Family holidays to Africa

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The world’s second largest continent is home to 54 countries, thousands of towns and cities and over 1 billion people speaking more than 2000 languages – at a conservative estimate.

It’s the land of the safari where the wildest wildlife roams within reach of a camera lens. But it’s also where you’ll find the immense Sahara Desert and 26,000km of coastline washed by the North and South Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean.

If all that isn’t remarkable enough, Africa lies right at the centre of the earth, sub-divided almost exactly in half by the equator and has sun, somewhere all year round.

So how do you choose your perfect family holiday on the complex continent that’s captivated travellers for centuries?

Where to holiday with kids in Africa


Botswana is bordered by South Africa, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, completely land-locked and one of the most rewarding places in Africa for a family safari holiday. Lions roam free here, there are more elephants than anywhere else on earth and, if you’re lucky, you can even see rhino. The country has a well-deserved reputation for authentic culture and outstanding game reserves with very high safety standards. But Botswana’s not a tame version of Africa so it’s most memorable for over 10s.

Take me to Botswana
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A country of two worlds, Egypt is known both for its ancient history of the pyramids and pharaohs and its modern-day crowds who flock to the Red Sea for world-class diving. The city of Cairo and the coast are both worth visiting and many tourists book a dual-stop holiday to make the most of their time in the country. Stand in awe underneath one of the 138 ancient pyramids that were built as tombs for the nation’s pharaohs; some are nearly 5000 years old. Camel rides are also popular for those visiting the pyramids and travellers who prefer their transport with a little more ‘oomph’ can take a quad bike desert safari. The Red Sea is the other jewel in Egypt’s crown, with unique and vivid ocean life including live coral and neon fish. There are plenty of family hotels and upmarket resorts in Hurghada and Sharm-el-Sheikh to keep everyone happy. Flights are around four hours from the UK.

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This small African country is slowly becoming more popular with tourists as it maintains its long history of relative political stability. Visitors get a real taste of Africa with a trip to Abuko Nature Reserve, the country’s first wildlife park that houses monkeys, crocodile, monitor lizards and several species of snake including the spitting cobra. The official language of Gambia is English, making it easy for families to get around and there are several tribal languages also spoken. It is common for visitors to be invited to a residential ‘compound’, where locals serve groundnut stew with rice and vegetables. The traditional dress is a treat for the eye; clothes are always bright and colourful and the women’s plaited hairstyles are so complex that they can take up to two days to complete. The Gambia is a great family beach destination, with temperatures consistently hovering in the late twenties or early thirties, and beaches are never overcrowded. Generally, flights require a connection or two and can take a day from London.

Take me to Gambia
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For immense savannah, snow-capped Kilimanjaro and weather you only find right on the equator, consider Kenya. If anywhere in Africa can lay claim to creating the safari tradition it’s here in the homeland of the Masai Mara national reserve. Down on the country’s south east coast, the warm waters of the Indian Ocean trim fantastic beach resorts. And, if you want to see Kenya’s remarkable conservation work, visit the elephants of Amboseli in the far south.

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You can fly from London to Morocco in just over three hours, making it one of the most accessible countries in Africa for shorter family holidays. But, being on the same latitude as Aberdeen, doesn’t make for any less exoticism or enchantment. The gorgeous Moroccan coastline is edged with historic towns and cities, legends like Marrakesh are irresistible in the interior and expeditions to the fringes of the Western Sahara are the ultimate in adventure. Beach fun is good for younger kids and teenagers love monumental Roman ruins, colourful Medina and hiking in the Atlas Mountain foothills.

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Gaining independence from Portugal in 1975, Mozambique is located in the south-east of Africa bordering Tanzania; Malawi; Zambia; Zimbabwe; Swaziland and South Africa. It is one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world, but it has rich natural resources and in the last decade has seen rapid growth. The tropical climate has two seasons; rainfall comes from October to March before the dry season starts in April. There are many protected areas due to the abundant wildlife and beautiful nature; thirteen forest areas as well as seven national parks and six nature reserves are home to over 740 species of bird and 15 endangered species of animal. Beach holidays are a great option for families visiting Mozambique, as are self-drive holidays taking in a safari in one of the neighbouring countries. It is easy to travel here on a budget, which is ideal for families. Flights from London with a connection take around 14 hours.

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On the south west coast of Africa, Namibia is a spectacular mix of immense dune strewn desert, wild beaches, wildlife and wildly exciting family holidays – especially for older kids and teenagers. Larger than France but with a population of just over 2million, Namibia is also home to a quarter of the world’s cheetahs and has the only remaining free-roaming herds of black rhino. This is the country for conservation holidays, game reserve camping and self-drive road trips.

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South Africa

For legendary ‘Big Five’ (buffalo, elephant, leopard, lion and rhino) game reserves, marine life, spectacular beaches, international cities, World Heritage Sites and 21st century infrastructure, South Africa is the country that ticks every box for family holidays. And nowhere else in Africa is more visited or highly awarded for sustainable, responsible and high quality tourism, attractions and accommodation.

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Based in the Great Lakes region of east Africa, Tanzania is one of the classic safari destinations. Luxury lodges and more simple self-drive accommodation is widely available for visitors hoping to spot the Big Five. In November and December tourists can see the famous wildebeest migration as the animals travel to the Serengeti. In the northeast Tanzania boasts thick forest and beautiful, cooler mountains, while the eastern shore is hot and humid. Nature lovers can spot elephant, buffalo and giraffe one day and then hike to stunning waterfalls the next. There are over 100 language spoken in Tanzania, so remembering how to say ‘hello’ in the local dialect might be harder than it seems! Those looking into the history of the countries they visit will be interested to know that Tanzania was once colonised by Germany, until rebellion in the Second World War. Tanzanian food is simple and filling, with ugali (maize porridge) plantain and biryani rice featuring as staple fare. It takes around 12 hours to fly from London to Tanzania.

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This is the land of the great Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, countless lakes and vast stretches of countryside dotted with traditional villages, lively cities and historic towns. Here you can safari through stunning national parks, experience extremes of excitement on land and water, drive and sail on your own time or book beautifully organised tours and trips. Zambia is one of the safest and most popular countries in Africa and an unforgettable holiday for kids of all ages.

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A semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, Zanzibar is an idyllic archipelago off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. Famous for its spices, particularly cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon, the islands have earned their name as a member of the Spice Islands and boast some unique wildlife including the red colobus monkey, the servaline genet and the Zanzibar leopard. Ancient tools found buried in Zanzibar suggest that there may have been civilisation here up to 20,000 years ago in the Later Stone Age. The main island of Unguja (often known as Zanzibar) is home to the Stone Town, an old trade centre influenced by Islamic and Swahili culture. A former sultan’s palace, minarets and intricate carvings are some of the aesthetic attractions of the main island. The most famous of its assets is arguably the white sand and vibrant blue water that make up Zanzibar’s beaches, along with the rustic beachside shacks. It is the perfect place for snorkelling and scuba diving, and a trip to Prison Island to visit the giant tortoises is the ideal way to finish a Zanzibar visit. Flights from London to Zanzibar take around 16 hours.

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