Family Holidays & Safaris in South Africa
A world in one country – South Africa is one of the most beautiful and diverse places in the world. It boasts impressive mountain ranges, wild deserts, meandering marshlands, stunning beaches, and bustling, cosmopolitan cities.
When it comes to finding a family holiday that has it all, with the added charm of no jetlag, South Africa is hard to beat. A 12-hour flight from London will transport you to the southernmost tip of Africa, where Cape Town's distinctive beach, city, and mountainous combination makes it one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. From there, select your adventure depending on the age of your children. There are the famous driving routes along the Western Cape, glorious countryside in the wine regions or game drives in the likes of Kruger National Park. Family holidays in South Africa are enriching, educational and eye-opening for all ages.
Is South Africa a good family holiday?
Aside from the almost-year-round sunshine and no jetlag, South Africa has game-rich parks, relaxing white-sand beaches, and adventure aplenty for families. Whether your kids would love an adventure with wildlife staying in exciting safari camps and experiencing life like a local or spending the day chasing the sun on the beach, surfing on world-renowned waves, there’s something for every member of the family here.
Direct flights from London make the travel as pain-free as possible, while the sparkling hotels are as welcoming as can be to children. Some private game reserves will only allow kids over the age of 8 but there are always options around for younger children too. These include several stunning private houses to rent, which are fantastic for multigenerational holidays or two families travelling together.
South Africa is a safe, fun-filled option, where you’re sure to create unforgettable memories.
Family Safaris in South Africa
Children as young as three or four will love family safaris in South Africa. While they might not be able to sit still for as long as older children, the sight of a giraffe chomping on a tree or an elephant splashing its baby with water will delight them. With almost guaranteed game viewing, many malaria-free reserves, plus educational and fun children’s programmes for all ages, South Africa is one of the best places for a family safari holiday.
Combining a few days in the wilderness with a few nights in another location makes for a truly memorable family holiday. You might like to start in Cape Town, and then head to the Eastern Cape, where you’ll find the closest safari parks to the city, including Kwandwe Ecca Lodge, a great option for families. Equally, Madikwe, a 90-minute flight from Johannesburg, is another excellent family-friendly safari location. Both game reserves are malaria-free, however, if you want to go to Kruger National Park, you will want to consider malaria tablets, depending on the time of year you travel.
South Africa has a reputation for its luxurious, forward-thinking safari lodges, which combine conservation and tourism. They have some of the best rangers, trackers, and guides in the world who are passionate about teaching your kids about eco-initiatives, local wildlife, and the natural surroundings. Activities like tracking rhinos, inspecting dung, and going on treasure hunts will bring the lessons to life for children. Meanwhile, you can enjoy sundowners in the bush, spa treatments in your room and incredible meals. All of this makes South Africa an ideal destination for first-time safari goers to experience the magic of the African wilderness.
Top tip: Find out what to pack for a South Africa family holiday.
Things to Do in South Africa With Kids
A safari might be the first thing that springs to mind when planning a family holiday in South Africa but look beyond the incredible wildlife and there’s even more to keep your kids enthralled.
Spying a whale leap out of the water and back in with an almighty splash has to be one of the most exciting wildlife-watching experiences someone can have. South Africa is one of the best places in the world to see whales, particularly from land. Head to Hermanus, De Hoop, Plettenberg Bay or the Eastern Cape to watch your kids’ faces light up when they see the incredible animals. The season runs from June to December.
Paddleboard or kayak with penguins
Teens and older kids will love paddling the cool waters around Boulders Beach and Simon’s Town near , looking out for penguins. Along with the sweet, feathered friends, you might also spot seals while out on the sea. If being on water isn’t for you, check out the penguins from land on Boulders’ Beach.
Culture in Cape Town
Cape Town is a fantastic family holiday destination in South Africa, it has so much to offer, from beach life to its flourishing art and culture scene. There’s of course the poignant Robben Island, reached by boat, which children will enjoy. Then there is the District Six Museum, a memorial to the neighbourhood and what it endured during apartheid and the historic Muslim enclave and rainbow-coloured houses of Bo-Kaap. Lastly, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, filled with sculptures, is an ideal place for kids to run around while you take in the 7,000 plant species.
South Africa’s waves make it a haven for keen surfers, from the coves outside Cape Town to Plettenberg Bay and Jeffrey’s Bay on the Garden Route. There are beginner’s surf schools in places like Muizenberg and Big Bay, both of which are 20-30 minutes from Cape Town.
Depending on the age of your children, you could call this activity hiking or walking. Whether you want to climb up to the top of Cable Mountain or Lion’s Head or stroll gently along the beaches that line the Garden Route, South Africa is made for being outdoors. The backdrop for any walk will keep even the most reluctant of walkers from declaring they’re bored, while paths and trails make it easy to navigate.
Sleep under the Stars
Many of the fantastic hotels and reserves that we work with have beautiful, luxurious, camping options, which children love. Sleep out under a blanket of stars at the top of a tree house or inside a tent (with all the comforts of a five-star hotel). This is one activity that will go down as the most exciting experience on a family holiday in South Africa.
Bear with us here, wine tasting might not sound like the most family-friendly activity, but with our expert guidance and planning, we will ensure the children are occupied and having fun, while you get to sample all the delights that Franschhoek and Stellenbosch have to offer.
Thrill teens by jumping on a quad bike in Grootbos Private Nature Reserve to explore the beautiful surroundings. Whizz up and down scenic valleys, through the fynbos and past dramatic viewpoints.
Best Places to Stay in South Africa with Family
Whether you are looking for a chic, city boutique hotel, an ultra-luxurious safari lodge or a relaxing beach holiday in South Africa immersed in nature, Scott Dunn will find the right family-friendly property for you.
