Family safari in the Kruger National Park
The Kruger National Park sits right at the top of family-friendly safari destinations in South Africa. The park prides itself on being accessible to young and old alike and many South Africans will confess to cultivating a life-long love for the African bush from an early age in the Kruger.
A family holiday in the Kruger is best done in one of two ways; either self-driving or choosing an all-inclusive package at a private lodge. Both options have their own unique appeal depending on the type of holiday experience you’re after.
Long hours in the car are always a concern when travelling with children, but the Kruger is only an easy five-hour drive away from the nearest international airport in Johannesburg. All major car rental companies have counters here and offer vehicles suited to families. Alternatively, you might opt for a shuttle service when staying at an all-inclusive luxury lodge.
En-route to the Kruger National Park, whether self-driving or by lodge transfer, there are plenty of rest stops and one can even turn it into a scenic road trip of sorts by including some of the sights on the stunning Panorama Route. Once inside the park, the vast network of good tar and gravel roads make getting from one place to another equally comfortable.
Exploring the park in your own vehicle means your family stays together and you can plan outings according to personal preference. If you are traveling with toddlers, this is the only way you can take them on game drives in the reserve as children under the age of 6 are not allowed (for safety reasons) on the game drives in open 4x4 vehicles provided by the park. Similarly, only children over the age of 12 may join guided bush walks.
The southern and central regions of the park are more family-friendly than the far north, since distances between rest areas are not so spread out, the landscape is more varied and animals are more abundant. Skukuza, Satara, Lower Sabie, Letaba and Berg en Dal camps are superb options for family orientated accommodation since they offer restaurants, shops, swimming pools, child-friendly activities, museums and movie screenings.
Although staying at a luxury lodge is naturally more costly, the experience is wholly more personal with offerings such as private family villas, your own guide in an open 4x4 game viewing vehicle and special activities for children.
• Rent an SUV or a 4x4 with good ground clearance for your visit to the park. Not only does the additional height of the vehicle make for better game viewing but the extra space will come in handy for luggage and make the time spent on the back seat more comfortable for the youngsters.
• Some rental companies offer fully kitted camping vehicles with enough equipment and tents for the whole family. This is a great all-inclusive option if you plan on camping in the Kruger.
• The kids might not like getting up early on holiday, but in the Kruger, it is worth it. The early mornings are best for game viewing, not to mention cooler than during the day. Same goes for late afternoon game drives.
• Grab a map of the park at an entrance gate or a camp shop. You’ll need it to navigate the park when self-driving.
• When travelling with small children, bring some games, puzzles and books along to entertain them during leisure time in camp or long drives in the car.
• All the main camps have restaurants with reasonable prices and small shops for self-catering, so there is no need to over pack your car with food supplies.