Giraffes and zebras and elephants — oh my! What child wouldn’t want to go on an African safari and see these wondrous animals up close, in the wild and in their natural environments? (Not to mention, lions, warthogs, antelope, cheetah, jaguar, wild dogs and the myriad other wild things that call the African bush their home).
How, though, do you take the kids on a bucket list African safari and have not only the space, but also the comforts and attention, necessary to keep you all happy?
The answer is simple: luxury safari lodges built for families.
These incredible accommodations run the gamut from elegant villas to multi-bedroom glamping tents. What they all have in common is plenty of room to spread out, ultra-luxurious furnishings, gourmet dining and top-tier service all within arm’s reach of some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.
Take your family along to these nine fantastic lodges in Africa.
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Singita Pamushana Malilangwe House — Zimbabwe
Perched high on a sandstone ridge overlooking the shimmering expanse of the Malilangwe Dam sits Singita Pamushana, the only safari lodge located in the exclusive, 130,000-acre Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve.
I’ve been on dozens of safaris and found this safari lodge to be a truly special wild corner of Africa: You’ll never see another safari vehicle as you explore the reserve populated by endangered black rhino and large populations of elephant, cheetah, wild dog and leopard.
Captivating views of wildlife-filled wilderness stretch everywhere you look, but the camp itself is a family-friendly oasis of paved walkways (a rarity at African safari camps), protected from wildlife, so you can walk without an escort in the evenings.
Also perfect for families: The five-bedroom, five-bathroom Malilangwe House, an expansive, exclusive-use African home overlooking the Malilangwe Dam.
Among the highlights of this sophisticated retreat are a large, private infinity pool, a spacious dining room and living room with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a chef’s kitchen — complete with a personal chef. It’s designed with a mix of traditional Shangaan materials mixed with a bright palette that makes the house feel fun for kids instead of stuffy.
Another perk of staying at Malilangwe House: A private vehicle and dedicated driver and ranger will take your family on twice-daily game drives tailored to suit your personal interests, whether that’s looking for majestic birds or herds of elephants.
Age considerations and rates: Children of any age can join on game drives, but they must be over 16 and older to participate in a bush walk.
All-inclusive rates start at $12,390 per night for up to six guests, or $14,380 per night for seven to 10 guests, at off-peak times (Jan. 6–31, May and Oct. 1–Dec. 14) and rise to per night rates of $16,220 for up to six guests and $18,880 for seven to 10 guests during peak periods (July and August and Dec. 15 –Jan. 5).
Time + Tide Chongwe House — Lower Zambezi, Zambia
TIME + TIDE
For all the comforts of home, but with a dramatic change of scenery, Time + Tide’s two-story, four-bedroom, four-bathroom private Chongwe House feels a bit like if the Swiss Family Robinson hired an interior designer to create an upscale treehouse home.
Open-air rooms incorporate natural elements such as rocks and stone slabs and look like they’ve been carved from a secret tunnel of caves.
There’s also furniture created from fallen winter thorn trees, couches perched on river rocks, slab rock coffee tables, open-air bathtubs that seem to float over the river, outdoor rainfall showers open to the sky and terraces that jut into the open air. It’s a dream destination for kids made complete when elephants follow the river walk by the private pool.
A dedicated house staff — including a cook and a private guide — will help plan your days and accompany your family on not only game drives, but also on treks that take advantage of the unique river setting such as canoe safaris, boat cruises and angling trips to catch tiger fish.
Age considerations and rates: Children of all ages are welcome at Chongwe House; minimum age for walking safaris is 12.
All-inclusive rates start at $900 per adult, per night (minimum of six adults) in April, May and November, and $1,200 per adult, per night in June to October (the property is closed the rest of the year). Children 4 to 18 pay 50% of adult rate, children 3 and under stay free.
Natural Selection’s Safari House — Etosha, Namibia
OLWEN EVANS/SAFARI HOUSE
For a desert-focused safari destination, Namibia thrills with the ability to see both black and white rhinos along with fascinating desert species such as black-faced impala, oryx and the elusive Hartmann’s zebra, in addition to lion, cheetah, eland and antelope species.
To experience a desert safari with your family, Natural Selection’s aptly, if not creatively, named Safari House, a private use farmhouse in Etosha Heights Private Reserve, bordering famed Etosha National Park, fits the bill.
The farmhouse offers a home-away-from-home feel with overstuffed couches and lots of comfortable spaces where little ones can unwind after a long day listening for the crashes of white rhinos the area is known for.
Don’t think, though, that luxury isn’t at play at this three bedroom, three bathroom farmhouse. There’s a fully fenced and enclosed swimming pool and adjacent lush garden — ideal for kids to safely play in — and a full kitchen with a private chef who can serve meals catered to your family’s tastes inside in the dining room or outside under the open Africa sky by your boma (fire pit).
