Elephants, giraffes and zebra, all in glorious living color … school visits and insightful interactions with children from another culture … jumping with Maasai warriors … learning about Nelson Mandela’s Rainbow Nation up close and personal … and luxury accommodations at the bush or the beach. Africa’s got it all, with an abundance of choices and options for families with all different ages and interests as vast as the Serengeti.
Who better to know a great family safari than a South African family? Liz and Phil Biden have owned and operated the luxury Royal Malewane at Greater Kruger National Park for almost two decades, where the Junior Ranger Club includes interactions with wildlife specialists for a special up-close-and-personal education. Older kids can learn about animal tracks, identify bird sounds, find plants and know their uses, and keep a playbook with local language lessons. Accommodations are meant for families of all sizes: Africa House is for larger parties with six bedrooms and eclectic, warm furnishings curated by Liz. Private royal suites have two bedrooms, pools and a butler. Six luxury suites welcome children ages 10 and older, while children of all ages are welcome elsewhere.
At just eight days conveniently planned around school summer and winter breaks, Abercrombie & Kent’s tour is already a winner even before you figure in the $500 per child savings for those 17 and younger. The trip is like a grab bag of all the best “starter” experiences to whet your appetite to return: classic safari lodges and tented luxury camps, a visit with the Ololosokwan Maasai tribe, nighttime and daytime safaris, a Family Foodie experience and an A&K child care specialist who keeps the kids busy so Mom and Dad can relax. Besides the elusive Big Five —lions, leopards, Cape buffalo, elephants and rhinos — you’ll have the chance to spot giraffes, playful zebras and warthogs a la The Lion King.
Customized tours here mean you can jump with a Maasai warrior in Tanzania, laugh at a family of wild gorillas in Uganda or enjoy a unique “canoe safari” in Zimbabwe. Deluxe accommodations put your brood right in the heart of the bush, like in Eastern Cape, South Africa, where River Bend Lodge offers complimentary babysitting service so parents can go out for hours-long game drives without worrying about whether the transfer times will be too stressful for the kids. Private game drives at Molori Safari Lodge in South Africa mean if your son is getting cranky ahead of schedule, you can head back without worrying about other travelers in your 4×4. Scott Dunn organizes its suggested Africa itineraries by age group — under 5, 5 to 10, 11 to 15, and 16 and older — so activities and physical ability levels can be as active or relaxing as your family prefers. They recommend Zambia for those thirsting for adventure, whereas East Africa’s Great Migration or South Africa’s malaria-free, beach-studded region is often easiest for those with younger children.
Not really into roughing it? You don’t have to go the traditional tented camp route at Safari Houses, luxury private homes with several bedrooms and bathrooms in Zambia, each with its own personality thanks to help from interior designers who’ve used local natural materials. There’s a house manager, private chef and waiters, and you’ll have your own wildlife guides, private vehicles for game drives or scouts for unique walking safaris. Each house has a different layout, vibe and view — light woods, a swimming pool and a modern kitchen at Tangala House, for instance, welcome children of all ages year-round, whereas Chongwe River House, which sleeps eight and has great views of Lower Zambezi National Park,
welcomes 7-plus April through November.
Looking for a safari adventure but can’t go wild with your budget? No matter — at Flat Dogs Camp, luxury tent safari stays start at $47 per person for adults (kids are half-priced), and fees help support wildlife conservancy and include all meals and game drives. Facilities are family-friendly at the edge of 3,475-square-mile South Luangwa National Park, and you can also arrange village visits to nearby Mfuwe so your kids can experience schools supported by the camp.