You might see elephant on walking safaris from Tanda Tula Field Camp. © Classic Portfolio

South Africa & Zambia Family Safari | Big Cats, Victoria Falls & Whales | 9 Nights Livingstone, Timbavati Private Nature Reserve & De Hoop Nature Reserve

Sharing a luxury safari in Zambia and South Africa with your family will feel like a dream come true. Having exclusive use of lodges like Tanda Tula Field Camp, Thorntree River Lodge and Lekkerwater Beach Lodge lets you focus on enjoying uninterrupted quality time and incredible experiences in outstanding locations. 

  • Three very different locations in one itinerary: the untamed wilds of the Timbavati in the Greater Kruger area, a bend of the Zambezi River with sweeping views and a strip of unique fynbos in the De Hoop Nature Reserve squeezed between brooding mountains and the restless sea. 
  • The opportunity to walk in big cat country and experience the spirit of the golden age of safaris by staying in a seasonal camp in the Kruger, as well as chances to experience Victoria Falls from above in every sense and to spend time with the very largest of all South African mammals.
  • A temporary yet luxurious field camp with an emphasis on game walks, followed by two lodges situated by impressive bodies of water: a riverside lodge beneath towering trees and a lodge with the authentic feel of a beach villa, just metres from the waves. For more information, see Tanda Tula Field Camp, Thorntree River Lodge and Lekkerwater Beach Lodge.

Three nights at Tanda Tula Field Camp

Tanda Tula Field Camp felt exclusive in many ways. Our two families were the only guests, and the knowledge that the camp would be packed away for the year just a few weeks after our visit made every moment seem that much more precious. After the journey to Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, we were all keen to stretch our legs. We’d come to the right place: Tanda Tula specialises in guided walking safaris. The highlight of the afternoon was undoubtedly crouching down, with bated breath, at the edge of a dry riverbed as a small herd of elephant walked crossed the expanse of sand. We’d distributed ourselves between the four tents with an adult and teenager in each – probably wise, as our offspring had yet to acclimatise to being somewhere with neither electricity nor phone signal. The trauma of being suddenly offline was forgotten as we set off on a game drive to track the big cats for which this area is renowned. It culminated in quite a rush: we watched as a leopard dashed from cover and seized the only impala in the clearing that hadn’t inherited the wariness gene. Our own dinner under canvas was a much less hurried affair. For our third day in the Greater Kruger, we wanted to maximise our time on foot in this unspoiled wilderness. Who knew that some of the men in our group were closet birders? They were treated to an ornithological excursion that ticked off over 50 species within a kilometre of the camp, while the rest of our extended family group received a masterclass in the subtle art of tracking. We were initiated into the secret society of people who can read the sand and taste the wind, and the experience of ‘stalking’ a lone bull elephant left permanent imprints in our hearts. The drive to the airstrip gave us a last chance to check on the leopard we’d seen on the first day and commiserate with the lone hyena gazing up at the kill stashed in the fork of a tree, firmly out of reach of scavengers. 

Tanda Tula Field Camp felt exclusive in many ways. Our two families were the only guests, and the knowledge that the camp would be packed away for the year just a few weeks after our visit made every moment seem that much more precious. After the journey to Timbavati Private Nature Reserve, we were all keen to stretch our legs. We’d come to the right place: Tanda Tula specialises in guided walking safaris. The highlight of the afternoon was undoubtedly crouching down, with bated breath, at the edge of a dry riverbed as a small herd of elephant walked crossed the expanse of sand. 

We’d distributed ourselves between the four tents with an adult and teenager in each – probably wise, as our offspring had yet to acclimatise to being somewhere with neither electricity nor phone signal. The trauma of being suddenly offline was forgotten as we set off on a game drive to track the big cats for which this area is renowned. It culminated in quite a rush: we watched as a leopard dashed from cover and seized the only impala in the clearing that hadn’t inherited the wariness gene. Our own dinner under canvas was a much less hurried affair. 

For our third day in the Greater Kruger, we wanted to maximise our time on foot in this unspoiled wilderness. Who knew that some of the men in our group were closet birders? They were treated to an ornithological excursion that ticked off over 50 species within a kilometre of the camp, while the rest of our extended family group received a masterclass in the subtle art of tracking. We were initiated into the secret society of people who can read the sand and taste the wind, and the experience of ‘stalking’ a lone bull elephant left permanent imprints in our hearts. 

The drive to the airstrip gave us a last chance to check on the leopard we’d seen on the first day and commiserate with the lone hyena gazing up at the kill stashed in the fork of a tree, firmly out of reach of scavengers. 

