Namibia with kids - the best African destination for family trip

Namibia – Best African Destination for Families with Kids

In Africa, Namibia, Travel inspiration by Jurga19 CommentsTHIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS

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.

Namibian gravel roads are safe to drive individually

This is a very common view in Namibia. You are literally in the middle of nowhere.

 

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.

Namibia is a perfect place to interact with many different cultures and people

Himba children invited our kids to play. Language is not really a barrier

 

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.

You will see plenty of wildlife in Namibia

You will see plenty of wildlife in Namibia, sometimes just next to the road

 

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.

Children will find plenty of entertainment in Africa

Climbing the sand dunes, jumping over the rocks, or watching safari animals – children will not get bored in Namibia

 

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.

Namibian sundowner African sunset

African sunsets can be very colourful

 

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.

Lodge in Namibia - accommodation is of very high standard

Our family chalet at one of the lodges we stayed at in Namibia

 

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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All you want to know about a trip to Namibia with kids

Find out why Namibia is the best African country for a family trip.

Read more:
What I Wish I Had Known Before Traveling to Namibia
My 10 Favourite Photos from Namibia
Best Place to Stay in Etosha National Park

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Comments

  1. Hi,
    I am planning to take the family (kids age 7 and 12) for a 4 month trip to Africa next year, including Namibia and other countries. I am wondering about finding accommodations that will accommodate the four of us in one room. Do you have any tips in this regard?
    FK

    1. Author

      Our experience is such that it’s never a problem to find a room for 4 people, also in Africa. We travel with 5 and I can tell you it’s a whole other story… Everywhere in the world standard family is considered 2+2.
      Most hotels/lodges have at least a few family rooms, but it’s best to book in advance. In Namibia they often provided us with an extra mattres for a third child, but there were also hotels that wouldn’t accommodate more than 3 people in a room. In that case we just booked two rooms and split up with me and my husband staying in separate rooms with one or two kids. It’s really case per case basis. In South Africa for example you will have much more options so it will definitely not be an issue to find family rooms, but in more rural areas sometimes you just have to adapt and make the best of the situation.

  2. Can you comment on safety in both Namibia and South Africa?

    We are looking for a good family summer trip and will have a 7 month old and 5 year old. It will be the baby’s first trip. The 5 year old has been all over SE Asia, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. We did not hesitate at all taking her there. After being to South America before having kids, we are hesitant to take them there and do have an interest in Africa.

    Thoughts in South Africa and Namibia?

    1. Author

      Hi Jacob, we found both countries perfectly safe to travel with kids. July isn’t malaria season either in main tourist areas, so you just need regular vaccinations. Food is very good, water probably better not to drink from the tap… My only concern with a baby would be Namibia, because sometimes you are really hours away from any doctor if something were to happen, and babies can get sick (And recover) so quickly… So I would pack all the emergency medication and maybe even antibiotics just in case.
      Hope this helps

  3. Fantastic blog, nicely written and very useful information! I have a spontaneous travel opportunity to visit the Kambaku region this April with my two children aged 3 and 6. For one week. I know this is not the best season but my main reservation is my kids don’t have any of the listed vaccinations. From your experience, is it a serious no no to travel here without the vaccinations? Thanks in advance.

    1. Author

      Hi Graham, I had to google Kambaku. 🙂 Do you mean the Kambaku Safari Lodge in Waterberg Namibia? Anyway, we always use this website for consulting travel health matters. It says that in Namibia you need the following vaccinations: TETANUS-, DIPHTHERIA-, PERTUSSIS-, MEASLES- and POLIOMYELITIS VACCINATIONS. These are all usually already given to all the kids (at least here in Belgium it’s standard), so probably your kids have them already unless you refused all vaccinations from when they were born. HEPATITIS A is probably the only one that is usually not standard and should be considered for Africa. I think you can still get your kids vaccinated, even if just with one shot before the trip (some Hepatitis vaccinations require a second shot after a few months if I remember well). If I were you I’d talk to your doctor asap. Getting these shots doesn’t take much time. And, as I said, most vaccinations your kids probably already have anyway. I’m not a doctor, but I strongly believe in vaccinations and you don’t want to take unnecessary risks with kids. And don’t forget mosquito spray too – malaria risk is low in Namibia, but you should always use a mosquito spray.
      As for the trip itself – grab the chance and go! 😉 You’ll love it there.

