Is the Okavango Family Friendly?

Is the Okavango Delta suitable for families? Absolutely! Historically this was not a family friendly destination but increasingly camps are specialising  to create excellent family safaris. We know the best camps, areas and activities suitable for families.

Here we set out the key factors to take into consideration when planning your family safari – the accommodation, age limits for the various activities and other factors such as the need to book private vehicles at some camps.

A safari is one of the most special holidays you could ever do with your family. And the Okavango one of the best safari destinations, so do the two make the perfect match? With the right choice of camps- Yes!

There are some restrictions for families, all depending on the ages of the children travelling. Generally babies and safaris are not a good combination for safety and comfort reasons. While some camps have no age limit at all we do not recommend travelling with babies for safety reasons and this would not be a relaxing holiday!

Most Okavango camps accept children from 6 or 7 years old, and a few accept younger children (more on this below). Most camps offer two bedroom family tents which are perfect for families, where these are not available families may have to split up so that each child is sharing with an adult. This rule generally applies to children under 16 years old.

The other thing to note are the restrictions on activities. Botswana offers some of the most diverse safari activities in Africa due to its extraordinarily varied landscapes. Game drives, walking, mokoro excursions and boating safaris. Horse ridings safaris are also offered. Balloon and helicopter safaris offer a different perceptive altogether. Away from the Okavango in the neighbouring Kalahari there are a whole  range of family friendly activities such as quad biking and bushman walks.

All these activities allow for an amazingly diverse and exciting safari – every day is different and fresh- ideal for children.

What are the age limits for these activities? The answer will vary from camp to camp but in general the activities and age limits are as follows:

  • Game Drives – Generally if the child is permitted to stay at the camp they can go on game drives. However most camps will require families with children under 12 years to book a private vehicle at an additional cost. (See more below). Those camps which accept all ages usually will not allow children under 3 on drives.
  • Boating safaris – All ages- this will match the camp min age limit to stay.
  • Walking Safaris – Generally the minimum age is 16 years old given the inherent risk involved. Most camps will still offer shorter bush walks close to camp for younger guests.
  • Mokoro excursions – Generally the minimum age is 12 years
  • Horse Riding Safaris – In the Okavango, 12 years is generally the age restriction. All riders must be experienced. In the Kalahari where the landscape is more open younger less experienced riders are accepted.
  • Hot Air Balloon Safaris – The minimum age is 7 years
  • Helicopter safaris – All ages (if wishing to take the doors off then the child must be big enough to be strapped in to their own seat.)
  • Quad Biking – All ages, younger children will ride with an adult
  • Sleepouts– this will be the same age set to stay at the camp
  • Bushman Walks – all ages

A private vehicle usually has to be booked at an additional cost if families have children under 12 years old travelling. The exact age varies from camp to camp and the costs vary. Some charge a flat fee for the vehicle others charge by the extra seats booked out. E.g. if you are a family of 4 and booking a vehicle which usually takes 6 guests you only pay for the extra 2 seats. This policy ensures families and other guests interests can both be met. Some camps offer a complimentary private vehicle for all groups of 4 or more such as the Ker and Downey Camps and Kwara Camp.

A private vehicle has the advantage of ensuring you have your own private guide who can focus entirely on your families interests and preferences- drives can be as long or short as you wish. A big advantage for younger children who may not enjoy the 4-5 hour morning drives. Rates vary, from $400-$700 per day. (Usually depending on the concession rules).

All these factors need to be taken into account when planning your family safari – along with all the usual questions as to when to travel, where to go and how long for! We can guide you on all this and more. Contact us to have a chat about the family safari you have in mind.

See also our suggestions for the best family friendly camps, including the special Young Explorers safari (pictured).

What are the age limits for these activities?

The answer will vary from camp to camp but in general the activities and age limits are as follows:

Game Drives

Generally if the child is permitted to stay at the camp they can go on game drives. However most camps will require families with children under 12 years to book a private vehicle at an additional cost. (See more below). Those camps which accept all ages usually will not allow children under 3 on drives.