Three nights at Thorntree River Lodge

Our sorrow at leaving South Africa was tempered by the excitement of landing in Zambia and driving through the town of Livingstone en route to Thorntree River Lodge. While the canvas roofs were familiar, the setting could not have been more different. Whereas in the Timbavati, rivers seemed to be mere memories, here the Zambezi was omnipresent. We’d arrived in good time to enjoy afternoon tea overlooking this mighty watercourse, and then to relish a sunset cruise. Sipping cocktails, being serenaded by hippo and watching the sun extinguish itself in the depths of the river … I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Our second day on the banks of the Zambezi exposed the generation gap in our group – but in only in terms of the activities that we all chose. All four teenagers leaped at the chance to look down on Victoria Falls from a microlight, while all four adults opted instead to go canoeing. Those of us who were paddling agreed that it was a great opportunity for the cousins to bond, while we drifted with the current and dipped in the occasional oar. Two very different days out made for wonderful dinner conversation, and as always, the river was at the heart of everything. The opportunity to explore Livingstone proved too hard to resist, especially as gifts were required for the boyfriends and girlfriends back home. Hopefully clutching their smartphones, our youngsters joined us in exploring a town that’s retained its authentic character despite hosting thousands of tourists each year. The quest for Wi-Fi passwords was forgotten as we learned the art of haggling in the craft market and enjoyed a traditional lunch in a tiny restaurant that our guide recommended. The kids all took the unfamiliar cuisine with aplomb. We decided that it was for our benefit that our pilot performed a last turn over Victoria Falls as we departed Zambia, bound for Cape Town and a body of water that would make the Zambezi look like a left-on bathroom tap: the Indian Ocean. 

Our sorrow at leaving South Africa was tempered by the excitement of landing in Zambia and driving through the town of Livingstone en route to Thorntree River Lodge. While the canvas roofs were familiar, the setting could not have been more different. Whereas in the Timbavati, rivers seemed to be mere memories, here the Zambezi was omnipresent. We’d arrived in good time to enjoy afternoon tea overlooking this mighty watercourse, and then to relish a sunset cruise. Sipping cocktails, being serenaded by hippo and watching the sun extinguish itself in the depths of the river … I wouldn’t have changed a thing. 

Our second day on the banks of the Zambezi exposed the generation gap in our group – but in only in terms of the activities that we all chose. All four teenagers leaped at the chance to look down on Victoria Falls from a microlight, while all four adults opted instead to go canoeing. Those of us who were paddling agreed that it was a great opportunity for the cousins to bond, while we drifted with the current and dipped in the occasional oar. Two very different days out made for wonderful dinner conversation, and as always, the river was at the heart of everything. 

The opportunity to explore Livingstone proved too hard to resist, especially as gifts were required for the boyfriends and girlfriends back home. Hopefully clutching their smartphones, our youngsters joined us in exploring a town that’s retained its authentic character despite hosting thousands of tourists each year. The quest for Wi-Fi passwords was forgotten as we learned the art of haggling in the craft market and enjoyed a traditional lunch in a tiny restaurant that our guide recommended. The kids all took the unfamiliar cuisine with aplomb. 

We decided that it was for our benefit that our pilot performed a last turn over Victoria Falls as we departed Zambia, bound for Cape Town and a body of water that would make the Zambezi look like a left-on bathroom tap: the Indian Ocean. 

Three nights at Lekkerwater Beach Lodge

Our drive from the Mother City to De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Western Cape took a little over three hours but saw us arrive in a completely different world. We exchanged Table Mountain for the Potberg Mountains and found ourselves in perhaps our most secluded spot yet. As parents, we all smiled to see that our kids weren’t yet too old or too cool to refrain from immediately running across the white sand beach to the breakers. We followed at a more sedate pace, and the eight of us spent the afternoon discovering unique fynbos flowers, driftwood, and ancient caves. Not that we were counting (of course), but in the Kruger we’d easily ticked off the Big Five. Now we were in search of much larger quarry: the southern right whale. If these cetaceans were actors in some oceanic play, Lekkerwater Beach Lodge would be the best box in the house. Indeed, our land-based whale-watching excursion was the equivalent of a backstage pass. At our first sighting it seemed that the leading ladies and their understudies had a case of stage fright. However, they soon warmed up and starting frolicking away, right in front of us. On the final day of our luxury safari in South Africa, we were treated to what amounted to a royal gala performance. The whales seemed determined to show off every trick in their leviathan repertoire. At one point we had massive, barnacle-encrusted heads rising vertically right in front of us, as bizarrely tiny eyes seemed to check us out. In one of those moments that has launched a thousand framed prints, a huge set of flukes rose out of the sea and slapped back down, showering the surrounding dolphins with spray.

Our drive from the Mother City to De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Western Cape took a little over three hours but saw us arrive in a completely different world. We exchanged Table Mountain for the Potberg Mountains and found ourselves in perhaps our most secluded spot yet. As parents, we all smiled to see that our kids weren’t yet too old or too cool to refrain from immediately running across the white sand beach to the breakers. We followed at a more sedate pace, and the eight of us spent the afternoon discovering unique fynbos flowers, driftwood, and ancient caves. 

