Family holidays in Africa: everything you need to know

Many lodges and private family houses, particularly in eastern and southern Africa, now offer activities and accommodation designed for younger guests. Budding David Attenboroughs exploring the wildlife regions of Namibia2, Zambia3 and Botswana4 will find the small bugs and birds encountered on child-friendly walks just as fascinating as the Big Five seen on game drives adapted for shorter attention spans. Ocean life captivates children too, from dolphins off the Indian Ocean island of Zanzibar to whales off the coast of South Africa.

Namibia: trip of a lifetime5

Family Holidays In Africa: Everything You Need To Know

Conveniently, many of Africa s star family attractions are best visited during British school holidays. Here is my guide to planning a successful family trip to this inspiring continent.

Where and when to go

With many malaria-free areas and roads suitable for self-drive touring, South Africa and Namibia are favourite family destinations. Abi Shaw from Bushbaby Travel recommends Madikwe Reserve in North West Province, South Africa: It s vast, with large quantities of animals including around 1,000 elephants, and it is not crowded.

With many malaria-free areas and roads suitable for self-drive touring, South Africa and Namibia are favourite family destinations.

Madikwe is perfect for summer holidays, offering great game viewing and good value during the winter dry season (May-August), with whale-watching in Hermanus an ideal add-on through to November. Camp Kalahari in Botswana s Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, home to lovable, semi-habituated meerkats, is a brilliant Easter option, although it s open all year. Ginny Russell of Cedarberg Travel suggests the Young Explorers Camp (open March-November) in the Okavango Delta, where children over seven learn bush skills such as tracking game and poling a traditional mokoro.

Claire Scott from Expert Africa recommends Zambia for children over eight (12 and above for walking safaris) for its wide selection of private houses, especially in South Luangwa. Staff are experienced in engaging with children, she says, and activities include not just safaris, but also cooking with the chefs, bushcraft and nature walks. In nearby Kawaza village, children meet and play with local children, learning about their lives. June-September is the best time to go.

In East Africa, the dramatic wildebeest migration6 passes through northern and eastern Serengeti in Tanzania during July and October (half term) respectively on its journey to and from Kenya, combining well with a Discount Holidays © holiday on Zanzibar to explore its endless beaches.

Time zones and flight times

There is little time difference between Africa and Britain, meaning jet lag is not a problem. Most airlines operate night flights lasting 8-10 hours, including British Airways (, South African Airways ( via Johannesburg, and Kenya Airways ( via Nairobi, allowing children to sleep en route.

Travelling with children

Note that South Africa introduced regulations in June requiring parents to provide unabridged, original birth certificates for children under 18. If guardians are accompanying children, both parents must provide affidavits proving they have given permission for children to travel.

Security and safety

Africa s safari destinations are generally safe. Most lodges suitable for children are fenced, but if not, children should always be supervised. Your guide will brief you on safari safety: animals may be accustomed to humans and vehicles, but they are still wild and unpredictable. For up-to-date information on security, including terrorism, see

Health issues

Much of Africa is malarial, and malarial prophylactics are unsuitable for children under five. Paediatric Malarone is available for youngsters weighing 11-40kg. Using insect repellent and wearing cool, long ‘sleeved tops and trousers at dusk help prevent mosquito bites. Check for information and consult your GP about necessary inoculations when planning your trip.

Safaris for first timers: the ultimate guide7

Tour operators

Recommended Africa family specialists include Expert Africa (020 8232 9777; expertafrica.com8), Cedarberg Africa (020 8898 8533; cedarberg-travel.com9), Bushbaby Travel (0845 124 4455; bushbaby.travel10) and Scott Dunn (020 8682 5070; scottdunn.com11).

Discount Holidays © Holiday inspiration

Tom Bradby in Namibia12

This is a land of vast open spaces, incredible landscapes and rugged, beautiful mountains. There is rarely any phone signal, let alone 3G, and thus no email, Facebook, Twitter, or hassle from the office. I can t remember the last time I or indeed all of us switched off so comprehensively. It was a Discount Holidays © holiday with more mental freedom than we are likely to find anywhere.

Family Holidays In Africa: Everything You Need To Know

Fiona Bruce in Malawi13

When I arrived at Kaya Mawa, I knew I had found my own piece of heaven. A dozen grass-fringed lodges were wedged between black boulders and baobab trees, overlooking a smooth crescent of sand lapped by the fresh water of Lake Malawi, brilliant blue and clear as glass. Flying over the lake in a tiny Cessna plane is the best way to get an idea of its size, conveniently 365 miles long and 52 miles wide, which is easy enough to remember. Well, those are the dimensions they claim, anyway. It is certainly vast stretching as far as the eye can see, so huge it even has waves.

Family Holidays In Africa: Everything You Need To Know

Michelle Snaddon and family in Cape Town14

With sublime weather forecast for the week ahead, my children were not short of ideas for things to do in Cape Town15. Can I go abseiling? asked Liam, 17, showing me some images on his iPad from Look straight down, off the edge of Table Mountain! Other suggestions included a helicopter ride, paragliding and a catamaran cruise.

Isabella, 12, had already packed her beach bag for the beaches of Clifton and Boulders, where she wanted to swim with penguins.

The aquarium, too, was high on her wish list.

Family Holidays In Africa: Everything You Need To Know


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