African Safari Holidays: Explore Namibia With Kids
Does your family dream of going on an African safari? That dream can become a reality! In this Go With Nugget episode, we speak with Chris Liebenberg, a father of two, who grew up in Namibia and who now runs Piper & Heath, a travel agency in San Diego that’s focused on African safaris. Chris shares with us how to plan a unique African safari for your family and why everyone will love the diverse landscape, incredible wildlife and unique culture in Namibia. Have a listen and read on to discover all you need to know for a family-friendly safari holiday.
One of the greatest gifts of Africa for children
is the question of perspective.
— CHRIS LIEBENBERG
NAMIBIA ITINERARY: SWAKOPMUND
If you are on a self-driven safari through Namibia, you will have to stop in the coastal town of Swakopmund on your way north from Sossusvlei. Swakopmund is a cute little town that has a surprising appeal to parents and kids alike. Restock with supplies and spend a day or two exploring the town and its surroundings. Animals lovers will appreciate the marine wildlife around Walvis Bay and the giant seal colony at Cape Cross. Just be aware of the smell!
Historic building in Swakopmund.
Seal colony at Cape Cross.
KIDS WILL LOVE
Looking for coastal wildlife, Exploring the small but well-designed aquarium, Fat biking in the desert, Playing on the beach
PARENTS WILL LOVE
Sampling some of the best seafood in Africa, Sea kayaking, Eating apfelstrudel and viewing (surreal) German architecture in the middle of nowhere
SUGGESTED NUMBER OF DAYS
Two to three nights is the perfect amount of time to explore and give your kids time to run around between the long driving days.
BEST PLACES TO TRY SEAFOOD IN SWAKOPMUND
For parents who want to sample the amazing local seafood, The Tug and Jetty 1905 are both great choices. A short stroll from town, The Tug sits right on the water and boasts stunning views of the Atlantic. Just around the corner, Jetty 1905, as the name suggests, sits at the end of an actual jetty and offers equally stunning views and delicious fare.
BEST PLACES TO STAY IN SWAKOPMUND FOR FAMILIES
Families will find tons of lovely B&Bs throughout Swakopmund. If you are looking for a larger hotel right by the beach, The Strand is a good choice for families.
NAMIBIA ITINERARY: DAMARALAND
Home to some of the most successful conservation efforts, the northwest of Namibia will impress families with its raw, natural beauty, rare desert-adapted animals and diverse indigenous culture.
Chris’s son is meeting local Himba kids. Photo: Chris Liebenberg
KIDS WILL LOVE
Track desert elephants, Meet kids from local Himba people, Incredible stargazing
PARENTS WILL LOVE
Expert-led wildlife viewing, Stunning landscape, Cultural immersion
SUGGESTED NUMBER OF DAYS
Three nights will give you a good amount of time to join a few different excursions and possibly explore on your own. If you want to venture further north into Kaokoland, you’ll need a few extra days.
GOOD TO KNOW
Wildlife viewing in Damaraland is best done with a knowledgeable guide who knows how to track the elusive desert-adapted elephants, rhinos and lions. The allure animal tracking is as much finding the animals as watching them. While most camps will allow young kids to join in the game drives, for on-foot wildlife tracking or overnight tracking trips, there might be an age restriction. But it’s worth checking with a place and ask if they are willing to make an exception, if you think your child can handle what they require for on-foot animal tracking.
An oryx in Damaraland. Photo: Ranjana Armstrong
WHERE TO STAY IN DAMARALAND WITH KIDS
Grootberg Lodge is situated on the picturesque Etendeka Plateau. Guests can enjoy stunning views over the Klip River Valley from one of the 16 thatched chalets, two of which are specifically designed for families with children. The lodge offers elephant tracking that’s suitable for children under 12. As rhino tracking happens partially on foot, children under 16 years are not permitted on those excursions. For all other guided walks, kids have to be at least 12 years or older.
Doro Nawas Camp is a good home base if you want to hire a guide for a game drive and also explore some of the other highlights of the area, such as petroglyphs (prehistoric rock engravings) and San rock art at Twyfelfontein, Namibia’s first World Heritage Site.
More budget-conscious travelers might want to consider Palmwag Lodge, which is also the home to the Save the Rhino Trust. Morning and afternoon game drives within the Palmwag Concession are open to children of all ages, however the tracking of rhinos is only open to kids 12 years and older — as are any overnight excursions, such as their signature Under Canvas Sleep-Out activity. From Palmwag Lodge, you might also be able to arrange for a visit to a traditional OvaHimba village. However, since the OvaHimba are a seminomadic tribe, they move their settlements from time to time. If your family has a bit more time and you are willing to drive further north into Kaokoland, Okahirongo Elephant Lodge is another good home base for an authentic Himba experience. Piper & Heath also offers custom Himba immersion trips, where you camp near villages and take time integrating with the community to get to know them personally.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund bridges the gap between
observing and understanding.
— CHRIS LIEBENBERG
NUGGET’S ADVICE FOR TRAVELING TO NAMIBIA WITH KIDS
Namibia is a safe country, but there are a few things you should know in advance and be mindful while traveling with your fmaily.
always carry enough water
This might seem like an obvious one, but it’s easy to underestimate how much water you need per person per day. Always have at least one gallon of water per person in your vehicle. On particularly hot days, Chris suggests that all family members drink an electrolyte tablet before heading out for the day.
When the roads are straight for hundreds of miles, it is tempting to speed up. But Namibia’s gravel roads will flip a car quickly, even at 50 miles per hour (80 km/h), so stick to the speed limit. Also, avoid driving at dusk and at night, because animals might cross and even sleep on the road. You don’t want to drive into an elephant taking a snooze in the middle of the road.
rent a satellite phone
Using a satellite phone is extremely expensive, but renting one isn’t. And while you are most likely never going to use a rented satellite phone, it’s good to have one in the case of an emergency. Just be sure you know how to use it and whom to call, because cell phone reception is nonexistent in many parts of the country.
balance driving days
Namibia is a vast country (and 3 times the size of California). Do not underestimate driving distances and the time it takes to get from Point A to Point B. While the roads are one of the best in Africa, a 4-hour drive can easily turn into an 8-hour drive. So, plan accordingly and allow for enough downtime between days of long driving, so your kids have time to move around.
be safe around animals
Watching wildlife in their natural environment is often one of the biggest holiday highlights for families coming to Namibia. But you want to use common sense and be safe, especially with little kids who like to run off or turn over every rock they find. On game drives, whether in your own car or with a guide, never leave the vehicle. When you are exploring on foot (e.g., in the desert), always be mindful of snakes and scorpions. Never approach a snake.
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