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Safari Camps for families

Hello /
I’m just starting to plan a safari vacation for my family and I don’t know how to start. Kenya, Botswana, Tanzania, South Africa, oh my!

We are 11 people aged 80 to 8. We want a luxury type camp, but mid priced with private safaris.

Any advice or recommendations for specific camps/tour operators?

Thanks

Posted by
3928 posts

I recently looked into this as an option over Christmas and decided to focus on South Africa mainly because we have family there but also because of the malaria free zone (I've taken anti malaria drugs before and didn't fancy doing it again or putting my kids through it). Prices were very high, thousands of £ a night for what I wouldn't even term luxury. I acknowledged that Christmas was a peak time but even checking the prices outside of that period they were still exceptionally high.

In the end we decided to drop the idea as the prices being charged were not commensurate with what was being offered. It's not that I'm cheap but I know what to expect for my money, an example is that we are now spending Christmas and New Year in Malaysia and Thailand and three nights in a suite at the Ritz Carlton in Kuala Lumpur for four people costs less than one night in a non luxury safari camp in South Africa (and that was a private game reserve so not even a proper national park).

Posted by
3980 posts

Botswana is one of the most expensive safari destinations, then Namibia and are not what I would consider to be mid priced, although this term means different things to different people. A luxury camp will be a luxury price and you need to work out what your budget is, as the sky’s the limit price wise - hundreds if not thousands of dollars per night per person.

If you really want to go on a safari, your focus will be on getting out and seeing the animals - early morning drives at 5-6 am for dawn and nighttime rides, so you are likely to be in bed by 9pm. Dinner is served early in safari camps. I have found that you need to be comfortable, but you don’t need luxury, as you don’t have the time to enjoy it.

Is your 8 year old interested in animals and birds enough at that age?

In many locations, the luxury lodges are outside the National Parks and therefore a longer ride to get to the action. The gates to the parks are locked at sunset and if you want to go on night drives, you need to stay inside the park.

Many people head to a country and just add on a few nights on safari (3-4 nights), spending most of the holiday doing something else.

I have been to South Africa and Tanzania on safari. The time of year is key to where you go, but presumably with an 8 year old, you are limited when you can travel? I stayed in Kruger in SA, in September, which is the end of the dry season, when there are fewer water holes, so it’s easier to see the animals. Kruger is good for children, as the wildlife is plentiful and much easier to see than in Etosha in Namibia. I stayed in a campsite in the south of Kruger inside the park in a roundel which was perfectly suitable, but not luxury. We had great wildlife sightings, taking organised early morning and evening drives and then, when the park gates opened, we drove ourselves round.

If staying inside Kruger, you need to book accommodation a year ahead.

Ithala Game Reserve was good for rhino and was much smaller than Kruger, albeit we had few sightings of wildlife compared to Kruger.

I went on an April organised bird watching/ wildlife safari holiday in various locations in Tanzania for 2 weeks to see the wildebeest migration, which can be hit and miss timewise, depending on food availability.

Having spent several weeks on safari in total, I haven’t yet managed to see cheetah, but I have seen elephants, lions, giraffes and leopards. You need lots of patience and luck. The time of year is key, as is budget. Safaris are not cheap, even in “basic” accommodation once you add in park entry fees, morning and evening game drives, food etc. If you are hiring cars, you are going to need 3 cars for a group of your size. You each need a good pair of binoculars.

Posted by
8293 posts

Contact Twiga Tours, based in Kenya. We took a small group Safari with Twiga in Kenya and Tanzania. I think a private safari could be arranged with Minaj, the owner and director, with the type of luxury you want.

Posted by
4129 posts

We have a safari planned for next Summer in Kenya and Tanzania. We are going during the Great Migration in July.

I have found a wide disparity in pricing for safaris.

Based on my research and recommendations from others, check out

Good Earth Tours
Twiga Safaris
Goway Tours

Ask for Premier class. You will find an 8 day safari will cost around 5K per person.

For a budget line with great reputation check out Gate 1

Posted by
86 posts

I have done a couple of safaris. They aren’t cheap and having a private vehicle adds to the cost. You would be looking at several hundred per day just for the vehicle.

Private reserves are better in that you can off-road and therefore get closer to the animals.

I would suggest looking at the Safaritalk forum. The people on there are a wealth of knowledge for safaris and planning.

Posted by
6543 posts

VacationsToGo.com is the largest cruise seller there is, but they're also a huge source for safari's.

They can be reached at AfricaSafari.com

My sister and brother in law went on a specialized photo safari where each couple flew their own Cessna P210 in formation from bush camp to bush camp through different South African countries. They also stayed in elaborate and luxurious accommodations, some of which were tents. Needless to say, it was a unique experience.

