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|S Africa (Kruger)|
|South Africa (Cape)|
= Excellent = Good - = Off-Season but possible)
Whether you want your visit to coincide with the herds of wildlife or whether you want to avoid the herds of tourists is very much a personal choice. It pays though, to come pre-warned:
Masai Mara in July / August: Up to 100 safari vehicles have been known to congregate at one sighting in the Masai Mara during July and August. The reason? The annual migration when vast herds of wildebeest congregate within a relatively small space and dice with death as they attempt to cross the Mara River. It is an incredible spectacle and well worth a visit, however, there is more to safari than sheer numbers and the Mara is magnifcent year round. If you do want to take in the migration then you need to know that it will mean long days sitting and waiting by the Mara River waiting for an elusive crossing to play out. Our favourite recommendation for those keen to witness this spectacle is Entim Camp which has a spot on position in a private spot on the banks of the Mara river.
Cape Town & The Garden Route during Christmas and New Years
Christmas and New Year coincide with the height of summer in the Cape when South Africans from Johannesburg and overseas migrate en masse to the Cape. We usually recommend clients avoid this period unless it is the only time of the year they can possibly make work.
Wildebeest crossign the Mara River during the Annual Migration
February Half Term: Kenya, Tanzania or South Africa's Cape and Garden Route areas.
With usually only a week to play with, the scope for exploring widely is somewhat limited. However this is a great time for some winter sun and safari in Kenya or Tanzania
Easter & May Half Term: South Africa's Cape, Garden Route, Kruger & KZN areas, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia
In Southern Africa the summer season is coming to a close but there is still usually good weather even in the Southern most areas of the Cape. Eastern Africa is usually avoided due to the long rains, however we have managed to source some incredible value safaris for families in Kenya and Tanzania during the May Half Term, and the rains, although daily, do usually clear up for some sunshine each day.
Summer Holidays: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa's Kruger and KwaZulu-Natal areas, Namibia Botswana and Zambia
Come July, Kenya's Masai Mara plays host to arguably the most spectacular wildlife event of the year, the annual migration of massive herds of wildebeest, zebra and accompanying predators. This is also one of the best times of the year to be in the Kruger and KwaZulu-Natal regions of South Africa. The Cape region of South Africa is in winter, with Cape Town in particular buffeted by strong wind and rain.
October Half Term: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa's Cape, Garden Route, Kruger & KZN areas, Namibia, Botswana and Zambia
Again, with only a week to play with it pays to choose carefully. Although it is heading towards the short rains in Kenya and Tanzania, these usually involve only a very short period of rain each day and are not worth worrying about. Southern Africa all works well at this time of the year.
Christmas Holidays: Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa's Cape and Garden Route areas
Christmas and New Year brings optimal weather, but peak prices and crowds to Cape Town and the Garden Route and much of East Africa. Still if you want to get away for something special at Christmas it is hard to beat a safari and beach combination.
The rains of the green season put many people off, but for those whoare willing to adapt, the green season offers significant discounts. During the green season in Bots, Zambia, Kenya and Tanzania, expect to get between 30 and 70% off the standard peak rates for higher end camps and lodges. The rain tends to fall in heavy bursts that clear quickly to leave plenty of the day left to be out on Safari.
Many lodges and safari camps claim to be family friendly, but few actually are. We are all parents ourselves and take pride in visiting and selecting safari camps and lodges which are genuinely family friendly, but also offer something unique for parents as well. Read on to discover our top picks.
Our favourite family friendly camp in Kenya, if not the whole of Africa, Laikipia offers an off the beaten track intimate wilderness safari experience. The camp is ideal for families, children can go on adventure walks, swim, raft and fish in the river and scramble and climb on nearby outcrops and, of course, game drives are also available. If your family is active and likes to get out and experience the wilderness, then this is the perfect place for you.
A fantastic malaria-free safari option, 2 1/2 hours norht of Jo'burg. No Big 5 here, but there are giraffe, buffalo, rhino and over 40 species of antelope. Accommodation is is boutique cottages with magnificient views, this is the ultimate place to come to unwind and reconnect with nature. The speiclaity here is horse riding and they have over 90 horses in their herd which are suitable for beginners right through to experienced riders. For non-riders, there are game drives, walking or simply relaxing and enjoying the views.
A collection of three beautiful bush houses within private reserves adjoining the Masai Mara. The sense of privacy, wilderness, variety of activities and the tailored daily itineraries mean these houses are perfect for families. Each house is self-contained and has its own dedicated guide who, as well as taking clients on game drives, will teach you ho to shoot a bow and arrow Maasai style and will give you some insight into the Maasai culture.
