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Experiences, Accommodation

The Little Black Book of Family Friendly Lodges – Top in Southern Africa

Written by Julie Graham

Ker & Downey Africa > Journal > The Little Black Book of Family Friendly Lodges – Top in Southern Africa

Traveling together as a family provides a unique opportunity to bond and strengthen relationships through spending uninterrupted time together in spectacular surroundings. A luxury safari in Africa is an exciting and eye-opening travel experience, with few other places on the planet offering such a rich insight into the world and its inhabitants. It is what bucket-list dreams are made of and a beautiful experience to share as a family.

Our exclusive Little Black Book is a personal hotlist of our top camps, lodges, and hotels across the continent. This treasury of secrets holds the key to some of the finest luxury lodges in the land, and we’ve decided to share some of our favorite family friendly lodges in Africa with you.

Our first edition of the Little Black Book of Family Friendly Lodges in Africa is a collection of the finest properties in Southern Africa that cater for guests of all ages, offering unique activities that are designed to educate and inspire both children and adults alike.

Are you ready?

Botswana

Little Vumbura | Okavango Delta

Kids making food with their Bush Buddy at Little Vurumba – one of Southern Africa’s best family friendly lodges.

Bush Buddies become best friends at Little Vurumba

On arrival as a family to Little Vumbura, an intimate camp located in the northern reaches of the breathtaking Okavango Delta, children will be allocated a Bush Buddy for the duration of their stay. This unique and truly extraordinary offering by the team at Wilderness Safaris really makes a family adventure in the wild something to look forward to, not fear! Situated on a private concession and surrounded by floodplains, it is reassuring to know that there is someone looking after your little ones at all times. Each Bush Buddy has been trained in childcare and offers supervision as well as companionship, with a wealth of enlightening bush facts and stories to tell. In between fun-filled activities with the family, including mokoro rides, boating, catch-and-release fishing, game drives and a hot air balloon adventure, a Bush Buddy can keep the children safe and busy with age-appropriate activities, giving parents a chance to relax and enjoy the incredible surroundings. Bush Buddies are also available to accompany families on game drives should they so desire. Both children and adults can end the day around the fire, storytelling, stargazing, or even watching a movie under the African sky.

Camp Kalahari | Makgadikgadi Salt Pans

What could be more exciting for a child (or an adult for that matter) than a close-up encounter with a cute and curious meerkat? Perhaps a thrilling quad bike adventure across endless salt pans, or maybe an educational bush walk listening to the ancient stories of the Zu/’hoasi Bushmen? The good thing about Camp Kalahari, the laidback little sister of Jack’s and San Camp in Botswana’s Makgadikgadi Salt Pans, is that you can have as much fun as you like without having to choose just one.

A family portrait with quad bikes in the background at Camp Kalahari – one of Southern Africa’s best family friendly lodges.

Quad biking as a family across endless pans makes for unforgettable memories
Camp Kalahari is a really great option for families looking to experience this magical region of Africa.

Camp Kalahari is a really great option for families looking to experience this magical region of Africa. A dedicated family Meru tent provides the perfect base to explore the surreal landscape of the salt pans in comfort, style and safety. A secure fence around the camp has been specially placed to allow for children of all ages the freedom to run around camp, without the fear of any wildlife encroaching. To get up close and personal with the unique wild animals in the area, game drives (including night drives) can be enjoyed as a family, with professional guides and trackers leading the way, sharing their profound knowledge on the Makgadikgadi’s flora and fauna.

Top tip: If your family decides on traveling between 1 November – 31 March (the region’s ‘Green Season’), you may get a chance to witness the second largest migration of wildebeest and zebra in all of Africa!

South Africa

Thornybush Game Lodge | Thornybush Nature Reserve

Kids watching a movie on a projector at Thornybush Game Lodge – one of Southern Africa’s best family friendly lodges.