A private safari car and guide will tailor game drives to your family’s interests either on excursions to the waterhole just a mile from the house or traversing the private reserve.
Age considerations and rates: Children of any age can join on game drives, but they must be over 12 and older to participate in a bush walk. The entire property can be yours for $2,100 per night, all-inclusive, for up to six adults and three children.
&Beyond’s Tengile River Lodge — Sabi Sands, South Africa
Two enormous free-standing (and air-conditioned) suites are connected by a covered walkway to create a self-contained family suite at Tengile River Lodge nestled in Sabi Sands, the exclusive private reserve that borders famed Kruger National Park. From this posh lodging perch, you and your family will be able to view animals that are drinking from and following the Sand River, which runs alongside the camp and right outside the family suite.
This double unit comprises two suites, so your family will get not one but two pools, plus two spacious decks with sunken living rooms, two outdoor showers and two oversize tubs that could also be mistaken for plunge pools. When booking the family suite you can also arrange a private safari vehicle and guide for the duration of your stay so you can look for the Big Five (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino) and explore the 5-million-acre Sabi Sands conservation area (roughly the size of New Jersey) in comfort.
Age considerations and rates: Children ages 12 and up are welcome at Tengile. The all-inclusive rate for the family suite is $6,385 per night for four people.
Asilia’s Jabali Private House — Ruaha National Park,Tanzania
Tucked into Ruaha National Park, an expansive wilderness area that’s nearly half the size of Switzerland, is Jabali Private House, a stylish stand-alone property that gives your family the exclusive run of the three-bedroom home and the surrounding area without encountering other guests nearby. The private house includes two bedrooms lightly decorated in a light and airy, cream-toned palette so you can focus on the views outside instead of the spaces inside.
Whether you’re lounging in beanbag chairs on the deck or floating in your infinity pool, you’ll be able to keep an eye on the bordering Ikuka escarpment where large herds of elephants can often be seen. Jabali Private House also comes with the included services of a private chef who can offer cooking lessons in the house’s kitchen as well as a curated menu for your family.
A private vehicle and guide will cater game drives specifically to your family’s interests.
Age considerations and rates: Children ages 5 and up are welcome at Jabali.
Low season (November–Dec. 19 and Jan. 6 –March 14) the all-inclusive rate is $4,375 per night; high season (July to October and Dec. 20–Jan. 5) it is $6,130 per night (rates are for entire house).
Great Plains’ Mara Nyika — Maasai Mara, Kenya
MARA NYIKA CAMP
For true “Out of Africa” vibes, it’s hard to beat this luxurious tented camp tucked into the lush green plains of the Maasai Mara’s Naboisho Conservancy where you and your family will have a front-row seat for the great migration of thousands of wildebeests and zebra. Although you’ll be able to see wildlife here any time of year, the best chance to see peak numbers during migration are August through October.
Mara Nyika is a Relais and Château property that demonstrates why tented “glamping” safaris in Kenya became the industry leader. Picture copper soaking tubs, leather couches and rich silk carpets all within the canvas walls of ultra-plush tents.
Mara Nyika sleeps just 14 guests across an area spanning 50,000 acres — so you won’t have to share the camp with other people. Unique to this kind of tented safari, the camp has two new family suites comprising two bedrooms each. In such a remote spot, it’s a special perk to have your kids staying under the same roof in spacious accommodations, and not in cots crammed into the corners of a tent.
Activities here include not only morning and night game drives but also the unique opportunity to visit a local Maasai Mara community. One more reason: You can take the kids on a hot air balloon ride across the Maasai Mara to spot wildlife.
Age considerations and rates: Children ages 6 and up are welcome at Mara Nyika.
All-inclusive rates per two-bedroom family suite per night range from $3,600 for off-peak (April–June 14; November–Dec. 19) to $7,050 for peak season (June 15–Oct. 31, and Dec. 20–Jan. 10).
Toka Leya, Wilderness Safaris — Victoria Falls, Zambia
A visit to Victoria Falls, also known as Moasi a Tunya (“The Smoke that Thunders”), is a popular part of an African family safari. When I visited with my own daughter, I chose Toka Leya, a Wilderness Safaris property, for its fabulous location perched right on the Zambezi River and its family tents that comprise two en suite bedrooms with four-postered, canopied beds and a shared living room with an enormous deck to relax on.
We found it to be a very laid-back stay after some hectic travel — until, that is, the monkeys started jumping on our tent roof (actually a real perk of this safely fenced lodge). Another family perk of the river-front lodge — a real pizza oven serving up hot and gooey cheese-topped, wood-fired dough that we enjoyed to a chorus of hippos nearby.
Since this is a lodge and not a hotel, there are plenty of activities included in the rate: game drives into a nearby wildlife reserve; boat trips on the Zambezi River; and yes — the best for last — escorted trips to Victoria Falls, where you’ll feel the mist of the falls as you witness the thundering waters up close.