A great value wilderness safari camp in the heart of the Selous Game Reserve in Southern Tanzania, this lake side camp offers tented, rustic accommodation with vehicle & boat safaris available. With few neighbouring camps, you are unlikely to see other safari vehicles, so this is a chance to be far away from the crowds. If you are looking for a wlid adventure for your family, then this is absolutely the camp for you.
Located half way between the Ngorongoro Crater and Lake Manyara, Gibb's Farm offers beautiful famliy friendly accommodation in a tranquil and rural setting. Set within some lovely gardens and with views of coffee plantations, this is a peaceful slice of rural Africa, the perfect accommodation to complement a safari itinerary.
If you want an exclusive, yet family friendly safari getaway, then look no further than Thanda. Offeirng luxurious family friendly accommodation, complete with private infinity plunge pool, outdoor shower and private sun deck and outstanding communal areas, Thanda does come with a high price tag, but is worth every penny. Fussy eaters and early dining times can be catered for and the guides and staff go out of their way to bring the safari to life for the younger audience.
Lots of lodges in the Kruger area claim to be family friendly, but we love Simbavati because it genuinely is. The lodge offers fantastic family accommodation; the family chalets offer privacy to parents with two bedrooms and also have a private deck overlooking the river bed. Communal areas include a large lounge area, kids room and a small outside play area, which is a rarity in Kruger lodges and allows children to let off a bit of steam between game drives. Add to this family friendly menus, enthusiatic guides and excellent game and you have a very good value family safari option.
A lovely small tented camp located in the Amakhala Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape. This is the ideal location for families looking for malaria-free safari. The contemporary and comfortable tents can sleep up to four people and there is a small pool as well. Amakhala is home to the Big Five and is a convenient safari destination after exploring the Garden Route. A genuinely intimate and boutique option, for families who want to enjoy the great outdorrs, but not at the expense of their creature comforts.
We believe that time spent in a car on a road trip is a means to an end. What you really should be doing, is getting out there and experiencing the landscape and breathing in the fresh air. Most National Parks have a road infrastructure that means that you can drive to the view points and tick them off, without getting a sense of the place. So we say, ditch the car and go exploring. Where you rest your weary head at the end of the day is just as important, so we have paired each of our favourite adventures with some of our favourite places to stay, where you can sit back and relax together after a fun-filled day out. The options are endless, but here are some of our favourites:
One of the best ways to experience the mountains has to be riding single track. The Sierra Nevada mountains at Lake Tahoe are one of the best places to do this, with awesome views, exhilarating downhills and tracks for all levels of availability. You can choose to ride from ½ day to a full on 3 day tour. If you are travelling with a non-rider, then there is plenty for them to do in the area, from stand up paddle boarding to relaxing on the beach, or a beginners trip can be arranged. In the evening, we suggest you stay at the independent Basecamp Hotel, a hub for adventure travellers, where you can sit in the roof top hot tub and rest your tired limbs whilst watching the stars coming out, or sit in the cosy communal lounge and share tales of your day with like-minded travellers.
Nothing quits beats the thrill of rafting down a river swimming and playing one minute and then, with a quickening heart, approaching some mighty rapids and riding them, paddling as if your life depended on it. The best rafting that we have done is in Utah, based from the independent town of Moab. You can choose between anything from a 1 day rafting trip to 5 days on the river, camping on the sandy banks each night. With the multi-day trip, you get further away from other people and also have a chance to do some walking and nothing quite beats sitting by the river, toasting marshmallows on a campfire, watching the stars coming out overhead. After roughing it on the river, we suggest a splurge by spending a couple of nights at the exclusive Sorrel River Ranch. Here, you can visit the spa, releax around the pool, or watch the river running past you from the comfort of your swing bench. If some members of your party don’t fancy the rafting, this makes a perfect base for them while you hit the water.
Utah is famous for its slot canyons, formed by powerful flash flooding and stretching for miles. The only way to experience them is to rappel, squeeze and shuffle through. Because of the ever-changing weather and desolation of the desert, we recommend you only explore the canyons with a guide. Exploring these deep red rocks is not for the faint hearted, however, there are exhilarating 50 foot plus rappels and tight spaces to squeeze through. You are rewarded at the end of the day, however, with a huge sense of achievement and the pleasure of spending a day without seeing any other humans. Escalante, where there are some excellent examples of slot canyons, is a small town with not much in the way of inspiring accommodation options. After a day canyoning, we strongly advise that you stay at the nearby Boulder Mountain Lodge to be rewarded with lovely views, a welcoming hot tub and delicious steak. If some members of your party don’t fancy a day out in the canyons, there is plenty to keep them occupied at the lodge.
