African Safari with Kids - Kruger National Park
Many South Africans, like myself, will have the fondest memories of Kruger National Park. But as with all things post-parenthood, taking kids along on an African Safari is a total game changer. We started planning this trip over eleven months ago and made our booking online, via SANParks itself. It was quite a challenging experience as it is an extremely popular destination and bookings only open up 11 months before you plan this holiday. We went online on the first of August and the website crashed, so we could not book. The next day our ideal dates, a long weekend and one or two days extra, were all sold out. We then decided to bite the bullet and put in a week leave to explore Kruger midweek. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise and if I revisit (hopefully soon) I will definitely plan a midweek vacation again. The park is just quieter (fewer day visitors) and when there is a great sighting you have a better chance of seeing it as opposed to getting stuck in the pileup with no reward.
Should you take kids on an African Safari?
Months earlier, when we told friends that we planned to take our children on an African Safari in Kruger, they mostly admonished us. The water's not safe, the bugs are vicious, malaria is a killer and malaria meds have so many side effects. The kids will get bored on long drives. They won't remember any of it…
Truth is, I wanted to go, my hubby and I love adventure and we wanted to share this experience with these young and eager minds- it turned out to be a fantastic experience for all. There is nothing quite like 'hunting' for animals, not knowing what you will spot next and the expectation of adventure around every turn and under every next bush. Here is a post on how we prepared the kids for Kruger.
Be practical for the kids' sake, and yours:
If you are wondering what to pack for your Kruger National Park safari- check out this post and consider these practical tips that made our trip with two preschoolers an absolute pleasure.
We committed to flying where and when we can, by using the best fare finder. Mango Airlines turned out to have the best rates, despite our platinum status discount with our medical aid who partners with Comair. (You can use this tool here: Flight finder )
Kruger does not allow kids on their guided trips under the age of six, mine are four and two. So we decided to also commit to a car (SUV) that is higher than a normal sedan for better viewing and with enough space for the kids to move around whenwe park to view animals. If you are going to spend hours and days driving, you better have a great car. We opted for a Toyota Rav4, automatic, and the kids loved playing at the back, building puzzles while my husband and I sat studying and admiring animal behavior. The only thing I missed was cruise control, especially on the day where we had to travel longer distances from Letaba to Lower Sabie (Speed limit 50km/h on tar and 40km/h on gravel). The rental vehicle included the car seats (#CarseatFullStop ) and they were clean and well kept. You can find the best car rental fee comparison here.
Moving & participating:
Furthermore, we committed to using roads with a lot of lookout points, picnic spots and bird hides, so the kids could stretch their legs and enjoy some fresh air. When we got to our rest camp we played, ran and swam and I made sure we bathed them for a long time to calm down their little bodies, ready for a good night's sleep. If your closest ablution or tent does not offer a bath tub, just ask around, there will be one nearby and they are cleaned daily. I gave the kids an old cellphone to take their own pictures and to participate in capturing these memories.
We stayed in both the Safari tents and huts (Rondawels). I highly recommend the safari tents for their fantastic location in most Kruger camps, better privacy and the feeling that you are part of nature, hazardless camping with the benefits of a clean tent, fresh linen, private amenities and a stoep. Braais and grids are provided.
We topped our trip with a luxury stay at the Bushveld terrace, they offer a family room to share, which was ideal for our smaller kids. They do not, however, offer two bedroom units. You can check it out or book by clicking on the image below.
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What to expect on a game drive in Kruger National Park
Though I would love to share my diary on each sighting with you, I thought I would rather share a photo album. My 2-year-old LOVED the elephants and often made us go back for some more viewing. My daughter was delighted by seeing an elephant calf breastfeeding (She is such a “mommy” at this stage:) and hubby enjoyed shooting the lioness and cheetahs right next to our Rav4 (to name but a few).
In conclusion, I will definitely encourage going on an African safari with young kids, especially if you can do so outside of school holidays and the weekend!
I will be back to write a part two of our trip, so keep an eye on our blog and do share your experiences with us on social media!