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.

68 min
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NAMIBIA WITH KIDS: WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER IT

Namibia is the perfect place for a family safari if you have never been to Africa and want to experience its incredible wildlife and landscapes at your own pace. It’s one of the most diverse countries in Africa and will give your family the opportunity to encounter unique animals, while also experiencing dramatic landscapes and a rich and diverse culture.

One of the greatest gifts of Africa for children
is the question of perspective.

— CHRIS LIEBENBERG

KIDS WILL LOVE

Animals galore, rolling down some of the largest dunes in the world, stargazing from campsites

PARENTS WILL LOVE

Stunning landscapes, unique wildlife experiences, easy to navigate, safe country

GOOD TO KNOW

Namibia is almost entirely void of malaria, which makes it particularly welcoming to families. There is also a broad range of lodging options available for various price ranges — from affordable, well-run campsites within national parks to full-service lodges for the luxury traveler. Families with various budgets will be able to afford an enjoyable and memorable holiday experience. And last but not least, the road network is pristine, making it easy to explore Africa on a self-driven family safari (see our tips on driving further down this page).

BEST TIME TO GO

Daytime temperatures in Namibia are most enjoyable between April-September, making it an ideal time for families with young kids and anyone sensitive to heat. However, evenings and early mornings can be chilly during this time of the year, especially in the desert, so pack accordingly. August is the busiest month, with many European tourists visiting. If you can, avoid that month as prices will be higher and accomodations book up way ahead of time. The hottest months are from October-February, when daytime temperatures will rise more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). Wildlife viewing will be at its prime during these months as animals flock around watering holes in Etosha National Park and the dried-out vegetation will make spotting animals easier for the novice. However, no matter the time of year, Chris believes you will always have an incredible wildlife experience in Etosha National Park.

FUN FACT

Namibia is one of the only countries to have biodiversity protection written into its Constitution.

African Safari Holidays: Kids in Namibia in Safari Vehicle

Kids looking for tracks. Photo: Chris Liebenberg

NAMIBIA ITINERARY: WINDHOEK

Namibia’s capital city is where you’ll most likely start your safari holidays with your family. It’s a good idea to spend 1 or 2 days in Windhoek, to give your kids a chance to recover from the long flight, pick up and familiarize yourself with your vehicle, and stock up on supplies.

BEST PLACES TO STAY IN WINDHOEK FOR FAMILIES

Olive Grove Guesthouse is one of Chris’s favorite places to stay. With its 11 rooms that includes an ensuite bathroom and guest pool, it is a lovely example of the welcoming guesthouses travelers will find throughout town.

Am Weinberg is a fairly new, high-end boutique hotel that offers family lofts with a sleeper sofa for the kids. It also has multiple dining options, which should hopefully please even the pickiest eater.

WHERE TO EAT IN WINDHOEK WITH KIDS

La Marmite is a low-key African grill that’s great for families. It’s one of Chris’s favorite restaurants in Windhoek and a good place to sample different African dishes. The service can be slow at times, so don’t visit when you are in a rush.

Joe’s Beer House is a longtime institution in Windhoek. Kids will love the funky decor, and parents will appreciate the diverse menu that offers crowd-pleasers as well as more regional fare. Picky eaters will be happy with fries and a cheeseburger, while more adventurous ones can try local game, like oryx or zebra.

NAMIBIA ITINERARY: SOSSUSVLEI

Africa safari holiday: Dunes in Sossusvlei

Climbing one of the dunes at Sossusvlei offers incredible views over the desert. Photo: Ranjana Armstrong

Sossusvlei is one of the most impressive natural wonders of Namibia that your family does not want to miss. With its towering sand dunes, white salt pans, fossilized trees and unique wildlife, it makes for the perfect start to your African safari!

