From the Seychelles to the Skeleton Coast, the coastlines, islands and lake shores of Africa are striking and unforgettable. Rift Valley lakes seem as vast as seas, and the beaches, rugged cliffs and rocky shores run on and on. Private islands promise paradise. Where water meets lands, invariably there is beauty and rich wildlife, places waiting to be explored.
When travelling with children, we know there's no comfort like having your own space, with plenty of activities for everyone. These incredible island hideaways and beach retreats strike a perfect balance between luxury and fun. We asked our safari design team for their personal recommendations of Africa’s most family-friendly beach properties.
The bulk of Mozambique might be on the mainland, but just off its Indian Ocean coastline is a plethora of exotic islands. Two archipelagos — Bazaruto and Quirimbas — are particularly beguiling, especially if you plan to treat yourself to the luxurious delights of a private island.
Mozambique’s Nuarro Lodge is caught between the wild bush and the Indian Ocean. This laid back eco resort opens out onto powdery sand beaches. There’s a fully equipped PADI dive centre, which offers both beginners’ training and refresher classes, and you can also enjoy whale watching with an added dimension as your guides capture the sound of whalesong on a hydrophone. Nuarro has two main reefs just a short swim from the beach so you don’t have to go far to snorkel among the butterfly fish. There are plenty of activities for all ages; mountain biking, kayaking and paddle boarding to name a few.
Ibo Island and Dhow Safaris
Ibo Island is one of the 20 sun drenched islands of the Quirimbas Archipelago just off the coast of Mozambique. We recommend a few days on the island relaxing and exploring the cultural and historical sites, before taking to the waves on a unique dhow safari. Under the expert leadership of a professional guide and local crew you can explore this scenic coastline. Sea kayak or sail up coastal river deltas and mangrove channels. The whole family will love watching for dolphins, snorkelling among the tropical fish and even sleeping out beneath the stars on uninhabited islands.
The 115 volcanic islands which comprise the Seychelles are former British territories and have a rich mixed Arab, French, and Portuguese heritage. You can island hop with ease across the archipelago, and as each island offers a unique combination of isolated coves and quiet beaches, dramatic viewpoints and coral reefs, swathes of rainforest and natural harbours, you’ll want to allow plentiful time to explore.
Fregate Private Island
Fregate Island offers carefree luxury in a Seychellois tropical paradise. The private Banyan Hill Estate is perfect for a multi-generation family holiday or perhaps friends travelling together. Think of Fregate Island as a cross between a tropical paradise and a wild isle befitting The Tempest. It’s a splinter from the former supercontinent of Gondwana, home of rare and exotic species. These include the Seychelles magpie robin, which the island’s conservationists have saved from extinction, and also the critically endangered Wright’s gardenia.
In the Seychelles, North Island ticks every box. Tropical palms and granite peaks dwarf your presence on this luxurious private island. Yours will be the only footprints on the beach. Your villa will look straight out across the ocean; think of this as your home from home. Parents receive a complimentary welcome treatment in the spa on arrival, while the Beach Buddy programme offers tailor made activities for kids. The entire island is yours to explore and discover, no matter your age!
The Skeleton Coast
Namibia’s Skeleton Coast has a harsher, more rugged landscape, but its wildness is undeniably beautiful. The landscape is dotted with ancient whale bones, while colonies of seal chatter restlessly along the rocky beaches, and the skeletons of shipwrecks take an eerie form in the early morning mist. Drive along the coast from Shipwreck Lodge in a 4x4, or perhaps see it from above during a scenic flight.
More commonly known as Zanzibar, Unguja is the largest island in Tanzania’s Zanzibar Archipelago. This spice island has been a trading post since ancient times, and you can immerse yourself in its rich culture as well as relaxing on the world class beaches.
If you have teenagers, Fundu Lagoon offers adventures above and below the waves — it has been rated the Best Marine Safari Property in Africa. It’s a luxurious boutique property on the island of Pemba in Zanzibar and accessible only by boat. A kayak safari is the best way to explore the coastal ecosystem; you can also take a fishing trip and cast your line on the reef. The mysterious ruins of Jambangome — Pemba’s ancient capital — are only a short motorboat ride away, and well worth a day spent exploring.
Just off the northeast coast of Zanzibar, experience the luxury of a private island at &Beyond Mnemba Island. Watch dolphin and hatching turtle, then sail out towards the sunset on a wooden dhow — experiences that your whole family will cherish forever. There will be hours when you want to sit doing absolutely nothing and the WildChild programme lets you do just that, with specially guided children’s activities. Of the10 beachside bandas, two are linked to form a family suite for your privacy.
Deep in the Great Rift Valley is Lake Malawi, covering an area the size of Belgium. It has its own islands, waves, and beaches, as well as inspiring Kaya Mawa. Spacious family villas, some complete with a private beach, make this an excellent family destination. If you’re planning a safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa, finish it off with a few days of R&R here.
In Malawi, Kaya Mawa is accessible only by light aircraft or boat. The name means “maybe tomorrow” and it’s a good reflection of how lazy this place can make you feel. That said, when you take a chalet on the lakeshore, you might as well make good use of the opportunities for watersports, spending your days snorkelling, kite surfing, and kayaking. Learn to sail a Laser under the guidance of an instructor, or gently paddleboard around the island’s coast.
The Garden Route
South Africa’s Garden Route hugs the Cape from Mossel Bay to Storms River. Ten nature reserves and several marine reserves protect remarkably different ecosystems, and you can pass easily between them, hopping from lagoon to vineyard to town. Continuing north you’ll reach KwaZulu Natal, where in the Isimangaliso Wetland Park, a dense coastal forest runs down to unspoilt Thonga Beach where children and adults alike will delight in watching turtle laying their eggs safely in the sand.
Manafiafy Beach and Rainforest Lodge
The Manafiafy Beach and Rainforest Lodge is in a dazzling location on the east coast of Madagascar. It’s surrounded not only by sparkling azure seas, but also by verdant rainforest. Watch whale from the lookout tower, canoe and snorkel directly from the beach, then after dark take a walk through the rainforest to spot chameleon and lemur. Walking through the forest at night is an exhilarating experience, and one your children are certain to remember!
Last but certainly not least, don’t overlook Lake Victoria, one of the African Great Lakes. It straddles Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, with peaceful lodges and camps around its shore. Forested Rubondo Island is one of our favourites, with a unique opportunity to see chimpanzees playing among the trees, while also enjoying time on the beach. Children aged five and up are welcome, with tailored activities like nature walks and bush skills lessons with specialist guides. The island of Mfangano is home to some of the oldest cave art in the world, and you can stay here in comfort at Mfangano Island Camp.