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Staying on a game reserve in Addo Elephant National Park as a family

Woman with binoculars

In January 2024 we visited Lalibela Luxury Game Reserve in Addo Elephant National Park with our 7 month old baby. We flew from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth with FlySafair, hired a car and drove just over an hour to reach the reserve.

When many people consider "going on safari" in Africa or visiting a game reserve, Kruger National Park is usually their first thought. However, we are hoping this blog will convince you that you can have a luxurious game reserve experience and see the Big 5 animals at the Addo Elephant National Park. Firstly because Addo is in a malaria free zone so you (nor your children if you are travelling as a family) will need malaria shots before you travel.

The Big 5 animals used to be known as the 5 African animals which were most dangerous and difficult to hunt on foot. Now luckily there is a more positive reason people think of the Big 5 and this is the 5 animals to tick off your list and see when on an African game drive. The Big 5 are lion, elephant, rhino, African buffalo and leopard.

Lalibela Game Reserve is a whopping 10,500 hectares and is home to the Big 5 as well as many other animals such as cheetah, hyena, warthog and zebra. The animals roam free and Lalibela have a hardworking anti-poaching unit who constantly monitor the animals to ensure they are safe from human predators. Lalibela do not segregate the animals and only allow a certain amount of vehicles for sightings at one time ensuring a comfortable and non-threatening position for the animals and a more enjoyable and intimate experience for the guests.

Lalibela have 7 different types of accommodation on offer from a family camp, exclusive-use villa, lodges and luxury safari tents. Each set of accommodation is spaced out meaning you will feel as though you have the whole reserve to yourselves.

We stayed in Marks Camp, the family camp which is made up of 8 stone & thatch chalets and can accommodate up to 18 adults and 8 children. The accommodation has a central lounge and grand dining hall where you will enjoy the incredibly home-cooked African food made fresh on-site. The food was the best we had in our whole 2 weeks in South Africa and we were able to sample some game meats such as Ostrich, Warthog and Kudu. The staff cannot do enough for you and were extremely friendly and helpful, even taking our baby daughter for a walk so we could eat dinner with both hands!

As well as two swimming pools there is a large watering hole next to one of the pools where if you are lucky you can catch some of the animals drinking from such as antelope, giraffes and even buffalo.

Your rate at Mark's Camp will include 2 game drives per night at sunrise and sunset to give you the very best chance at seeing as many animals on the reserve as possible. Your day starts at 5am with a wake-up call and you will be welcomed with fresh coffee, cereals and other continental options to set you up for the morning. Your ranger will meet you and you will set off on your first game drive of the day at 6am. The game drives last around 3-3.5 hours and during that time you will be on the hunt to find as many animals in the wild as possible. You will then return to the camp for a cooked breakfast, relaxation time and lunch before your second game drive at around 4pm-5pm. You will be welcomed back with a hot towel and drink before enjoying a high quality three-course dinner in the communal dining hall.

We had Guy as our ranger who was a bundle of energy and his passion for the animals and Lalibela shone through. We thoroughly enjoyed each and every game drive with Guy and he made it a wonderful and tailored experience for all. All rangers all fully qualified and know everything there is to know about the animals on the reserve. They will ensure you remain in the "comfort zone" so you can relax on the game drives knowing you are not in danger of the animals and can observe them from a safe distance.

Children under 2 years old are not able to join the game drives. This is to avoid disturbances to the animals. Lalibela offer a baby-sitting service to ensure parents can experience the game drives together. Our baby girl was 7 months at the time we visited Lalibela and the baby-sitter Lala instantly made us feel comfortable and we trusted her completely to take care of our baby girl. We weren't originally planning on leaving her and were going to take it in turns to join the game drives but we knew our baby was in safe hands with Lala.

Staying at Lalibela was honestly the best place we have had not only in our 6 years of travelling together but our whole lives. It was an absolute flawless experience from start to finish. The staff will go above and beyond to make your experience one to remember and ensure you make memories to last a lifetime.


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