KIDS WILL LOVE

Playing in one of the largest sand pits in the world, Being on the lookout for desert wildlife (large and small)

PARENTS WILL LOVE

Watching the sunrise over the dunes, Great photo opportunities, Incredible landscape

SUGGESTED NUMBER OF DAYS

Two days will be enough to give you a flavor of Sossusvlei and allow for sunrise and sunset experiences in the desert. If you have time and are looking for an active adventure, consider a multi-day hike on the Tok Tokkie Trail. You’ll be hiking 7 to 8 hours a day through surreal desert landscape and sleep under the stars for 3 nights. Your luggage will be transported for you, but it can still be challenging, so make sure your family is prepared.

GOOD TO KNOW

If you stay within the Namib-Naukluft Park boundaries, you will be allowed into the desert and Sossusvlei 1 hour before sunrise. Chris suggests you stay within the park boundaries to take advantage of this benefit and to avoid lodging options where you have to use the public gate to enter the park in the morning. You don’t want to wait in line with everyone else, especially when traveling with kids.

African Safari Holidays: Sossusvlei clay pan

The white clay pan offers stunning photo opportunities.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

African Safari Holiday: Ostrich near Sossusvlei

Ostriches are frequently seen near Sossusvlei.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

African Safari Holidays: Springbok Namib Desert

Kids will love spotting wildlife at the edge of the desert.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

African Safari Holidays: Deadvlei

The trees are believed to be almost a thousand years old.
Photo:
Ranjana Armstrong

WHERE TO STAY IN SOSSUSVLEI WITH KIDS

Sesriem Camping is one of two options inside Namib-Naukluft Park and consists of 20 basic campsites with a stunning view of the Namib Desert. There’s also a pool to cool off after your day in the desert. Your kids will love watching the stars while you enjoy a glass of wine at the campfire.

For families who don’t want to rough it on their safari holidays, Sossus Dune Lodge is the other lodging option inside Namib-Naukluft Park. Because of its location, it sells out fast, so book accordingly.

Kulala Desert Lodge is a high-end lodge within the Kulala Wilderness Reserve. It’s the only lodge outside the Namib-Naukluft Park that has a private gate into the park. The gate allows guests of the lodge to enter the park before the public gate opens at the main entrance. The lodge itself is managed exclusively by Wilderness Safaris. Wilderness Safaris does not take direct bookings, so if you’d like to stay here, you have to go through a tour operator or agent, like Chris.

MORE ABOUT SOSSUSVLEI

For more details on Sossusvlei and a firsthand idea of what it’s like, listen to the full podcast episode with Chris.

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!

African Safari Holiday: Swakopmund

Historic building in Swakopmund.

African Safari Holiday: Seal Colony at Cape Cross

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.

WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE A KID IN SWAKOPMUND?

 Listen with your entire family to Episode 1 of our travel podcast for kids, Go With Nugget for Kids, and discover what it’s like to grow up next to the oldest desert in the world.

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.

Africa Safari Holiday: Boy meets Himba kids

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.

African Safari Holidays: Oryx in Damaraland

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.

Other higher-end lodging options suitable for families are Camp Mowani and Camp Kipwe. Both offer guided game viewing activities that you can book a la carte in addition to your accommodation.

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.

NAMIBIA ITINERARY: ETOSHA

African Safari Holidays: Boys looking for wildlife in Entosha

I spy … zebras, elephants and a pack of lions. Photo: Chris Liebenberg

Etosha National Park is one of the premier wildlife viewing spots in southern Africa. While you won’t find the mass migration you will find in other parts of Africa, its appeal lies in how easy it is to find animals, in particular between October-February, during the dry season. Just park your car next to a watering hole, and without much effort you will see dozens, if not hundreds, of animals in search of water. Etosha is also easily navigated on your own, thanks to a well-maintained road network and many lodging options within the park. For families on safari holidays, that’s particularly helpful, because you can retreat to your home base more easily if your children get tired of being in the car.

FAMILIES WILL LOVE

Searching for wildlife on your own, Observing animals at night on floodlit water holes, Guided walks within the private game reserves

SUGGESTED NUMBER OF DAYS

Chris suggests you spent at least 3 days in Etosha. However, if you want to stay at a few different places and explore the entire national park as well as some of the adjacent game reserves, plan for at least 4 to 5 days.