Kids enjoying an afternoon African-inspired movie in the bush

Thornybush Game Lodge is the original Thornybush property that opened its doors all the way back in 1961. For over 60 years, this flagship establishment has been providing world-class safaris for guests of all ages. Each of the two family villas has a dedicated lounge area, day beds, a large deck and private plunge pool, creating the perfect tranquil haven for families. The villas also offer the services of a private tracker, guide and chef, granting families the freedom to create their own timetable for game drives and meals. Kids on safari at Thornybush Game Lodge are treated to a plethora of exciting activities including tailored bush walks with rangers, baking in the kitchen, and creating bush art using natural elements that bring them even closer to nature. It’s no wonder that Thornybush is one of the country’s top family friendly lodges!

Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge | Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve

Sabi Sabi Private Game Reserve is a wildlife oasis that has long been synonymous with some of the country’s most epic Big Five sightings. It is no surprise that it is often the number one choice for travelers from abroad seeking the ultimate safari experience. Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge is a top option for those traveling as a family. With a history spanning over 35 years, this ‘luxury home in the bush’ has gone above and beyond to cater for adults and little ones alike.

Conceptualized and designed by qualified childcare professionals, the center offers environmentally themed activities, including hands-on ‘edutainment’ tailored for children of all age groups.

Kids playing on a jungle gym at the EleFun Center at Sabi Sabi Bush Lodge – one of Southern Africa’s best family friendly lodges.

Kids can enjoy hours of supervised fun at the designated EleFun Center

The only one of its kind in the region, the lodge plays host to a full-fledged children’s facility called the EleFun Center. Conceptualized and designed by qualified childcare professionals, the center offers environmentally themed activities, including hands-on ‘edutainment’ tailored for children of all age groups. Parents and guardians can kick back and relax, enjoy pamper sessions in the spa between incredible safaris, and rest assured that the children are in great hands, basking in their own exciting bushveld experience.

Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge | Madikwe Game Reserve

A ranger and a child looking out into the bush at Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge – one of Southern Africa’s best family friendly lodges.

The Junior Rangers programme is a fun an immersive experience for kids

Located in the popular malaria-free Madikwe Game reserve in the North West Province, Madikwe Hills Private Game Lodge is committed to creating memorable family experiences. The reserve is home to an abundance of wildlife including the Big Five, the rare African Wild Dog and much, much more. The main lodge at Madikwe caters for children over 10 years old, while children of all ages are accommodated for at the ultra-exclusive Little Madikwe private camp. An immersive and exciting Junior Rangers programme is on offer for children at Madikwe’s main lodge and is considered an absolute must-do experience. Under the watchful eye of knowledgeable rangers, children will not only learn all about tracking, the creatures of the bush, and animal dung investigation, they will also engage in creative activities like clay modeling and treasure hunts. At the end of their stay, they will be presented with a ‘Big Five’ certificate that they can take home and cherish forever.

Zambia

Thorntree River Lodge | Zambezi River

Kids involved in the Ngwana Club at Thorntree River Lodge – one of Southern Africa’s best family friendly lodges.

The Ngwana Club guarantees hours of supervised fun for children of all ages.

Located on the Zambian side of the mighty Victoria Falls, Thorntree River Lodge is set on the Zambezi River and great for anyone with a taste for a contemporary spin on safari lodges. An added bonus is that it is family friendly giving you the chance to enjoy time together, either around the pool or on an exciting safari activity. This all-inclusive luxury lodge offers a range of activities for the whole family including game drives in the Mosi-Oa-Tunya National Park, rhino tracking, sunset cruises, canoeing and a visit to the local village. The Ngwana Club – Ngwana meaning explorer in Setswana – is Thorntree’s celebrated kids club creating a fun and educational environment for children on safari. From guided nature walks around camp, animal tracking, fishing and mud sculpting, to cultural arts and crafts and cub club cooking classes, the Ngwana Club guarantees hours of supervised fun for children of all ages.

Zimbabwe

Matetsi Victoria Falls | Zambezi River

Matetsi Victoria Falls offers a real home-away-from-home experience for families with the ideal combination of safari activities and luxurious comfort. Located on the banks of the Zambezi River, the specially designed River Lodge Family Suite comprises two connected rooms, a private outdoor terrace with a plunge pool, and a private butler to ensure the whole family’s needs are met.