The Ansel Adams wilderness area in the Sierra Nevada adjacent to Yosemite National Park has some of the most out-standing views in the USA and the best part is that you are sharing them with no one. If you like the idea of going off the grid and enjoy hiking and camping, then we recommend spending 4 days walking, wild swimming and breathing in the fresh mountain air. You can keep the price down and carry your own gear, or you can have it transported by mules. Hiking up to the remote mountain lakes, you will be roughing it, camping with no facilities, no bathrooms in sight. After a few days out on the wilds, we recommend you spoil yourself with some creature comforts, staying in a boutique hotel with all of the bells and whistles which you can use as a base for visiting the more popular of Yosemite’s attractions, or you can simply lie back and relax around the pool.
Vast Pacific rollers, sun-kissed sandy beaches and the Beach Boys, nothing speaks surfing more than California. You don’t need to be a professional to have a go; it’s just you and the waves. The best way to approach surfing is time; one day doesn’t cut it, especially if you’re a beginner. You need a good teacher, good equipment and lots of patience. For newbies, nothing beats the feeling of managing to stand up for the first time, whilst experienced surfers will just love the chance to be in surfing’s spiritual home. It is an exhausting sport, however, so you will need somewhere comfortable to rest afterwards. If you are travelling with a non-surfer, then we suggest the Dream Inn at Santa Cruz. While you are out surfing, your other half can watch from the balcony, or catch some rays and relax at the hotel swimming pool which over-looks the beach.
Travelling together as a family can be an immensely bonding experience, full of quality time and a chance to reconnect as a unit. Where you sleep at night and relax after a day out exploring can have a major impact on the enjoyment of your holiday. The majority of hotel accommodation in the USA is in large hotels, which tick all of the boxes for facilities, but can leave you feeling less than inspired about sleeping arrangements - you either all have to cram in one room together sharing beds, or you have to split across rooms. We have chosen our five favourite hotels that offer something a little different for families; giving everyone a little more space to spread out and giving parents some privacy.
Located on the banks of the Colorado River, this lodge has some fantastic 2 bedroom cabins with river frontage. The cabin accommodation is self contained, there are two bedrooms a kitchen / lounge area with sofa bed and then also a private outside deck which gives adults somewhere nice to sit and relax once the children are in bed. The property also has a pool and tennis court and there are horses on site, so riders can head off and explore for a few hours.
Las Vegas doesn't stand out as a family friendly destination, but this non-gaming hotel makes a fantastic base for families visiting the city. This is an all suite hotel, meaning that every room has a kitchenette, large bathroom, bedroom and lounge area with a sofa bed. Families can spread out here and parents can have their own room. There is a good sized pool on the property, which is surrounded with sun loungers, so parents can lie back and sun bathe while the children swim.
We love the family suites at the Beach Street Inn. Located in the heart of Santa Cruz just across the road from the beach, this is not the most expensive option in town, but it is a friendly motel with beach chic decor. The family suites have one or two bedrooms with a large kitchen / lounge with two sofa beds, so there is ample room for families to spread out. Outside the room, there is a verandah with seating area, so there is somewhere for parents to sit outside while the children are in bed. The beaches in the town are ideal for beginner surfers / body boarders and you can rent gear on the beach.
This is a high end option, for families wanting more of a resort style stay. Located in the north of Lake Tahoe in the Squaw Valley which was home to the 1960 Winter Olympics, the resort has mountain views and is the perfect base for mountain biking, stand up paddle boarding, or simply just relaxing. Family suites in the hotel offer a bedroom for parents and then a kitchen / lounge area with sofa bed. The resort has four hot tubs (which are especially magnificent under the stars at night) and three swimming pools, one of which has a water slide, which will keep children entertained for hours. Some of our guests have enjoyed a lovely stay here with one parent heading off to go mountain biking whilst the rest of the family relaxes around the pool.
It is unlikely that anyone visiting Los Angeles with their family is going to avoid a visit to the theme parks. There are Disney resort hotels, but we love the Hyatt Grand in Anaheim, 10 minutes down the road from Disneyland. The family suites are not only exceptionally good value, but they are cleverly designed with a family friendly lay out. Children sleep at one end of the room in bunk beds and then there is room divider giving parents that extra space and privacy for the evenings. The hotel has two pools, a basket ball court and giant board games outside. This is a very family friendly hotel, so you can lie back on the sun lounger not worrying if your child is splashing around too much in the water.
