South Africa wildlife vacations for families


Wildlife watching en famille is a dream in South Africa, because there are superb companies that fully understand that children not only love animals, but they are also the conservationists of tomorrow. Instead of patronising them, they teach and inspire them. Instead of keeping children at arms’ length, they invite them to roll up their sleeves and immerse themselves fully in conservation projects. Wildlife vacations are wonderfully bonding for families and they don’t have to cost the earth.



There are few places that segue from safari to seaside so smoothly as South Africa, with Addo National Park stretching out to penguin packed islands, or where whales and dolphins dance in front of your eyes. The Kwa Zulu Natal coast is similarly stunning but less well known, but you can also go turtle watching here, or canoeing through the briny wetlands, where elephants come down to the water’s edge to drink.
Vervet monkeys are everywhere in South Africa but many get abused, taken in as pets and then neglected or simply orphaned. On volunteering vacations you can support these sanctuaries and their gorgeous guests, working to their eventual re-release back into the wild.
They are a great value way to visit the country, learn about conservation and also have an experience of a lifetime. Be prepared to work though – monkeys need a lot of attention!
There is nothing like sleeping under canvas when wildlife watching in South Africa, and there are plenty of places on offer, from Kruger to uMkhuze Game Reserve , where you can wake up to one of the best dawn choruses in the country. By camping you can also really get a digital detox, so that young and old can switch off from daily life and get switched on again by nature.

Wildlife vacations advice for families

responsible travel asks the experts

Rupert Calcott, from our supplier Exodus: “Older kids should experience camping. In a lodge, you only experience the park during the activities. You do a game drive, then go back indoors. But when you camp, you’re in that natural environment 24/7. You experience the sounds, the smells, the noises at night – it’s much more intense.”
Debby Oscroft from our supplier, Sunway Safaris: “It is a wonderful thing that parents take the time and effort to allow their children to experience wildlife from a young age and instill in them a love and respect for wildlife. This is how future conservationists are developed, so we should encourage family wildlife vacations for sure! If children are quite young, it is best to start with shorter, private trips. Be sure to include game drives, but not lengthy ones where the children will become bored or tired. Walking in areas where there is no dangerous game is a good thing, especially where a guide is on hand to show and explain all the fascinating creatures one can find on a nature walk.”
Anne Smellie from our supplier of family wildlife volunteering vacations in South Africa, Oyster Worldwide: “Be prepared to get stuck in and work. You aren’t there to lie on a beach, but to get actively involved in the project – all of you. But at other times it is good to be proactive too, For example, we have had families organise a sports day in a local school before. So just getting stuck into local life really is a good thing. Or bring an instrument with you if you play one, so everyone can have a sing song. Just think of things that can be bonding experiences that transcend language, such as sports, music and games.”
Photo credits: [Top box: Oyster Worldwide] [Activity 1: Katie Hunt] [Activity 2: Derek Keats] [Activity 3: Roderick Eime] [Camping: South African Tourism] [School: Jochem Koole]
Written by Catherine Mack
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