Renate Engelbrecht
5 minute read
10 Sep 2021
4:14 pm

Five family-friendly destinations for proper wildlife experiences

Renate Engelbrecht

Family travel is one of the best ways for parents and children to bond. Here are five family-friendly destinations where you can do just that, while also engaging in some of South Africa’s best wildlife experiences.

Shamwari Riverdene Family Lodge. Image: Facebook

Finding a family-friendly safari lodge that caters for kids under the age of 12 is not always that easy. These family-friendly destinations cater for intuitive children keen to learn about wildlife and conservation while you also get to spend time bonding.

Botlierskop Private Game Reserve, Western Cape

Located on the popular Garden Route, this family-friendly game reserve not only caters for kids, it is also a stone’s throw away from some of the most beautiful beaches in the country, which means you get to experience two holidays in one without having to worry about things like malaria.

Apart from its beautiful accommodation options which are all tastefully decorated, Botlierskop‘s Village Lodge (which is the child-friendly lodge accommodating children of all ages) also boasts a lovely playground with impressively long swings. The Village Lodge also includes various family-friendly activities, like junior ranger walks, pony rides, tadpole fishing and more.

Botlierskop Village Lodge
A family-friendly atmosphere at Botlierskop. Image: Supplied

Botlierskop Tented Lodge accommodates children as well, but only from the age of six, and there children can also take part in activities like canoeing, tennis, fishing and more.

Shamwari Riverdene Family Lodge, Eastern Cape

Overlooking the widespread bushveld of the Eastern Cape, Riverdene Family Lodge is one of those places you wouldn’t want to leave. This is the perfect setting for families to bond as elephants roam in the distance and where kids get to learn more about the wild while engaging in the lodge’s popular kids programme.

Riverdene Family Lodge also boasts a lovely children’s playground, a swimming pool with a shallow side for smaller children, a Kids Adventure Centre and more.

Shamwari Kids Programme
Shamwari Riverdene Family Lodge’s kids playground. Image: Facebook

With a strong focus on family holidays, Shamwari’s Riverdene Family Lodge allows both adults and children to learn about conservation practices. The lodge is also located in a malaria-free area, which gives it yet another family star!

Keep in mind that children under the age of four aren’t allowed on game drives at the lodge, but that pre-booked childminding facilities are available at an additional cost.

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Kgalagadi Lifestyle Lodge, Northern Cape

Located a mere 5km from the popular Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park, Kgalagadi Lifestyle Lodge in the Kalahari is the perfect one-stop family-friendly destination.

The family-owned and operated lodge boasts 32 strategically placed chalets, as well as 4-star camp sites and it has recently expanded its portfolio to include Black Mane Butcher & Grill, paying tribute to the free-roaming black maned lions synonymous with the Kalahari.

The Kgalagadi Lifestyle Lodge also boasts a small grocery shop that sells fresh fruit, vegetables, freshly baked bread and they even have a butchery.

Family-friendly Kalahari stays
Family-friendly Kalahari stays. Image: Anena Burger

And, if you’re keen to explore the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park as a family, you can even rent an Oryx 4X4 from the lodge at a set daily rate.

This destination is what sunsets and family memories are made of.

Sun City, North West

Although it is not necessarily a wildlife reserve in itself, thousands of visitors are attracted to Sun International’s Sun City resort each year. Surrounded by a craggy mountain backdrop and the nearby 55,000-hectare Pilanesberg National Park, boasting the Big Five, Sun City is a popular choice when it comes to family-friendly wildlife experiences.

The resort’s gardens include tropical rain forests and indigenous landscapes and have been accorded botanical garden status. Visitors often enjoy meandering along the paths, exploring various plant and bird species.

Visitors are also given the option to view Africa’s Big Five at the adjacent Pilanesberg National Park – either on foot with a tracker or from the comfortable height of a Land Rover. You might even be lucky enough to spot one of the park’s latest additions: a baby white rhino.

Baby rhino spotted at Pilanesberg National Park
The baby rhino spotted recently at the Pilanesberg National Park adjacent to Sun City. Image: MANKWE Gametrackers

Families with older children can also opt for game viewing from a hot air balloon, or experienced (and novice) riders can enjoy a leisurely trip on horseback through a small section of the Letsatsing Game Park.

Not to mention Sun City’s popular Waterworld, a man-made lake where families can enjoy parasailing, canoeing, jet-skiing, wakeboarding, windsurfing, water-skiing and more.

For something a little different, you can also spoil your family to a game viewing trail on quad bikes. Children need to be eight years or older to take part in this fun activity, where visitors get to join the Mankwe Gametrackers on a trail through the Letsatsing Game Park. On this trip you’ll be able to spot giraffe, zebra and wildebeest to name a few.

Thanda Safari, KwaZulu-Natal

If you’d like to teach your children about conservation, the wild and some of South Africa’s Zulu culture while also enjoying a luxurious safari experience, Thanda Safari is the place.

Thanda Safari’s flagship property, Thanda Safari Lodge, boasts nine bush suites that pay tribute to African abundance and welcomes children of all ages for accommodation and game drives.

Thanda Safari’s Villa iZulu is ideal for families in search of a more exclusive use setting – a completely private bush retreat. It is a luxurious Afro-chic homestead, featuring five lovely suites, a heated swimming pool, wine cellar, library, games room and a spacious deck overlooking the water hole. The villa can be booked exclusively for families with kids of all ages – an intimate family holiday like no other. It even comes with separate accommodation for childminders and kids can join game drives too.  

Thanda Safari's Villa iZulu
The exclusive use Villa iZulu at Thanda Safari. Image: Supplied

While both Thanda Safari Lodge and Villa iZulu cater for children of all ages when it comes to accommodation and game drives, Thanda Tented Camp can only accommodate children aged six and older on game drives.