Prepare to get wet — very wet — in peak season, February to June, but having a private escort means someone will be waiting with a nice, dry towel and a bottle of chilled water once you get back to the vehicle.
Age considerations: Recommended minimum age for Toka Leya is 6 years old. All-inclusive rates range from $684 per person, per night (Jan. 6–March 31) to $870 per person, per night (June through October).
Royal Malewane’s Africa House — Greater Kruger National Park, South Africa
If your safari plans include an extended family group for a special reunion or celebration journey, this is the safari you’ve been looking for.
Royal Malewane’s Africa House (part of The Royal Portfolio) in South Africa’s Greater Kruger National Park bills itself as a “bush villa” and it delivers the type of grandeur that description conjures. There are six en-suite bedrooms, all with outdoor showers and decks, and space for 12 guests to spread out and fully relax. Since the house is completely self-contained, the kids can wake up early or play without worrying about disturbing anyone. (Also note that there is an additional room to house a nanny or private guide, photographer or pilot.)
The home is elegantly furnished with antique furniture, carved four-poster beds, plush silk pillows and Persian rugs, but it will still feel comfortable for kids since there are pops of color and whimsy, outdoor day beds to relax on, and a private pool.
A dedicated staff is included with a stay at Africa House, so you’ll have a personal chef to plan meals to please all palates, plus two private cars and guides if you’ve brought nine to a dozen people, or one guide and safari car for groups of eight or less.
On those game drives you’ll have a fantastic chance of spotting the Big 5 of African lore that Kruger is renowned for: lion, elephant, leopard, Cape buffalo and rhino.
Age considerations and rates: Children of all ages are welcome at Africa House.
All-inclusive rates start at $14,000 per night for one to eight guests (with one private vehicle) and $17,000 for nine to 12 guests (with two private vehicles)
The Stable Cottage, The Manor at Ngorongoro — Tanzania
NIELS VAN GIJN/SILVERLE/ELEWANA COLLECTION
A rolling verdant grass lawn leads up to The Stable Cottage at Ngorongoro, a whitewashed Dutch Colonial manor house that feels more like a country estate in Europe instead of the famed safari conservation area that’s attracted travelers since the time of Teddy Roosevelt.
Don’t worry though — just beyond the comfy confines of this spacious private home is the wild Africa you’ve come to explore. Here, your kids will have plenty of space to spread out across two floors, featuring a master bedroom and twin bedroom — each with their own individual bathrooms — a family lounge area downstairs, and another twin room, plus a bathroom and playroom upstairs.
Along with an elegant home to call your own, The Stable Cottage comes with the option to book a full “game package,” which I highly recommend. With this package, your family with receive a private vehicle and driver/ranger for guided gamed drives to search for wildlife like lions and zebra in Ngorongoro Crater or Lake Manyara wildlife area. More uniquely, you’ll also be able to participate in horseback riding on the estate, a truly special way to explore this corner of Africa.
Age considerations: Children of all ages are welcome at The Stable Cottage.
Rates range from $2,729 per night for all-inclusive use of the cottage, including all safari outings (April 1–May 31) to $3,826 per night (July 1–Oct. 31 and Dec. 20–Jan. 3).
One&Only’s Gorilla’s Nest — Volcanoes National Park, Rwanda
For safari aficionados, there are few adventures more thrilling than trekking up a volcano to search for the elusive and endangered silverback gorillas in their natural habitat.
For families looking to expand their safari travels beyond their vehicle, gorilla trekking ranks high as the penultimate safari, a thrilling and immersive opportunity to view nature on foot. You’ll hike into the deep jungle with your small safari group and expert guide and then trek into the mountains until you rendezvous with one of the remote families of gorillas that the rangers work round-the-clock to protect. You may have to work a bit to finally meet these incredible primates, but it’s a moment you and your family will never forget.
When you’re not adventuring into the bush, you’ll have a luxurious base for your exploring at the incredibly swank One&Only’s Gorilla Nest. The jungle-chic chalets are tucked into the eucalyptus forest and make you feel like you’re living in the trees. The family option, the two-bedroom Forest Lodge, stretches over nearly 1,000 square feet and includes two bedrooms: one giant primary suite and a second room that can either be for two children 12 and under (although note that gorilla trekking is ages 15 and up) or one “adult” over 12. This is a sleek modern hideaway, but it still offers old school safari touches such as a fireplace and a standalone bathtub with forest views.
Age considerations: Children 10 and up are welcome on property. Note that visitors should be comfortable in rugged walking and hiking environments — the only way to see the endangered mountain gorillas is to trek into the mountains.
The all-inclusive property rate for a family of four starts at $7,800 per night. Note that while on-property activities are included in the nightly fee, gorilla trekking fees of $1,500 per person, per trek are paid directly the Rwandan government and are an additional cost.
Featured image by Wilderness Safaris/Toka Leya.