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Top 5 safari lodges for families in South Africa

We all know that safaris are increasingly popular among the travelers who are looking for something  more adventurous than just a beach or city holiday. And where it used to be mummy and daddy who would go and explore the African bush, it is fast becoming a favorite holiday for families who like to add some adventure to their trips. South Africa has a vast array of safari lodges which cater for families, though some of them really do stand out. &Beyond Ngala Safari lodge, Kruger National Park Located in the most famous National Park of South Africa, Ngala Safari Lodge will blow you away with its beautiful design, incredible wildlife and a vast array of facilities. Their latest addition is a tree house which will give you the chance to sleep under the stars, with nobody and nothing else in sight but nature in all its glory. As a family, you will be able to choose from either the family cottages or the family suite. Either way, you will be have all the luxury of a top safari lodge while still being on a family holiday. For the kids there’s the WildChild program which not only will keep them occupied during their stay, but also give them memories to cherish for a long time. Ngala Safari Lodge has also one of the most rare animals living right next door, being white lions. There are currently only less than 5 of them living in the wild, and 2 are regularly seen by the guests staying here. Another great experience is the notching of rhino’s which is done for research and security. Being with the veterinary team it will give you the chance to witness everything from up close, while doing some amazing work towards the conservation of the rhino species. Jaci’s Safari Lodge, Madikwe Game Reserve Jaci’s Lodge has everything going for it, from the amazing location, to the friendly staff, wide variety of rooms, wildlife hideout, and so on. The owners are hospitality veterans and it shows when staying here. They realized that the staff is the key to a superb safari, especially when travelling as a family, and here the staff are all invested in the lodge. Nothing is too much, and they treat your kids like their own, to the point where it was hard to explain to my children that our days were numbered at the lodge. When your kids are still young, or you just don’t want different rooms, I suggest you book the Nare suite, which accommodates 6 people easily. It also come with its own game vehicle and ranger, allowing you to take the kids on game drives whenever you want without disturbing any of the other guests. The kids get a Jaci’s pups club goodies bag which allows them to learn all about the wildlife and mark all the animals they seen. But there’s also a lot of fun to have in the kitchen like baking cookies and other stuff. The wildlife hideout is located in the adjacent Jaci’s Tree lodge which you can visit on foot as there are located next to each other. The resident croc and the abundance of wildlife that visits the waterhole will keep you and the kids entertained for hours. Lucky it’s open 24/7 which is something unique and I hope other lodges take an example. Starbed suites are also available and I can’t stress enough what an amazing feeling it is to sleep under the African sky while enjoying the view of the milky way. Jaci’s Safari Lodge is also a National Geographic Unique Lodge, one of only 5 in South Africa, ensuring exceptional and inspiring experiences, a unique and authentic character and the commitment to conservation and green operations which also benefit the local communities. What more could you ask for? Bush & Fynbos Villas, Gondwana Game Reserve Along the famous Garden route sits the Gondwana game reserve. A tranquil private game park where you not only spot the big 5, but also enjoy one of the most moderate climates on earth, making this the perfect all year round destination. There are several types of accommodation, but the Bush and Fynbos villas are perfectly suited for families. The villas have either 3 or 4 bedrooms, and come with all the luxury you could wish for when going on a family safari. The kids will love the Junior Ranger program which will give them the chance to learn more about nature, conservation and the animals in general through interaction with the rangers, educational game drives and the complimentary junior ranger packs. Another big plus is a 1000 ha protected area within the park which is suited for outdoor activities like mountain biking and hiking while still being able to see most of the endangered species. If dad is a golfer and wants to have a day of pure leisure outside the park, he will be spoiled for choice with some of the best golf courses within a short driving distance. Mom will be happy to know there is a wonderful spa on site. So it’s clear the whole family will have something to enjoy. Royal Malewane Africa House, Thornybush Game Reserve The Royal Malewane is a regular on this website, and for all the right reasons. It has the most experienced rangers in South Africa, its location in the Thornybush Game reserve guarantees you plenty of amazing wildlife encounters, the luxurious style and service of the privately owned Royal Portfolio (of which the Royal Malewane is part),…the list goes on and on. And while there are family suites at the Royal Malewane, it is their Africa House which really stands out as one of the most amazing places to take your family and enjoy some proper quality time. And with family, I mean the whole family as there are 6 beautifully decorated bedrooms able to host a grand total of 12 guests. Everything is put in place to make sure you will have the most amazing time together. Your own game drive vehicles, rangers, chef, housekeeping,….you name it, they thought of it. The massive deck of the Africa house also offers a great place to relax, unwind, or have a swim in the pool, without having to go to the main lodge. Then again, the main lodge still features one of the most amazing spa’s I’ve ever laid my eyes on, and it would be a shame if you didn’t pay a visit during your stay. Last but not least, make sure to celebrate life with your family and with some of the best wines South Africa has to offer as the wine list is one of the best I’ve seen at any safari lodge. Londolozi Founders Camp, Sabi Sands Game Reserve  Another old faithful when it comes to luxurious safaris in South Africa. Being located in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, Londoloi has 5 camps lined up on the banks of the Sand river. All of them are equally impressive to stay, though when travelling as a family I suggest Founders Camp because it has 3 amazing family chalets which are ideal when travelling with your kids. Don’t expect to find a specific child program at Londolozi, rather expect a specific philosophy which tries to create the perfect safari for the children and for the parents. While the game drives will be tailor made in order for the youngsters to get out of the jeep from time to time to use their senses, the downtime at the lodge offers a vast array of activities. There’s the obvious track molding and baking experiences, but where can you do Masterchef classes, sling-shot competitions, movie nights, sand castle building in the riverbed just to name a few? My favorite must be the dung spitting contest, which will assure a lot of laughter for both the kids and maybe even the parents if they like to join in on the fun. It is a totally different approach, but as with the rest of Londolozi, they make take it at heart to make it an unforgettable experience for every guest, irrelevant of their age. Would you consider going on a family safari? Or have you done so in the past? I would love to hear your experiences.

