When we think about family travel we usually picture happy smiling faces at a theme park, kids playing on a beach or diving in the swimming pool… More adventurous families go hiking or take the kids camping. A family road trip to Africa is not the most obvious choice and many families don’t even consider it. Yes, you can travel to Africa with your family! You can easily explore South Africa or Namibia with kids. In this post I’ll tell you why – in my opinion – Namibia is the best country to introduce your family to Africa.
Africa is big, and – as everywhere else in the world – there are enormous differences between different countries. While it’s probably not a good idea to take your kids to Congo or Nigeria, you can easily travel to Namibia, South Africa, Botswana, Tanzania, Kenya, and many other African countries.
We took our kids to Africa twice: once to South Africa, and once to Namibia. Both are wonderful destinations and both perfect for a family trip. Namibia is not only the best African country for a family trip, but also one of the nicest places you will ever travel to. South Africa is a very close second (when it comes to family travel) and you can read more about our South African adventure with three toddlers here.
Why Namibia is the most family-friendly African country
1. Namibia is one of the safest countries in Africa
You really don’t have to worry about safety when traveling to Namibia with kids. Well, not more than anywhere else anyway. Of course, you have to use your common sense just as you would do anywhere else. Don’t travel at night (this is mainly because of the gravel roads and wild animals), watch out for pickpockets in Windhoek, don’t leave valuables in the car, stay in the car when driving through Etosha or other parks with dangerous animals, and be very careful on the road.
In fact, driving on gravel roads is probably the biggest danger tourists face in Namibia. Car rental companies even give you a short introduction course about driving in Namibia, and it’s really helpful. Drive carefully, enjoy the scenery, and you will be just fine.
2. There is no malaria in the tourist areas and no yellow fever in Namibia
You need to take malaria pills and get vaccination against yellow fever if you travel to most African countries. Not in Namibia.
If you don’t travel North of Etosha (to Caprivi strip), you don’t have to worry about malaria. Theoretically there is a chance of malaria mosquitos being active in Etosha during the rain season, but if you travel in the dry cooler months (most tourists do), you really don’t need malaria pills. Of course, check before you go as the situation might change, but as long as I have known, Namibia tourist areas have been malaria-free.
Overall, there are not many flies or mosquitos in Namibia, and certainly not in the dry season. Nothing compared to Tanzania or Australia’s Red Centre…
3. Namibia is very thinly populated
This may be a negative aspect to some, but to me it’s what makes Namibia so special. And safe. The only negative side to this is the fact that doctors and hospitals can be several hours driving depending on where you are. It’s probably a good idea to take a small first-aid kit and any medicine you think you might need on the road. Here you can read more about what to pack for a trip to Namibia.
4. Namibians speak English, but you also get plenty of chances to interact with other cultures and languages
English is the official language in Namibia and even though it’s a native language to less than 1% of the population, it is used everywhere. Many local tribes living in rural Namibia don’t speak English, but people are extremely friendly and willing to interact. One of the advantages of traveling is that you get to know so many different cultures, habits, and see how people live in different parts of the world. If you are willing, you can find plenty of such opportunities in Namibia. Himba, San, Damara people – these are just a few examples of different ethnic groups you can meet here.
5. Namibia has plenty of wildlife and beautiful nature
Seeing safari animals is probably the main reason why most people travel to Africa. You will not be disappointed as there is plenty of wildlife in Namibia and you will see it daily, often just next to the road. Abundant wildlife will be a big hit with kids of any age!
Etosha National Park is, of course, the best place to watch wild African animals, but there are many private nature reserves as well. Some of them have animals which you will not find in Etosha, like hippos or crocodiles. But Namibia has more than that. Seal colony with hundreds of thousands of seals – check. Thousands of wild flamingos – check. Dolphins – check. Whales – check. Pangolin, aardvark, meerkat… The list is endless. You will sure see at least a few animals that you have never seen before. Needless to say that children of any age will love it here!
But there is more to Namibia than just safari animals. Namibia has beautiful nature like Fish River Canyon and Sossusvlei red sand dunes, to name just a few.
6. Namibia has plenty to keep the kids interested and engaged
One of the biggest challenges on any family trip is keeping the kids entertained. Namibia has plenty of variation when it comes to places to see and things to do. Make sure to prepare a good Namibia trip itinerary so that each day has a good mix of action, adventure, but also flexible free time. I can guarantee that neither you nor your kids will get bored. We spent four weeks in Namibia and every day was more exciting than the previous.