I woke in the early hours, accustomed now to the baboons, the new acoustic was more impressive and significantly closer to home. The distinctive laugh of the hyena shot through the night and it was very close. Thankful for the thin canvas walls, I slowly drifted off back to sleep glad I had taken in it easy on the beer at sunset and I wouldn’t need to brave a visit to the loo.
I’ve always been attracted to wild spaces and heading out on foot into the bush has been high on my bucket list for some time. I like luxury as much as the next person, but more than luxury, I crave wild places. On a safari, in a way, the wilderness and lack of other tourists is the one true luxury above all others. To walk the land, camp in wild places and share the bush only with the wildlife is a visceral experience, completely without pretension, that puts you at the very heart of the experience, rather than merely an observer.
A walking safari requires patience, but when you do finally spot wildlife, it is infinitely more rewarding than on a game drive. In a honeypot such as Ngorongoro Crater or the Masai Mara, your driver need only lend his ear to his 2 way radio, and he’ll whizz you to the latest big cat sighting, jostling you for position with the other drivers beckoned by the call of the radio. Here things happen much slower, but when they do, wow. You’ll cautiously track, carefully staying downwind, analysing spoor – and then finally, peaceful watchful observation, just you and your vastly experienced Samburu guide whispering in your ear, no one else around for miles. You are very much in their environment and the wildlife are very much in yours.
Before we go too Ray Mears, I need to admit that this is an undertaking not without its comforts. Mattresses, bucket showers, superb bush meals in artfully chosen lookout spots, cold beer sundowners and even private toilet tents are the order of the day. This isn’t exactly camping light, but still, this is as close as you need or probably want to get. With 8 year old in tow we weren’t keen on mega miles and the route was in keeping with that. 4-5 hours gentle walking through the bush, stopping frequently to inspect spore and pull out the binoculars to identify mostly fairly skittish wildlife. We were experts by the end of the 4 days, and could easily identify zebra poo from giraffe poo, hell we would even pick out a Grevy’s zebras’ footprint from your more common Plains zebra. Camels are on hand for the children to ride should they tire and they don’t half provide a good vantage point high up there. The 8 year old though was keen to prove her mettle and make it all the way on foot.
After breakfast we’d set out through the bush, taking time to detour whenever we saw anything of interest. We saw giraffe and zebra, a tortoise crossed our path, but for the most part the wildlife is very shy of humans on foot. We followed the tracks of hyena which had passed through only moments before and eventually we saw them dart off through the bushes. We stumbled upon wild hunting dog – a real treat in this part of Kenya, the adults were out hunting, leaving behind the young with a ‘babysitter’ who understandably was very wary of our presence, we swiftly backed away so as not to disturb. Finally we passed downwind of a small herd of elephant, being careful to stay well clear.
After the walk we passed a slow relaxing afternoon at our next camp, before heading out for a sundowner. They say the beer tastes better the better the view and the harder to reach, and I’d find it hard to disagree with them.
We recommend and book Karisia Walking Safaris, who operate on the Laikipia Plateau in Northern Kenya. Run by explorers Kerry & James, this is the ultimate safari adventure, with exceptionally experienced walking guides. Treks are tailored, with easier or more challenging routes depending on whether it is an adult or family group. Karisia’s Samburu guides are exceptional, some of the best we have experienced in Kenya. An advantage of walking safaris over game drives is in the quality of the guides. To confidently take guests out into the bush with all the dangers that represents, you need a guide who has not only studied the wildlife, but who knows how to read the bush.
Families in particular are well looked after. Kerry & Glen the owners live themselves under canvas out in the bush with their own children and tweak the walking safaris to suit families. Having the camels to ride is a major advantage for children who don’t always have the same enthusiasm for covering miles underfoot and the guides are well used to dealing with children. For a family of four the rate works out roughly equivalent to that at a good mid-range safari camp and is surprisingly affordable (as far as safaris go). This is arguably the ultimate family adventure, guaranteeing bragging rights for your kids, an experience that will undoubtedly have all members of the families away from their devices.
Tourdust Recommends: Combine with some pool time and a game drive at El Karama. If budget allows, combine with the Mara and Coast (Kenya or Zanzibar)
Need to know: Walking safaris operate year round, although expect there to be some rain during the long rains in April / May and short rains in November. Because the experience is so tailored and always private there are few restrictions on ages. The minimum age for children is 4 years old, but this is something we would usually recommend for families with slightly children older than 7 and is ideal for families with teenagers.
Safety: Karissia don’t operate in an area heaving with predators, so walking here is much safer than in a densely populated wildlife area such as the Masai Mara. You are in the hands of exceptionally experienced guides.