Kristof Eyckmans

Kristof Eyckmans is a travel writer from Antwerp, Belgium. He’s been living all across the globe and while he loves wildlife and nature, he can still enjoy a good urban jungle.

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  1. Safari Lodges for all the family are a great development. I’ve got to admit that we sneaked away for a safari when the kids were young with my Mum and Dad looking after our two. I vowed that we’d return with the kids but sadly things never quite worked out that way – mainly financially.

    Looking back I regret that they never got those views over the veldt and never saw lions up that close. It would have been fantastic to have given them all of that as part of the growing up experience.

    1. It is indeed a wonderful experience if you can share it with your kids. Of course, sneaking away on a romantic safari just the two of you is also something that you’ll remember for a long time, hence why I try to do both. Also because there are plenty of safari lodges and parks which are on my bucket list that aren’t that suitable for families. But we make up by taking the little ones on other safari trips to lodges that are perfect for families, making sure everybody can enjoy the animals and the bush.

  2. Fantastic that Jaci’s Safari Lodge have a vehicle that’s can be exclusively for one family’s use. You never know when kids are going to want to stop for ages watching giraffes at sunset or are unbelievably bored with the elephants and want to move on. There’s no explaining kids.

    Also you might need some discreet censorship. Not all kids will appreciate a bloody close-up of lions having their breakfast. Sometimes, if it’s just your family in a vehicle, you can suggest to the driver that he moves on and finds a less gory sight.

    1. Absolutely true. Kids often want to see and experience other stuff.

      Then again, in all these lodges you can get a private vehicle for the family, though it is sometimes needed to booked upfront, while indeed at Jaci’s it is included when you stay at certain suites.

      The Royal Malewane Africa House is of course also exclusive for the family so no need to worry about such things over there as everything is done solely for and with the family.

  3. I enjoyed reading about all the different experiences available to kids! Having these experiences like sleeping under the stars and getting to see wildlife up close is something I kind of wish I got to do when I was growing up. I have three brothers, so it probably would have been a little tough on my parents. But it seems like a great opportunity to share moments together that last a lifetime.

  4. The moments are indeed for a lifetime. Even the younger ones that don’t remember it 100% will still have the pictures to look at afterwards and maybe some memories will come back.
    I do it with my kids and hope they will do the same with theirs as we need to keep the youngster informed about what is out there, both the good and the bad.

  5. Even though I am a teacher, I would say that children will learn far more on a week’s safari then they ever would in a month in a classroom. The more children who get to do experiences like safaris the more chance we’ve got of producing a generation who will care for their environment. The only problem that I foresee is that teenagers who usually want to sleep for eternity won’t make it out of their beds for the early morning game drives. Even if they do they’ll probably be too bleary-eyed and grumpy to take much in. Probably family safaris are better for younger children who are awake early and have such great thirst for knowledge.

    1. You are absolutely right! They learn so much while in Safari, because it is interactive, and feels like a giant classroom where you can learn something new behind every bend.
      Teenagers might have a tough time waking up early, but with the right activities and motivation I don’t think they will mind that much. I often meet teenagers on safaris and they all love it. Worst case they can always join the afternoon gamedrive :)

  6. It doesn’t seem real to see the elephants casually wandering past your hotel pool. That’s incredible. There’s something very humbling about it as well, like we’re the ones plonked in the middle of their territory, we’re the visitors. Sounds like some great options for families with plenty for the kids to do and goodie bags and such. I would have loved to have done a S Africa safari when I was little.

    1. You said it….we place ourselves inside their territory. I’ve experienced all kinds of animals walking past or even through the lodges. Going from elephant and hippo to lion, hyena and leopard. It surely is humbling.

  7. Wow! This is both luxury and wildlife adventure. I think that one of the main reasons why people don’t want safari adventures or a wary of it is because of the kind of accommodation. They think you’ll have to make do with outdoor loos and showers. Or you’ll be under a tent like the usual camps. But I really think African lodges have come a long way from that. Royal Malewane Africa House did a very good job incorporating both luxury, safari, and family friendliness in one. Where else would you rather be?

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