Boating Safaris

Exploring the waterways in metal power boats. Usually all ages are permitted, this will match the camp min age limit to stay. Boating safaris offer the chance for youngster to get on the water, as most younger guests will not be permitted in the mokoros. Boating is done in deeper water, and sightings of elephant, hippo, crocs are common. The banks are often busy with animals coming and going to drink at sunset making this a very productive safari activity.

Walking Safaris

Generally the minimum age is 16 years old given the inherent risk involved. Some camps offer walking for all ages but this is not recommended. Most camps will still offer shorter bush walks close to camp for younger guests, these are a chance for children to learn from of the basic guide skills and learn more about the environment around them. These are fun and informative walks. Children will learn to identify tracks, spore, dung, bones and more. Other skills may include making bows and arrows, casting the spore and making string an obliging plant.

Mokoro excursions

Mokoro excursions, in traditional dug out canoes, are one of the most well know activities of an Okavango safari. These take place in the shallow waters of the delta, each mokoro takes one person and one poler guide. These are less about big game (as with the boating safaris) and more about learning about the delta itself – the flora and fauna of the Okavango and the smaller creatures of this aquatic environment. This is also a chance for your poler guide to teach you about the local way of life for the river bushman.

Generally the minimum age is 12 years. Some camps will accept children younger, these rides will usually be in smaller and more open areas and the rides shorter.

Horse Riding Safaris

In the Okavango, 12 years is generally the age restriction. All riders must be experienced and confident, able to control their horse and respond to instructions in danger. In the Kalahari where the landscape is more open younger less experienced riders are accepted. Another option available to younger or less experienced riders is to stay in Maun for a night or so and enjoy rides in the reserves there, based at Royal Tree Lodge and riding with David Foot Safaris. This is perfect for families.

Hot Air Balloon Safaris

Hot Air Balloon safaris are relatively new to the Okavango, and only operate out of the NG12 concession in the northern Okavango. Access to this launch site is only possible from a handful of camps, most of which require a helicopter to reach the launch site in time for the sunrise take off.  A very special experience, which only runs from 19 April- 31 August.

The minimum age for hot air ballooning in the Okavango is 7 years.

Helicopter safaris

A highlight for many who visit the Okavango – a scenic helicopter flight is truly special. The Okavango is spectacular from above and flying low allows you to see many animals along the way. Flights can be done with or without the doors on.

This experience is open to all ages. If wishing to take the doors off then the child must be big enough to be strapped in to their own seat.

Quad Biking

A wonderful activity only offered in the makgadikgadi salt pans south of the Okavango during the dry season. A hit with all ages, zooming across the lunar like salt pans is thrilling and a great chance from the traditional activities. Only some camps offer this activity (Planet Baobab, Camp Kalahari, San Camp, Jack’s Camp).

Open to all ages, younger children will ride with an adult.

Sleepouts

A night under the stars on your own private stardeck is a very special experience, offered by just a handful of camps. While this is usually an experience for 2 it is possible for families to have a night out together – depending on the size of the group and the camp policy, usually the age limit will be the same age set to stay at the camp. The decks are raised with a simple bathroom below and a guide sleeps nearby in a simple tent, for added peace of mind. A fantastic experience!

Bushman Walks

A fantastic activity for all ages conducted in the Kalahari and salt pan areas. Bushman walks offer fascinating insight into the life of the traditional nomadic San peoples. Bushman guides will share their knowledge of how they survive in these harsh environments – how they track animals, find water, make their tools and jewellery.

Supervision

Ultimately children need to be under their parent’s supervision throughout. A number of operators are able to offer childcare should it be required, but this must be prebooked.

Access to sightings will be at the discretion of the guide, based on the behaviour of both the child and the wildlife. Greater distances to animals may be adhered to, or certain sightings may be avoided, in order to ensure the safety of guests. In the case of boating activities, the availability of boats may restrict private use and require forward planning.

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