With Younger Kids
With fabulous nannies, kids’ clubs, and room set-ups for families with young children. Here are just some of our favourite hotels in South Africa for those travelling with tots.
Pretty in pink and one of the most iconic family hotels in Cape Town, Belmond Mount Nelson is right by the V&A Waterfront and close to the city’s beaches. It has family-sized suites, a kids’ club for children up to 12 years old, and gorgeous swimming pools. There are also several restaurants on-site, which makes mealtimes easy, and you’re well-placed to book a babysitter and head out to the Michelin-star showstoppers that Cape Town is known for.
Bed down in one of Marataba Safari Lodge’s family tents, set out amongst the vast wilderness and around all the incredible animals. Its kids’ adventure programme sees your children occupied with nature treasure hunts, cooking classes, arts and crafts, and movie nights. Meanwhile, family-game drives might include bush orientation, animal spoor identification and mould-making.
With Older Kids
With older children you can travel a bit further afield, perhaps you don’t mind that extra internal flight to get to the best locations or you need more adventurous activities to keep the children happy. Here are some of the best hotels in South Africa for those aged six and upwards.
In Sabi Sands, a reserve known for leopards, along with the rest of the Big Five, is Chitwa Chitwa, a private lodge with eight suites, including two that connect. There’s also Chitwa House, which has two bedrooms, a private butler, a pool, and a dedicated ranger. There are plunge pools, hippo-viewing decks, and special activities for children.
This family-friendly safari camp includes Little Garonga, a private house with two bedrooms, swimming pool and personal guide. Staying in Little Garonga gives you and your family privacy while still using all the hotel facilities, such as the spa, flexible meal options and kids’ activity adventures. The camp tailors its drives towards children, offers bushcraft experiences, and stargazing sessions.
For Multi-generational Family Holidays
A family holiday to South Africa to celebrate a special birthday or anniversary, or just to make some memories of a lifetime is magical with the young and old. Get the whole family together and stay at one of these properties, which has something for everyone.
Le Cle Villa Domain sleeps eight people in a private house within walking distance of Franschhoek. This beautifully decorated home has 360-degree mountain views, a wraparound veranda and a refreshing pool. Plus, it comes fully serviced. Activities such as horse-riding, cycling, having picnics, taking the wine tram, and sharing meals at some of the best restaurants in the world are the icing on this already very nice cake.
Madikwe Safari Lodge is a collection of three lodges which overlook the beautiful Madikwe Game Reserve. Each has a private lounge, plunge pool and deck to soak up the views of the wilderness. Lelapa Lodge is ideal for family safaris in South Africa. It has four family suites, kitted out with bunkbeds and toys and the Mack & Maddie Adventure Safari Club welcomes children of all ages.
For Active Families
There is no shortage of things to keep active families happy in South Africa but to make the most of the attention-grabbing experiences stay in one of these hotels.
Working farm Boschendal is peppered with pretty cottages for families to stay in and backed by mountains and orchards. There are several delicious places to eat, including shady spots for the picnics that the farm is especially known for. An adventure centre for kids, aged 4 to 14, is supervised by sustainability graduates who introduce children to gardening, foraging, and cooking over coals, along with baking, upcycling and arts and crafts. There’s mountain biking, wild swimming, horse riding and trout fishing too.
Thonga Beach Lodge in iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu Natal, is built right in the Coastal Forest Reserve. Made up of 12 thatched cottages perched on the sand dunes, which are connected by wooden walkways, they give off a laid-back, barefoot luxury vibe. Despite the chilled tempo of the place, there are plenty of things to do, including snorkelling, diving, visiting the nearby Mabibi community and kayaking on Lake Sibaya (South Africa's largest freshwater lake).
Head to the coast for an escape from reality and the chance to reconnect with your children. Here are some of our top family-friendly hotels for beach holidays in South Africa where you can switch off and reboot.
Set in a private part of De Hoop Nature Reserve on the southernmost tip of Africa, Morukuru Beach Lodge includes a three-mile marine protection zone. Between June and October, there is no better place in the world for land-based viewing of Southern Right Whales. Its ocean-facing suites and dining room provide front-row views of the mesmerising creatures. Spend time as a family stargazing, playing in the sand dunes, spotting zebra, collecting shells and swimming in nearby sandy coves.
Wedged between mountain and sea, this impressive marine and botanical reserve is a five-star eco-paradise. Here you’ll find floral diversity like nowhere else in the world. Take guided flower safaris through the ancient milkwood forests in an open-top 4X4, hike along trails up fynbos-clad mountains, and ride on horses around the beautiful surroundings. Grootbos Private Nature Reserve is also home to the Marine Big Five – whales, sharks, dolphins, seals, and penguins – which can be marvelled at from the beach, on a boat or from a light aircraft in the sky. Content from a day of outdoor adventure, head back to one of the 16 comfortable suites, before dining on locally sourced ingredients under the stars.
South Africa Family Itineraries
Discover city breaks, adventures on the coast and thrilling safari experiences in our South African family itineraries.
South Africa with Kids
Madikwe and Mauritius
The perfect combination of wildlife adventure in Madikwe and relaxing during a week of beach and sunshine on the tropical island of Mauritius. This South Africa tour is ideal for families with younger children looking for fun and games to entertain everyone all day long.
GBP £4,900 pp
Family Fun in South Africa
The Waterberg, Northern Tuli Game Reserve, Cape Town & Hermanus
For intrepid families looking for the extraordinary while spending quality time together, South Africa is the place to be. Canter into the wilderness on horseback, encountering wildlife from a unique perspective. Let your excitement wander through Mashatu, an off-grid game reserve where you can admire big cats and elephants. Gaze out over the...
GBP £6,700 pp
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