GOOD TO KNOW

Because Etosha is so big, there can be seasonal migration within the park itself, which may impact what you see in certain parts of the park. If Etosha receives good rains on the eastern grasslands in March, there will be a large movement of zebra and springbok from central Etosha to the east. However, this is not reliable or predictable. Also, if you are interested in an on-foot wildlife viewing experience, you will have to stay in one of the private game reserves adjacent to Etosha. Within Etosha, you are only allowed to view animals from the safety of your vehicle.

African Safari Holidays: Etosha with Kids

Zebras at a water hole in Etosha. Photo: Ranjana Armstrong

BEST PLACES TO STAY IN ETOSHA FOR FAMILIES

There are 6 camps within Etosha National Park that are run by the park’s administration. They make great options for families on a self-driven safari. Most of them have gas stations, restaurants and swimming pools. But the highlight for kids will be the floodlit water holes, which allow for convenient and safe wildlife viewing after dark. 

Anderssons Camp within the private Ongava Game Reserve southwest of Etosha National Park is another good place to stay. It offers four different lodging options and its own research center dedicated to wildlife preservation. The recently opened Anderssons Lodge welcomes families with kids of all ages, but in order to join for a game drive with little kids, you will have to book a private guide. The minimum age for on-foot wildlife viewing is 13 years.

NAMIBIA ITINERARY: CHEETAH CONSERVATION FUND

African Safari Holidays: Two Cheetahs Running

Cheetahs are Africa’s most endangered big cats. Photo: Patricia Tricorache/Cheetah Conservation Fund

The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) is located about 3 hours north of Windhoek and makes for the perfect final stop on your Namibia safari. Kids and parents will treasure the opportunity to get up close with cheetahs and learn about these magnificent predators from conservation experts. Families can either visit the Cheetah Conservation Fund on a day trip or spend the night at its small adjacent lodge.

The Cheetah Conservation Fund bridges the gap between
observing and understanding.

— CHRIS LIEBENBERG

And even if you aren’t planning a family trip to Namibia anytime soon, be sure to check out CCF’s kids page for fun cheetah facts and lots of videos about these majestic cats.

NAMIBIA ITINERARY BONUS: ORANGE RIVER

Tucked away in the south of Namibia, Orange River is a rewarding detour for families who have a bit more time on their hands and are looking for a unique for a unique wilderness experience — a multi-day canoe trip. While you won’t see a lot of big wildlife, there is plenty of birdlife to be found along the river, and the remote wilderness itself is the highlight of this family-friendly experience. Your kids will be able to sleep under the stars, and you are going to truly unplug. There’s no cell service or Wi-Fi within days’ reach. But don’t worry, your guides will have a satellite phone on hand.

FOR THE TRULY ADVENTUROUS: TASTY MOPANE WORMS

Mopane worms have been an important protein source for nomadic, indigenous people in Namibia, Angola and Zambia for centuries. They only come up during the rains and you are unlikely to find these worms on any restaurant’s menu. But if you are set on trying them, the staff at Ongula Village Homestead, north of Etosha, near the border to Angola, might be able to hook you up with this local delicacy.

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.

TIP 1

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.

TIP 2

drive slowly

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.

TIP 3

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.

TIP 4

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.

TIP 5

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.

ABOUT OUR GUEST

Chris Liebenberg is a father of two boys and lives in San Diego, California, with his wife and kids. Born and raised in Namibia, he always had a passion for conservation and sharing his deep knowledge of his home country with visitors. Chris runs Piper & Heath Travel, a travel agency focused on meaningful African safaris. His team organizes custom safari holidays, as well as selective small group experiences. His company’s website is a treasure trove of information (and not just on Namibia), where you can find detailed information on major sights and lodging options in many African countries. Piper & Heath also organize family-friendly safaris to Namibia that are designed specifically for kids 15 years and younger. To learn more, click here.

African Safari Holidays: dad teaching son how to use a camera

Chris teaching his son how to capture Namibia’s beautiful wildlife on camera. Photo: Chris Liebenberg.

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