Posted by
2701 posts

There's a big complicated safari world out there. Every country has its own method of running safaris, and even within a country it can vary. I would normally recommend to start by reading Fodor's Safari guide to decide what method of safari would work for your group. Alternatively, I highly recommend TripAdvisor country specific forums. They get a lot of questions about safaris and their info is current - that means a lot. I lived on the Tanzania forum for a number of years and I check back every once in a while. The old group that know their stuff are there and there are also a lot of local providers to consider.
I know Tanzania best, but in researching other locations, here is the short descriptor.
South Africa - you can self drive Kruger. There are separate lodgings you can find and book to suit yourself and independently. Many park camps are fenced.
Botswana, as mentioned, is most expensive and not interested very much with self drivers, but want the luxury, luxury high priced group. Safaris may often be around water so boating is often involved if it isn't during dry season.
Kenya - Safaris are often by mini van type vehicle with or without a pop top to stand and view. You may be required to have both a driver and a guide in the vehicle. You can get to camps and they may run safaris right from camps so unless you book specifically, they are shared vehicles with other campers.
Tanzania - south - most parks are fly in so you arrive at a lodge and they arrange your safaris. Tend to be morning and night, shared with others unless you pay for private vehicle. These are open sided jeeps. There may be an age limit and 8 may or may not be too young.
Tanzania - north - this encompasses the Ngorongoro Crater, several Nat Parks and the bulk of the Serengeti Plans. This is where most of the animals are congregated for most of the year. Serengeti has the highest concentration of 'safari' animals of all the safari countries. You can get low rate budget group safaris, but there are close to 300 safari providers in Arusha (safari capital) so it is really hard to short list them. When you book a private safari there, you have the vehicle and driver for the day. They might recommend morning and evening safaris, but you can expect all day safaris too. These vehicles are close sided jeeps because they drive you from park to park or camp to camps and are dedicated private safaris. They have either pop up or fold back roofs for standing to animal view. I think the biggest is 8 persons. You are going to have to accept paying double for 2 vehicles and driver. You also need to review minimum age but the company can do that for you. Tanzania, depending on the dates, should have a minimum of 8 days to see a variety of parks and several days in the Serengeti. I have seen cheetah, serval, elephants, wildebeeste, rhino, leopard...well, pretty much all that is to be expected. I am also a bird watcher, so my last trip there was a birding guide/driver and vehicle and we would safari drive and bird watch all day many days. Sometimes we would do village visits, or take a mid day break. We would discuss and decide together. There are some fly in camps very high end and there are now also hotels in the Serengeti - I think 4 seasons. They run safaris like the fly in camps. Pay them to get you there, and they run the safaris as shared unless pay over for private vehicles.
You can get 'moderate' safaris in Kenya and Tanzania.
All that being said, you may want to use the website safaribookings dot com. That lets you tailor make a safari in a multitude of African countries. At the very least, you can see prices, review lodging options then take the company name and review them on TripAdvisor. I think TripAdvisor finally allows safari companies to list in 'Things to do'. There will also be reviews in Safari Bookings.
If this is for Christmas, then you are rather late for affordable planning, but you can try your luck.

Posted by
256 posts

This is my trip post from 2017......apologize for not posting it as a link.......I’m not that tech-savvy....’Dave’ in this post is a Destination Expert for South Africa and Kruger in particular on TripAdvisor.

South Africa is a big country and I'd venture a guess that most first timers go for a safari adventure which is mostly what my husband and I did.
Overwhelmed with planning an almost 20 day adventure I researched other travel forums specific to SA and found a wonderful destination expert who has lived in Kenya/Tanzania and now SA off and on for 25 years.
I contacted him via email and he was extremely comprehensive in initial advice and then I decided to work with him to put together a custom safari in lodges of my choice as well as a 5 day stay in Cape Town. You do not have to go with an organized tour group. Dave organized everything for us based on his advice and experience, our budget and ultimately our choice of where to stay and for how long. I picked the dates based on FF tickets we could get to SA and we worked from there.
We spent 3 nights in London before going to Johannesburg for 2 nights. I planned our stay totally in Johannesburg and were met at airport by driver from hotel. I picked and purchased our intra-SA flights based on our start and end in Kruger and start and end in Johannesburg.
Dave arranged all other transfers to and from the 3 lodges we chose to stay at as well as the transfers to and from CPT and Cape Town. I picked what tours we wanted to do and when in CapeTown as well as where we wanted to eat. We were on our own schedule and we had an in-town hotel apartment that was part of what Dave could offer.
In Johannesburg the hotel driver was ours for the day and he took us to the Apartheid Museum and then to Soweto where we had lunch at a local restaurant.
Safaris are pretty set in schedule and typically you share a Land Rover with up to 6 people. You are woken up at 4:30 am to have a small breakfast before setting out for 3-4 hours searching for animals. Return to lodge around 9 for big breakfast and rest until mid-day lunch....some more free time and then meet for drinks and snacks before heading out for evening game drive. Dinner is usually 7:30-ish. Meals, snacks and all drinks were included in pricing.
Although you may go yourself there are always other guests to talk to,eat with at the lodges.
Because we worked with Dave we received the benefit of his personal relationships he has developed with the lodges in the form of discounted prices. CUSTOM and PRIVATE does not necessarily mean $$$$$$$$. I was pleasantly surprised how far we could upgrade our wish list by not taking an organized tour and still saved $$$$. Everything was paid in SA Rand which is also signicant for US travelers.
We spent 12 days in the bush at 3 lodges and 5 days in Capetown.
Many folks also chose to rent cars and self drive which is truly doable but this was our first time. My next trip it is a consideration.
South Africa is immense and multi-cultural and there is so much more to see and do....I'd strongly suggest you do some research and enlist the help of someone on the ground there.
I'd be happy to share more if you have specific questions.

