Things To Do In Southern Africa With Kids
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For world travelers looking for something off the beaten path, Southern Africa offers many possibilities for families traveling with children. From the endless Mozambican beaches and world-class scuba diving to safari adventures across the region to wine tasting in the Western Cape of South Africa, children are always welcome and well taken care of!
Why Bébé Voyage Loves Southern Africa
What Southern Africa lacks in baby-friendly infrastructure, it more than makes up for in baby-friendly culture. You’ll be hard-pressed to find stroller accessible public transport or inviting public playgrounds, but you’ll find incredibly helpful and welcoming people who will happily entertain your baby while you dine and give you a hand with getting your stroller up a flight of stairs. And if you stop in South Africa before exploring neighboring countries, you’ll easily be able to stock up on everything from organic baby food pouches to waterproof sunscreen and more.
While it might not occur to many travelers in the global North to travel to Africa with a baby, just remember that there a plenty of babies that live there and who are doing just fine! Most parts of the region (except for Mozambique) and largely malaria free, although double check for the specific places you are visiting. South Africa, Swaziland and Namibia have a very highly developed tourism infrastructure which is seeping into neighboring countries, especially in Botswana for its high end safaris, Mozambique for its gorgeous beaches and Lesotho for its mountainous landscapes. South Africa and Namibia offer particularly good value for money and offer a wide range of options from budget to luxury hotels, restaurants and activities. We recommend renting a car as that way you will be able to do things at your own pace. There are plenty of safari parks, including Kruger Park (the largest), which allow you to enter and drive around in your own car.
Top 5 Things to Do with Toddlers in Southern Africa
Do a self-driving safari in Kruger Park
Taste some delicious king-size Mozambican prawns
Let your child play in the sand in Sossusvlei, Namibia’s famous dunes
Go wine tasting and play in the vineyards around Franschhoek and Stellenbosch
Explore the arts and crafts of Swaziland… not to mention its Bushfire Music Festival!
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Bébé Voyage Co-Founder Marianne spent the first 3.5 years of her son’s life living in Mozambique and exploring all of Southern Africa with her husband. We quickly discovered that going on a safari with a baby is totally doable and does not have to be particularly daunting. Amongst our adventures were doing a month-long road trip from Mozambique to Namibia and back, another month-long road trip up to central Mozambique and back, hiking in Lesotho, wine-tasting in South Africa’s vineyards, exploring rock art, whale watching, snorkeling, sailing and more… all with our baby in tow. While our little one didn’t go snorkeling or swimming with dolphins, there was always a skipper or tour operator who happily entertained him while we went in the water. For whale watching, observing sea turtles lay their eggs or bushwalks tracking elephants where small children aren’t allowed, my husband and I alternated who took care of the baby or found a local babysitter.
We truly experienced how baby-friendly southern Africa is when we stayed at a place for more than one night. Usually by the second night, we would know everyone by name, and our son would be hanging out in the kitchen with the staff while my husband and I dined. Places were always helpful in arranging a crib and if necessary a mosquito net for our son. And the cook was ready to make a special meal for the little one, especially if he was hungry for xima (or pap), the local manioc flour polenta.
While many people might have health concerns about visiting Southern Africa, we were generally sick less often living in Mozambique than when we are in Europe, the US or Argentina. The warmer climate generally means that there are fewer flus and seasonal illnesses going around. But of course we had to be wary of tropical diseases. We avoided malaria zones during peak mosquito season and only went at low risk times. Even then we took malaria prophylaxis, including our son who could take it from 6 months old. At those times, we also slept under mosquito nets and used mosquito repellant as an added precaution.
For more urban adventures, we explored Johannesburg and Cape Town, both world class cities with fine dining, great shopping and local arts and sites. For history buffs, there’s Soweto, for foodies there are the vineyards in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch and for botanists there are the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens.
We were able to stock up on everything we needed for our son in South Africa. We never had problems finding diapers or organic baby food or formula. In fact sometimes there were even more variety and options available than you would find in say Sweden or Argentina! When we had friends and family visiting from Europe or the US we never felt like we had to ask them to bring stuff that we couldn’t find in South Africa… at least in terms of baby gear!
Southern Africa really is a great place to explore with a little one!