The Family Safari Travel Planning Guide | Fauna Travel

The Family Safari Travel Planning Guide

Family travel at Singita Boulders Lodge / Courtesy Singita

By: Scott Dubois, Fauna Travel Designer

An African safari is the ultimate family vacation. It will change the way your kids see the world and leave you with a lifetime of amazing memories. Conveniently, most safari lodges are all-inclusive, so you can relax and focus entirely on the experience with your family while you travel. When you know the basics, taking your family on safari is easier than you might think. We’ve compiled some of our top tips to help you get started.

Age Restrictions

Children from infants to teenagers can all enjoy a safari vacation, but many camps will have minimum age restrictions. These vary across the continent and are based on safety and style. We’ve listed out our favorite destinations based on age group below. Be aware that age restrictions can often be bypassed when staying in a villa or doing a full camp buyout.

Family game drive at Elsa's Kopje / Courtesy of Elewana Collection luxury Kenya safari
Family game drive at Elsa’s Kopje / Courtesy of Elewana Collection

Destinations for All Ages

Kenya and South Africa

Kenya and South Africa are great for anyone, but they are hands down my top choices for families traveling with infants and toddlers. Both countries have higher numbers of all-ages camps, as well as multiple malaria-free safari areas.

South Africa is the most diverse destination on the continent and will appeal to a wide range of people. We particularly like to take families from Cape Town through the Winelands and then along the beaches of the whale coast to Grootbos, before finishing with a safari in the Eastern Cape. There are also great reserves in the north such as Madikwe and Tswalu Kalahari. Kenya excels in providing quality cultural interactions for your children along with unique storybook experiences like Giraffe Manor and elephant orphanages like the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust.

Sample Itineraries:

Lion at Kwandwe Ecca Lodge / Courtesy of Kwandwe luxury South Africa safari

South Africa Family Safari

Safaris can be surprisingly kid friendly and are a magical experience that your children will carry with them throughout their lives. This itinerary is suitable for all ages. Read more…

Kenyan Family Adventure

Kenya has more kid-friendly camps than most countries along with some of the best wildlife on the continent. This itinerary includes Giraffe Manor, Samburu Country, and the Maasai Mara. Read more…

Destinations for Six and Up

Tanzania, Botswana, and Zimbabwe

A majority of safari camps accept children over the age of six, which opens up many more choices for your safari. At this age, children are also better able to appreciate nature on a grand scale, which informs our selection. In Tanzania you can see massive herds of wildlife migrating across the Serengeti and then finish your trip snorkeling in Zanzibar. Zimbabwe is also an excellent destination for adventurous families. You can combine the natural spectacle of Victoria Falls, with some fantastic game viewing along the length of the Zambezi River. Zimbabwe also has the second highest population of elephants on earth, behind its neighbor Botswana, which the kids wont be able to get enough of.

There are many camps in Botswana that offer both kids clubs and family tents, so it can be done well for ages six and up. However, I tend to think of it as a tween-and-up destination unless you just can’t pass up the unbelievable wildlife or are traveling with the grandparents. Kids will be able to be more independent here at a slightly older age.

Sample Itinerary:

Elephant in the Linyanti near DumaTau / Courtesy of Wilderness Safaris luxury Botswana safari

Botswana: Desert to Delta

Botswana is the world’s premier wildlife destination, and this itinerary will give you an overview of the best wildlife the country has to offer. Read more…

Destinations for Teens

Namibia, Zambia, and Trekking

I love Namibia and Zambia, and both countries can work well for younger children. However, because the highlights of these destinations are more active, I usually suggest them to families with teens who are physically capable of enjoying them.

There are fewer animals and minimal malarial risk in Namibia, making it safer for even the youngest children, but the desert landscape demands exploration on foot, bike, or balloon. Likewise, Zambia is a fantastic wildlife destination even if you solely stick to game drives. However, this is the home of the walking and canoe safari, and it would be a shame not to leave the vehicle to experience it up close.

I would suggest a gorilla or chimpanzee trek in either Rwanda or Uganda if you’re looking for epic high school graduation present. Because of safety concerns, primate trekking is limited to ages 16 and up. One notable exception is the chimpanzee trek at Greystoke Mahale, which takes children 12 and older. Very active families should also consider adding mountain climbing in Kenya or Tanzania to their itinerary.

Sample Itinerary:

Walking safari at Chinzombo / Courtesy of Time + Tide

Zambia’s Best Walking Safari

Our favorite camp to camp walking experience in Zambia. It promises to be the wildlife experience of a lifetime for the adventurous luxury traveler. Read more…

Let’s Start Planning Your Family Safari


Most safaris will offer variable rates depending on your child’s age. Infants and toddlers usually stay free. A half-price rate is often available to kids under a certain age (generally 12-16), while older teens will pay the adult price. Adult safari prices are anywhere from $500-3000 per person per night.

Families with young children are often asked to pay for a private vehicle and guide as well, which is an extra charge. However, we would suggest doing this anyway, because it gives you more flexibility in your schedule.

Child Care

You will want to spend most of the trip with your kids so you can see the wonder in their eyes, but it’s nice to be able to step away for a moment. Especially if you want to do more adventurous activities like walking safaris or horseback riding, that the children are not old enough for.

The availability of childcare varies widely among camps. Many properties have developed kids clubs with specific activities targeted to pre-teen children, such as cooking classes or making bows and arrows with the Maasai. Some lodges will have full babysitting services that can be booked ahead of time for an additional price. At a minimum, most will escort the kids back to their room, so parents can have a private drink in the evening.

Family activities at Tembo Plains Camp / Courtesy of Great Plains Conservation luxury Zimbabwe safari
Family activities at Tembo Plains Camp / Courtesy of Great Plains Conservation

Health and Safety

Safari operators are experts at what they do, and wildlife conflict is rare on safari. This is reinforced by the fact that children of a certain age simply are not allowed to take part in higher-risk activities. There is malaria to consider when traveling in Africa, but camps control mosquitoes with sprays and netting. You can also take prophylactic medications, and there are many malaria-free areas if you have children who cannot take them.

Some countries require proof of vaccination or a negative covid test for anyone over age 12 to enter. No vaccinations are required for entry for most safari countries, though many such as hepatitis are suggested by the CDC. However, if you are traveling from a yellow fever-endemic country, you may be asked to provide proof of vaccination for that. Requirements are always changing, so check with the appropriate consulate for the latest.

The Flights

I often tell people with small children that because everything is inclusive and engaging on arrival, the most difficult part of a family safari is the flight to Africa. Still, there are ways to make the time in transit more comfortable.

There are now multiple direct flights to South and East Africa from the United States which will appeal to families with experienced young travelers. Atlanta and Washington DC both have flights to South Africa, while New York City is connected to both South Africa and Kenya.

It’s worth noting, that if your kids have screen time limits like mine do, those should be thrown out for the duration of the flight.

For those traveling with little ones who are still adapting to international travel, I like to add a stopover in Europe. It adds to the total travel time, but it breaks up the trip into two shorter flights and has the advantage of easing the kids into the time change.

It’s worth noting, that if your kids have screen time limits like mine do, those should be thrown out for the duration of the flight. You likely won’t be spending much time on your phones once you’re on the ground. I also pack a bag of snacks, stickers, and new books to keep things engaging for our little ones.

Booking Window

Many properties were refurbished during the pandemic and added either family or interconnecting tents, which has opened up the options for families. However, these have become quite popular, so we suggest booking at least year in advance. For peak season in popular lodges like Giraffe Manor, you should plan even further out.

If you’d like us to help you to plan a custom family safari, please fill out the form below.

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