if you are on a private lodge. After 2 nights in the private lodge, we were ready to move onto another and see a different area. With the private lodge, you are usually restricted to their routine – breakfast, lunch and supper served, game drives and activities all on a pre-scheduled time so freshness from another lodge after a couple of days is recommended. The one lodge we spent 4 nights
What is the best time of year to visit Kruger National Park?
The best time to go to Kruger is at the beginning or end of the region’s dry season, which falls between April and September. This also coincides with the peak season in Kruger National Park, but look for the shoulder seasons for some deals. We ended up going in mid-October, the weather was comfortable for touring around. Some cooler mornings in the open-air vehicles with some rain, but also sunny warmer days too.
Think about looking for animals with your timing, this was a reasonably easy time of the year to see animals because there
What is the best African Safari tours?
We looked into a full 10-day tour of Kruger National Park with an African safari tour and decided against a pre-arranged tour. These are the ones where your entire 10 days are booked with food, what to do, transportation, etc. These tours were extremely expensive for us and we prefer to book things on our own.
We decided to book our own accommodations and review the places we wanted to stay at. With the private lodge, all the game drives, bush walks and food were included with their pricing. The other lodge had breakfast and dinner included in the price, and I contacted the owner directly for her recommendations on a local hire for safari. There is also the option of booking these tours individually here which is another great option if the lodging doesn’t offer it independently.
So it all depends on the experience you want. For us, we felt the extra cost of the heavily organized tour was not the experience we were looking for. We wanted the safari experience, and we were able to accomplish that without a tour operator.
Here are some other options for tours that you can book directly with the company for day trips:
Can you hire/rent a car for a safari?
Yes, you can hire/rent a car and drive in Kruger National Park. In hindsight, we rented a car and probably should have splurged for the SUV or truck to be able to see higher up, but it was just fine. No issues with clearance or driving a rented vehicle in the park for a safari. These can be rented from the airport, but be sure to book in advance since the airports are smaller and vehicles are limited.
Warning – you might be driving on the other side of the road… left side road driving here so it might be a bit of a change for people from North America. Ensure you have an international drivers license too!
If you are only going on a private safari you will not need to rent a car, the pickup and drop off from the airport is usually included in the lodging prices or can be arranged with the lodge itself for a fee.
What are the Big 5 on a safari?
One of the goals of going on a safari is to see the Big 5! This also helps keeps the kids eyes busy looking for animals. The BIG FIVE was derived from the 5 most difficult animals in Africa to hunt by foot.
- African Elephant
- Cape Buffalo
What are animals you will see on African Safari?
Although the BIG 5 animals are truly remarkable animals, there are plenty of other animals that should be on your list to see on a safari. Our other favourites were:
- Wild Dog
How much is a safari trip to Africa?
There is a large range in cost for safaris from cheap budget camps to luxury camps. It all depends on what you want, we split it between both budget and luxury. Over our entire year of full-time travel this was the most expensive week, but totally worth every dollar spent! I would spend it all over again for the experience. We also spent 12 nights in Cape Town at the front of our trip so the cost of the flight could be distributed over 20 days total in South Africa. I broke down our approx cost below:
- Flight (Abu Dhabi – Cape Town One way) – $3,300 for 2 adults & 2 kids
- Flight (Cape Town – Hoedspruit Return) – $2,500 for 2 adults & 2 kids
- Kambuka Lodge – $2,900 for 2 nights
- Nadabushi Lodge – $1,100 for 4 nights
- Hired Safari Guide – $500 per day
- Car Rental – $200 for 4 days
- Food & Extras – $500
- Total – $11,000 CDN for 1 week
Prices will vary with peak season, lodging and where you are flying from. But, for us this cost was drastically lower than booking from a tour operator.
Would we go back to Kruger National Park or another safari?
Yes, a thousand times over! We have stated that if any of our family or friends are going we would gladly go again. We think it was the best option for us to have our first safari, but Botswana and Namibia are now on our next list to check out.
What would we do differently?
We would book earlier. Not that we didn’t enjoy the lodges that we went to, they were fantastic, but we didn’t realize how many options there are and would like to select now based on the viewing of the animals. We would like to
Do you have any other questions? If so, post them below in the comments and I will help in any way that I can.
Happy safari planning!
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