  4. Hi! How old was your youngest on this trip? I know everyone’s comfort levels vary, but personally in hindsight, would you have felt comfortable bringing any of your children on this trip as babies? I was planning on SA but that doesn’t seem the best option in early August, so considering other ideas (part of RTW trip). Older son will be 2.5 (not worried about him, he’s been to Oman desert, Cuba, Japan, etc.), baby will be 7 months old. We’d only go for about 1 week, so only 2-3 stops. Thanks!

    1. Author

      Hi Jessica, our twins were 3yrs and 10 months when we visited Namibia (the oldest was 5,5). Even then it’s quite a young age for Namibia. I mean, you can go there with a baby or a toddler, no problem, but it depends on what you expect this trip to be. It’s a lot of driving too with not much going on to keep such young kids entertained. Also, one week in Namibia is really short, so you’d really need to decide where to go instead of trying to see all the main highlights.
      We love South Africa and visited in July once too. It was nice and warm during the day in the North of the country and in the South we had it all – sunshine, but also cold and windy days, also one day with some rain. But there is so much more to do with such young kids in Cape Town/ Cape Peninsula / Garden Route and if you only have one week I think this area would be a much better option with kids than Namibia. You can find some inspiration here – South Africa with young kids. This trip was in November though, but you can do exactly same things in August, just dress warmer.
      If you’d still rather go to Namibia, then try to visit Sossusvlei and Etosha – both are a must in my opinion, but they are really far from each other. Local flights might be an option (not if you are on a tight budget).

  5. Thanks for your reply Jurga! I think we better stay in SA for the first time and maybe do Namibia the next time when she is a bit older. When we did our SA and Namibia trip with the 2 of us we drove 6000 km in 4 weeks, I don’t think that will be doable… Oh wish we could stay there forever!
    I think we will go for Cpt, Kgalagadi and Augrabies, a friend of ours guides there so we must visit? I will definitely visit your blog again, the page with what to take with/first aid is so useful!

  6. Oooh reading your blog gives me tears in the eyes, how much do I miss Africa! My husband and I already went 2 times, the first time south Africa, Botswana and Zambia, the 2nd time south Africa and Namibia. Now we would like to go back with our baby girl and share our love for Africa and wildlife! We thought of going around march 2019, our daughter will be 29months by then. Is that doable you think? We would love to go back to etosha, kgalagadi and cape town, but the distances are to much I think. Do you have some suggestions? Thanks!

    1. Author

      I miss Africa too – amazing continent!
      I think this trip you have in mind is doable, but it’s so much driving… I’m not sure if I would do it with kids, Kim. But we have three kids, and you only have one, so it’s a huge difference. 😉
      We took our kids to Cape Peninsula and the Garden Route at that age and had a wonderful time there. The big advantage was that we could stay in just 2 towns (Cape Town and Knysna) and make day trips. Very kid-friendly. You may check this post for more information: South Africa with young kids.

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  8. What an inspiring story! We’ve only been to The Gambia pre-kids, never to any other parts of Africa. But this sounds amazing. I’m sure our toddler would love this. Namibia wasn’t on my bucket list, but it definitely is now!

    1. Author

      Thank you so much for your comment, Lisa. I am so glad that my blog inspires people to discover new destinations they wouldn’t have even considered otherwise! You made my day!
      Namibia is a beautiful country and is perfect for family travel. We also love South Africa, especially the Southern Part: Cape Peninsula and the Garden Route. If you haven’t already, you can read more about it here: South Africa with kids.

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    1. in Ireland on a cold and dreary night and planning a motorcycle ride up to Victoria Falls in the coming 2 weeks time. you have got me packing to do a recognisant trip to bring my tribe out injuly next.Thankyou for your blog.

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