How to Book a Budget South African Safari with Kids
I am writing this post because safari’s in South Africa are a big reason most people go to South Africa and this was a huge source of confusion for us while planning our trip.
Adding two small children to the mix makes this seem even more difficult as many safari’s will not take children younger than 6, sometimes older, on safari tours.
I am going to simplify this for you.
Booking a safari in South Africa with kids is not nearly as confusing as it may seem.
There are two types of safari’s in South Africa:
Those offered by private game reserves
Game reserves that are owned and operated by the National Park System.
They are both on large areas of land that are usually surrounded by an electric fence.
The private game reserves are of varying sizes and the Nationally owned parks like Kruger or Hluhluwe-iMolozi are huge land masses.
Most National South African game reserves offer you the option of paying an admission (entrance) fee and then simply self driving the game reserve in your private vehicle.
Contrary to popular belief you do not have to have a big car to self-drive a safari, we did it in a Chevy Spark.
If you want there are various companies that you can pay to take you on a “safari drive” through the National Park. This is advantageous as the guides are experts at spotting game and are very knowledgeable.
The important thing to note is that not all private companies offering tours on the National game reserves will take small children, but this does not mean that small children cannot enter the park, as I mentioned above you can self drive the park just fine.
You will still see a lot of animals on a self drive adventure through the park, and you can save a lot of money by doing this on your own.
A budget safari, therefore, would involve a paid entrance fee into one of the public National Game Reserves and a self drive tour in your own vehicle.
Kruger park is not a Malaria free park and thus more difficult with small children who cannot take malaria prophylaxis.
You do not need to pay a lot of money for accommodations in the park!
This was a huge source of confusion for us.
Often, when you visit the park websites, read information on a particular safari, or read Lonely Planet for that matter, they all make it sound like the only way to visit a park is to stay at the park. But this is not the case.
I will say it again for emphasis: You do not have to stay on the park to do a Safari at the park! All of these parks have lovely accommodations very nearby that are cheap, easy to book on the off-season, close to the park and have tons of amenities. This is my favorite.
There are so many private game reserves and most are quite expensive.
That being said, we did find one private game reserve (Schotia Safari’s) that is very close to The Addo Elephant park that takes small children, has a wonderful family friendly atmosphere and promises you will see the big cats. They have a great half day Safari that we would have done had we not been rained out.
Summary and Recommendations for Budget Safari’s with Kids
Here are some summary points if you are trying to plan your family safari trip to South Africa.
You don’t have to spend a lot of money to enjoy an African safari with your family, although a lot of the advertising and literature will make it seem that way.
There are two type of game reserves, private and National game reserves, if you want to save money go for the public National game reserves.
You do not need to stay at a hotel on any of the National game parks. Book outside the park to save money.
Avoid the private game reserves as they are very expensive (unless you are independently wealthy then have at it). If you do chose a private game reserve I would choose the very family and kid friendly Schotia Safari’s.
You can do all of this for very little money, it will give your kids (and you) a wonderful safari experience and if you make it out of bed early enough you might even see some lions.
I have no affiliation with any of these game parks, but I do believe this is a good summary of recommendations for most families with small children. If you have any recommendations please leave a comment down below.