Imagine days full of fresh air and sunshine, open spaces with dramatic desert scenery, giant sand dunes, a family-friendly culture and the chance to see seals, elephants, giraffes and rhinos. Mix it up with some long, hot, dusty days driving with hardly any other vehicles on the road, and you’ll get an idea of how it is to travel in Namibia with kids.
Is Namibia good for kids?
Namibia is a fine destination for all ages: it’s clean and generally safe, with good infrastructure, a mostly well-maintained networks of gravel roads and tarmac main arteries, excellent campgrounds and lodges – many with swimming pools – and plenty to do. Self-drive is the main way to get around, and most places are welcoming to children.
When planning, keep in mind that distances between major attractions can be long. Your visit will likely be smoother and more enjoyable for everyone if you limit daily driving and work in as many drive-free days as possible, focusing more on one or two regions rather than the entire country. Another tip: especially if you’re traveling in summer, try to find hotels and campgrounds with a swimming pool.
If you’ll be traveling with babies and very young children, strollers won’t be practical for getting around in towns; it’s much better to use some sort of carrier or sling. Baby changing stations are frequently available in larger towns, generally found in women’s restrooms or in common lobby areas.
Although Namibia has a short rainy season, you can count on the weather being sunny and pleasant almost every day. During the winter months from June through August, evenings get very cold, with temperatures sometimes dropping to freezing in highland areas; jackets are essential. During summer, be prepared for temperatures close to 40°C (104°F) in inland areas. For any road trips or activities, especially during the hottest months from November to February, pack plenty of water.
Where is best in Namibia for kids?
With its fresh sea air and abundance of kid-friendly activities, Namibia’s central coast around Swakopmund is an ideal starting point for family travel. An easy drive to the north is Cape Cross, with its seals, and just south is Walvis Bay, with sea kayaking. Spreading out to the south and east is Namib-Naukluft National Park, where the soaring, ochre-colored dunes around Sossusvlei and Deadvlei are a hit for travelers of all ages.
In Namibia’s far south is the Orange River, with canoeing, and in the northeast are the wildlife-filled waterways of Zambezi (Caprivi), which offer the chance for boat safaris. In between, don’t miss Etosha National Park, with world-class wildlife watching that everyone will enjoy, and Damaraland, which is a great destination for spotting desert-adapted wildlife and learning about Namibia’s Damara people. The small capital of Windhoek has a range of family-friendly diversions.
Best things to do in Namibia with babies and toddlers
Walk with the fish and swim at the beach in Swakopmund
The aquarium in Swakopmund, with its tunnel walkway where fish swim above and around you, is sure to please. Nearby is a small snake park where you can see all sorts of desert dwellers behind glass, and just a short walk away are several ice cream shops. During the summer months, the beach at Swakopmund’s Mole is ideal for a relaxing afternoon, with its sheltered, slightly warmer waters and stretch of sand.
Take a short wildlife drive near Windhoek
Spot warthogs, impalas, ostriches and more on a wildlife drive on the outskirts of Windhoek, followed by a buffet lunch overlooking the large, green lawns of Okapuka Safari Lodge. Advance bookings are essential.
Best things to do in Namibia with school-age kids
Bounce at Windhoek’s trampoline park
The popular Planet Aero trampoline park in Windhoek’s Maerua Mall is ideal for a few hours of fun and getting the energy out, and is suitable for kids of all ages.
Surf the dunes, kayak, and spot seals along the Central Coast
Most excursions begin with quad biking through the desert, taking in views towards the ocean, and finish with time sliding down the dunes on the outskirts of Swakopmund, either on snowboards or waxed, lie-down sandboards.
From Swakopmund, it’s then an easy drive north to visit Cape Cross, where thousands of Cape fur seals frolic in the waves and lounge on the beach. Don’t miss the shipwrecks en route. About 35km (22 miles) south of Swakopmund is Walvis Bay, where kayaking around Pelican Point is a family-friendly highlight. Nearby is Sandwich Harbour, one of the best places to see desert dunes cascading into the sea.
Take a boat safari in the Zambezi region
The waterways of Zambezi, in northeastern Namibia, are full of wildlife. A boat safari is an excellent way to spot elephants, hippos and more. Afterwards, enjoy the relaxed ambiance at the region’s many riverside camps and lodges.
Watch wildlife in Etosha National Park
Etosha National Park, Namibia’s wildlife hub, is optimally set out for self-drive visits, with well-spaced camps and lodges, and will be a hit for the entire family. Some lodges have floodlit waterholes, offering the chance for excellent nighttime wildlife watching.
Best things to do in Namibia with tweens and teenagers
Climb the dunes and stargaze around Sossusvlei
Sossusvlei, with its dramatic scenery and iconic dune panoramas, is an ideal destination during the winter months for travelers of all ages. Climbing up the steep dune slopes is easiest earlier in the day when the sand is cooler. At night, enjoy the star- and planet-filled night skies from the surrounding camps and lodges.
Canoe along the Orange River
A multiday canoe trip down the Orange River makes for a wonderful adventure for tweens and teens, taking in dramatic scenery by day and sleeping on the river bank under the stars by night. After canoeing, make a detour northwards to appreciate the stark magnificence of Fish River Canyon.
Visit a living museum and see rock art in Damaraland
Damaraland, conveniently positioned between Etosha National Park and the coast, is notable for its dramatic rock formations, gnarly welwitschia mirabilis plants, desert-adapted elephants and rhinos, and the UNESCO World Heritage site at Twyfelfontein, which protects one of the continent’s largest collections of rock art. It’s also home to Namibia’s ancient Damara people, and the worthwhile Damara Living Museum, where the whole family can learn about Damara life and culture.
Planning tips for family travel in Namibia
Most lodges, parks, and other attractions offer children’s discounts, usually about 50% of the adult rate, and usually applicable for children 12 and under.
Self-drive is a family-friendly, environmentally kind way to get around, and is the best option for traveling with kids in Namibia. Seatbelts are required for all passengers. For larger families (more than five people), it can be difficult to find vehicles with enough seatbelts, so book well in advance.
Most restaurants have children’s menus or will prepare kid-sized portions on request. Supermarkets in Windhoek and Swakopmund carry infant formula and baby food.