Many parents regard Africa as just too dangerous for travel with children, but in reality Namibia presents few problems to families travelling with children. We travelled with our own children in the country and not only survived unscathed but had a wonderful time.
As a destination Namibia is relatively safe healthwise, largely due to its dry climate and good medical services. There’s a good network of affordable accommodation and an excellent infrastructure of well-maintained roads. In addition, foreigners who visit Namibia with children are usually treated with great kindness, and a widespread local affection for the younger set opens up all sorts of social interaction.
The greatest difficulty is likely to be the temperature (it can get very hot) and distances can be vast.
For invaluable general advice on taking the family abroad, see Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
While there are few attractions or facilities designed specifically for children, Namibian food and lodgings are mostly quite familiar and manageable. Family rooms and chalets are normally available for only slightly more than double rooms. These normally consist of one double bed and two single beds. Otherwise, it’s usually easy to arrange more beds in a standard double room for a minimal extra charge.
Camping can be exciting, but you’ll need to be extra vigilant so your kids don’t just wander off unsupervised, and you’ll also need to be alert to potential hazards such as mosquitoes and campfires. Most mosquito repellents with high levels of DEET may be unsuitable for young children. They should also wear sturdy enclosed shoes to protect them from thorns, bees and scorpion stings.
If you’re travelling with kids, you should always invest in a hire car, unless you want to be stuck for hours on public transport. Functional seatbelts are rare even in taxis, and accidents are common – a child seat brought from home is a good idea if you’re hiring a car or going on safari. Even with your own car, distances between towns and parks can be long, so parents will need to provide essential supplemental entertainment (toys, books, games, a Nintendo DS etc).
Canned baby foods, powdered milk, disposable nappies (diapers) and the like are available in most large supermarkets.
Sights & Activities for Children
Travelling by campervan and camping, or staying in luxury tented lodges, are thrilling experiences for young and old alike, while attractions such as the wildlife of Etosha National Park or the world’s biggest sandbox at Sossusvlei provide ample family entertainment.
Full-scale safaris are generally suited to older children. Be aware that some upmarket lodges and safari companies won’t accept children under a certain age and those that do may require you to book separate game drives. Endless hours of driving and animal viewing can be an eternity for small children, so you’ll need to break up your trip with lots of pit stops and picnics, and plenty of time spent poolside where possible.
Older children are well catered for with a whole host of exciting activities. Swakopmund is an excellent base for these. They include everything from horse riding and sandboarding to ballooning and paragliding. Less demanding activities might include looking for interesting rocks (and Namibia has some truly incredible rocks!); beachcombing along the Skeleton Coast; or running and rolling in the dunes at Lüderitz, Sossusvlei, Swakopmund and elsewhere along the coast.
Travellers with children should be aware of rules regarding the documents you must carry while travelling through the region. The law requires that all parents arriving, transiting and departing South Africa, Namibia and Botswana must produce an unabridged birth certificate for their children, and the birth certificate must state the names of both parents. Families not in possession of these documents will be refused to travel.
If one parent is travelling alone with their children, the travelling parent must carry with them an affidavit from the other (ie nontravelling) parent who is listed on the birth certificate granting their consent for the travel to take place in their absence. Where this is not possible, either a court order granting full parental responsibilities and rights or a death certificate of the other parent must be produced.
We have travelled across the borders of all three countries with our children on numerous occasions and although we were not always asked for these documents, we were asked for each of these documents at least once. Travel without them at your peril.