7. Namibia with kids – don’t miss the sundowners
What most people like most about Namibia? Landscapes, animals, red sand dunes? Absolutely! But the people I talked to, all smiled when they remembered Namibian sundowners.
For those of you who have never been to Africa before, a sundowner is a sunset experience in style, with snacks and drinks and beautiful views. Most hotels and lodges organise sundowners every evening, and they are quite affordable in Namibia (and young children are often free). It’s a pretty standard ‘formula’ which looks something like this: you take a short safari ride in the late afternoon looking for animals and the ride ends at a beautiful location, usually high on the hill, from where you can watch the most spectacular African sunsets while sipping a drink and chatting with fellow travellers. Some lodges have sundowner walks and depending on the location they can be just spectacular.
On foot or by car, sundowner is something you just have to do in Namibia. Our family loved them: kids – for the ride in the jeep and for the snacks, my husband – for not having to drive for a change and for the drinks, and I couldn’t get enough of the amazing African sunsets. We went on many sundowners during our trip to Namibia and it’s some of the best memories of our vacation.
8. Food is very good and safe in Namibia
I cannot think of one bad experience related to food in Namibia. It’s absolutely delicious anywhere you go. Also, all the lodges we stayed at made an effort to prepare special meals for the children.
Now that I think of it, one of our younger boys got a bit sick after a week in Namibia, but traveller’s diarrhoea is not something you can avoid completely anywhere in the world.
9. Quality of accommodations is very high in Namibia
You really don’t have to worry about the quality of accommodation in Namibia. Depending on your budget, you can find finest luxury lodges, simple hotels, or camping facilities, but in general it’s way better than you would expect.
It still amazes me how well-equipped and luxurious most lodges are, especially if you take into account that they are often literally in the middle of nowhere.
Traveling to Namibia with kids your biggest challenge might be finding family rooms. Some lodges have them, some don’t, some only have a few. The earlier you book your family trip to Namibia, the more possibilities you have.
10. Summer school holiday (July and August) is the perfect time to travel to Namibia
If you have school-going children like we do, you probably face the same problem once in a while. You find a beautiful place you want to travel to, but it’s just too hot (or too cold, or too wet…) in the summer months. Christmas is too busy and too expensive, and the rest of the holidays are too short…
Namibia, however, can be perfectly visited in July and August. Namibian winter is a dry cold season which means pleasant daytime temperatures. Animal viewing is also at its best in dry months as water is scarce and animals gather around water holes.
11. Namibia is not very expensive
Namibia is not a very expensive destination, although – as everywhere else – a lot depends on you and mostly on the choice of accommodation. The biggest cost is the flight and the car rental, unless you decide to fly around the country instead of driving – that is possible, but can be quite expensive. Food and activities are relatively cheap in Namibia.
Now is a very good time to travel to the region as S-A Rand to which Namibian currency is fixed is very weak and so you get more for your money.
12. Namibia has the same time zone as Europe and is closer than you think
The fact that Namibia is in the same time zone as Eastern Europe is a big advantage to European travellers, and especially the ones who are travelling to Namibia with children. But even if you travel from the US, Namibia is closer than many people think. You can fly from Europe to Namibia in just 10 hours. We boarded the plane in Frankfurt, Germany, in the evening and landed in Windhoek early next morning. It takes a bit longer from the US, because there is no direct flight and you have to change planes in South Africa , but it’s totally worth it.
13. Namibian roads are reasonably good so you can travel individually
Namibia can be easily visited individually, a road trip is the best way to explore Namibia. There are only a few tar roads in Namibia, but the quality of main gravel roads is usually very good, you just have to adjust the driving speed accordingly. You can find more practical information about Namibia here.
Looking for a group tour in Namibia?
Don’t feel like making an itinerary yourself, planning what to see, where to eat or where to stay, wondering what type of a car to rent, how many spare tyres to take with you and how to change them if needed? Planning a good road trip to Namibia can be overwhelming… while all you want to do is have a nice and relaxing trip…
Why not opt for a group trip to Namibia instead?!
One piece of a advice – look for a small group tour. Small groups are more flexible – they can avoid the crowds, reach out-of-the-way places, hop on a boat or safari vehicle, eat at small local restaurants (or even cook a campfire meal), and stay in more authentic accommodations.
Take a look at the website of Intrepid and get some inspiration. It’s a company that specialises in small-group tours and leads 100,000+ travellers across the globe each year. They have many well planned itineraries for Namibia and the neighbouring countries, and also trips that are especially tailored for families.
If you dream of seeing Africa, Namibia is a great place to start, and not only for families with children.
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