Not that we were counting (of course), but in the Kruger we’d easily ticked off the Big Five. Now we were in search of much larger quarry: the southern right whale. If these cetaceans were actors in some oceanic play, Lekkerwater Beach Lodge would be the best box in the house. Indeed, our land-based whale-watching excursion was the equivalent of a backstage pass. At our first sighting it seemed that the leading ladies and their understudies had a case of stage fright. However, they soon warmed up and starting frolicking away, right in front of us.

On the final day of our luxury safari in South Africa, we were treated to what amounted to a royal gala performance. The whales seemed determined to show off every trick in their leviathan repertoire. At one point we had massive, barnacle-encrusted heads rising vertically right in front of us, as bizarrely tiny eyes seemed to check us out. In one of those moments that has launched a thousand framed prints, a huge set of flukes rose out of the sea and slapped back down, showering the surrounding dolphins with spray.

What sets it apart

This luxury safari was unlike some African vacations we’d been on in the past, but in wonderful ways. The most striking difference was that rather than just travelling as a couple, we were in a glorious family group accompanied by two sets of teenagers. Everything worked out perfectly: our kids were at that perfect age where they could both amuse themselves (even in the absence of Wi-Fi, which was a first for them!) and also join us on all the activities. Being able to share almost every moment of the safari with our family really set this trip to Zambia and South Africa apart. Then there was the diversity of locations and activities. With what seemed like relatively little travel between destinations, we found ourselves in three very different locations. Each lodge encapsulated the spirit of its location and served as the perfect launchpad for exploring the surrounding wilderness. Tanda Tula Field Camp perfectly embodied the essence of the classic wildlife safari, while the serenity of Thorntree River Lodge provided the perfect foil for the action-adventure vibe of the Zambezi River. The comfort of Lekkerwater Beach Lodge, meanwhile, worked perfectly against the rugged backdrop of the Potberg Mountains and the restless waves (and whales) of the Indian Ocean. Being able to incorporate thrilling wildlife viewing in the Kruger with water-based activities at Victoria Falls and in the Western Cape gave us a supremely balanced itinerary with something for everyone. Our only difficulty came on our final evening, when we each battled to pick one favourite moment from dozens of candidates! 

This luxury safari was unlike some African vacations we’d been on in the past, but in wonderful ways. The most striking difference was that rather than just travelling as a couple, we were in a glorious family group accompanied by two sets of teenagers. 

Everything worked out perfectly: our kids were at that perfect age where they could both amuse themselves (even in the absence of Wi-Fi, which was a first for them!) and also join us on all the activities. Being able to share almost every moment of the safari with our family really set this trip to Zambia and South Africa apart. 

Then there was the diversity of locations and activities. With what seemed like relatively little travel between destinations, we found ourselves in three very different locations. Each lodge encapsulated the spirit of its location and served as the perfect launchpad for exploring the surrounding wilderness. 

Tanda Tula Field Camp perfectly embodied the essence of the classic wildlife safari, while the serenity of Thorntree River Lodge provided the perfect foil for the action-adventure vibe of the Zambezi River. 

The comfort of Lekkerwater Beach Lodge, meanwhile, worked perfectly against the rugged backdrop of the Potberg Mountains and the restless waves (and whales) of the Indian Ocean. 

Being able to incorporate thrilling wildlife viewing in the Kruger with water-based activities at Victoria Falls and in the Western Cape gave us a supremely balanced itinerary with something for everyone. Our only difficulty came on our final evening, when we each battled to pick one favourite moment from dozens of candidates! 

DAY 1–3

Tanda Tula Field Camp comes with a full team of staff. © Classic Portfolio

From OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, you’ll take a scheduled flight to Hoedspruit, where you’ll be met on arrival. You’ll then take a transfer to Tanda Tula Field Camp, where you’ll spend three nights.

DAY 4–6

Have a picnic on a river island at Thorntree River Lodge. © African Bush Camps

After a transfer from Tanda Tula Field Camp to the airport, you’ll take a scheduled flight to Livingstone in Zambia, where you’ll be assisted through customs and immigration. A transfer will then take you to Thorntree River Lodge, where you’ll spend three nights.

DAY 7–9

Gaze at the ocean from your bed at Lekkerwater Beach Lodge. © Lekkerwater Beach Lodge

After a transfer from Thorntree River Lodge to the airport, you’ll take a scheduled flight to Cape Town in South Africa. After being assisted through customs and immigration, you’ll take a transfer to Lekkerwater Beach Lodge, where you’ll spend three nights.

DAY 10

The Indian Ocean washes up on the shores near Lekkerwater Beach Lodge. © Lekkerwater Beach Lodge

A transfer will take you from Lekkerwater Beach Lodge to Cape Town International Airport for your onward flight.

  • Our safaris are tailor-made to match your personal safari dream, taking into account when you’d like to travel, how long you’d like to be away for, who you’d be travelling with, what safari lodge style you’d prefer, and more.
  • This luxury safari trip idea is simply to show you what’s possible. For a general overview of our safari price categories, and what they include, take a look at this blog.

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