Family suite with views of the Zambezi at Matetsi Victoria Falls – one of Southern Africa’s best family friendly lodges.

A River Lodge Family Suite with sweeping views of the Zambezi
The specially designed River Lodge Family Suite comprises two connected rooms, a private outdoor terrace with a plunge pool, and a private butler to ensure the whole family’s needs are met.

In addition to this, the Matetsi Cubs interactive children’s program offers young adventurers the opportunity of a lifetime to experience the Matetsi Private Game Reserve like never before. Activities include nature walks, interactive cooking and creative crafts all designed for children to learn about and develop a respect for nature and wildlife. The “Cubs’ Den”, or library, is filled with a range of books for children and adults alike and is a great space for supervised children’s activities while the parents enjoy a well-deserved break.

Top tip: Children under 6 years old are not permitted on game drives at Matetsi. However, if booking a private vehicle, children of any age may go on game drives, with access to sightings at the discretion of guides, based on the behavior of both child and animals.

Singita Malilangwe House | Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve

A family dining on the deck at Singita Malilangwe House – one of Southern Africa’s best family friendly lodges.

Al fresco family dining at the exclusive-use Singita Malilangwe House

Located in the remote southeast of Zimbabwe’s Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve, the ultra-luxurious exclusive-use Singita Malilangwe House provides the base for a family safari of dreams. Encompassing five bedrooms, an interactive kitchen, sparkling rim-flow pool and a variety of spacious outdoor decks with views of the dam and valley below, this easy flow villa immerses its guests into the landscape seamlessly. Here, families can choose their own schedule and tailor their stay in any way they so desire. A dedicated chef, field guide, private safari vehicle and butler are on call at all times to ensure that no stone goes unturned. This includes the kids too. Singita’s Mini Game Rangers’ Course is a specially crafted, fun-filled selection of activities that teaches young explorers everything from animal tracking and outdoor survival to astronomy and how to identify birds, trees and other flora and fauna. Other children’s activities at Singita Malilangwe House villa include board games, movies, cooking interactions, arts and crafts and more.

In the interest of safety, children may participate in game drives and bush walks at the discretion of the designated field guide. Professional childminding services are provided at the villa with an array of fun activities to keep the little ones entertained and engaged for hours on end.

Somalisa Acacia | Hwange National Park

Somalisa Acacia camp is located in the Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe and is the ideal family friendly lodge for a safari experience, catering for guests of all ages. Set on elevated wooden decks, the camp boasts views over active pans frequented by herds of elephants that come to drink from the nearby water holes. Meeting an elephant in your backyard is a frequent occurrence here! Accommodating just 12 guests, this intimate camp comprises two family suites with interleading walkways, as well as two additional stand-alone guest tents for larger groups or families with older children.

Kids designing their own pizzas at Somalisa Acacia – one of Southern Africa’s best family friendly lodges.

Kids designing their own pizzas at Somalisa Acacia
Activities for kids include tracking, cultural arts and crafts and cooking classes, including fun at the camp’s designated pizza oven where children are invited to design their own pizzas with the resident chefs.

Activities at Somalisa Acacia include game drives, guided walking safaris, birding, and cultural visits. All are led by African Bush Camps’ professional and passionate guides, all natural storytellers who are eager to share their love of Africa with the families they encounter. There is also the Ngwana Club – Ngwana meaning explorer in Setswana – which is Somalisia’s celebrated kids club creating a fun and educational environment for children. Activities for kids include tracking, cultural arts and crafts and cooking classes, including fun at the camp’s designated pizza oven where children are invited to design their own pizzas with the resident chefs.

When it comes to the top family friendly lodges in Africa, we know best. This is just a taste of what your unforgettable family safari adventure could look like. Contact a LuxVenture® Designer today and let us craft a one-of-a-kind family safari experience like no other today!