Posted by
4129 posts

You will pay more for going during the Great Migration period, late July early August in Kenya and Tanzania.

Posted by
3980 posts

You can’t generalise about the great migration - the animals take a circular journey each year, following the food, so it’s always migration time somewhere, as they walk all year. I was in Tanzania in late April and saw the millions of wildebeest and despite it being the rainy season, we didn’t have any in the 2 week trip.

Posted by
2701 posts

@ Jennifer, would you mind explaining this? I am confused how you can have millions of Wildebeeste but not see any?
I was in Tanzania in late April and *saw the millions** of wildebeest and despite it being the rainy season, we didn’t have any in the 2 week trip*
For Americans, they tend to think the Great Migration is all about the Nat Geo river crossings from Tanzania to Kenya (or back). Yes, the costs tend to be higher because the northern camps are more expensive and you might have to add flights to fly in somewhere, or several additional days in order to make the drive all that far north.

I first went in November and the short rains were starting, so herds were in mid Serengeti. Waiting for 20 minutes for the single file line of 'beestes and zebra to cross the roads. At dusk, the fields would have thousands of them, but by morning they were gone.
April, things were much more dispersed. February, I planned for calving season, but there was drought - the short rains hadn't fallen - so though they were congregating in the Ndutu Plains just east of the Serengeti, they were still spread out and few calves were being born. Sadly, the few there were, were vulnerable to the Maasai dogs that the Maasai had attack the calves to stop them drinking the cattle's water. It was heartbreaking but a true view of survival of the fittest. I was so sorry I had gone to see it.
Just a note, Wildebeeste are able to delay birthing up to a month in situations of drought. They need the short grass plains of Ndutu for the nutrition that the volcanic ash provides in that region.

Posted by
3980 posts

The wildebeest all travel in a huge circular route through Kenya and Tanzania that takes approximately a year to complete, following the food. The migration takes days to pass any particular spot, but it’s a long mass of wildebeest and zebra. Therefore, if you are hundreds of miles away on the wrong part of this huge circuit, you won’t see any wildebeest at any given time. I saw probably millions of animals, but the tour leader said those that took the same tour immediately after my tour saw hardly any animals as they had all passed through.

Posted by
170 posts

Drifters company operates a wide variety of game lodges across southern Africa. We stayed at their Greenfire Lodge in Balule park, which is an area adjacent to an unfenced section of Kruger. We enjoyed the experience and would rank it as VG value for families. The rest of Seth Effrika is very beautiful and fairly represents added value for those visiting (landscape, oceans, wineries and music). Zimbabwe also has many lodges plus added-value attractions such as Victoria falls and also Great Zimbabwe.
Bon Chance!
I am done. The end.

Posted by
9 posts

Bijalnparikh - hi there! I will be on safari in Uganda (gorillas) and Kenya (hopefully abundant wildlife) in 1 month. We booked through Gamewatchers (Porini Camps) - a very reputable company by all accounts. They are well regarded on Safaritalk which is where I first heard of them after my first tour operator disappeared after I had paid a large deposit on our trip. Do be careful when choosing a tour operator as some are not reputable. Make sure that they belong to the Kenyan Association of Tour Operators (KATO) so that if a bad thing happens you have some recourse and may be able to get your money back.

Back to Gamewatchers, search the internet either by that name or Porini Camps, which are their mid-range camps in the conservancies around the National Parks. Again, by all accounts on Safaritalk, the wildlife viewing is great in the conservancies and the viewings much more private. They provide everything - meals, drinks, guides and vehicles (jeeps not minivans). There are night drives too. I have been very impressed with the level of service we have received in tailoring a trip for us, but there are also pre-set tours that you can book too. They have special deals on booking 3 nights each at 2 of their camps. I think it may be a good option. By the way, I do not work for this company or have any affiliation with them whatsoever. I'm just excited by our upcoming trip!! Good luck with your planning.
Heather

Posted by
5 posts

If you need the best recommendations' I advise Altezza Travel https://en.altezza.travel. Last year we traveled with it to Tanzania, and we were more than just satisfies. All to the smallest detail was prepared. We took a tour for three families but without children, lodges and private tours with a guide. Of course, it cost a pretty penny, but it was worth each we paid. The guide was excellent, and we could enjoy getting out of our off-road vehicle to observe zebras and elephants in Ngorongoro Park. Moreover, my unforgettable experience was Lake Natron. Driving from park to park can be tiring, so you can afford and want to see more, consider flying with a jet. The agency itself is at the foot of Kilimanjaro and offers the premium class service.