Kariega Main Lodge Review – Eastern Cape Safari Accommodation For Families
We have recently stayed at Kariega Game Reserve in their Main Lodge accommodation and wanted to write a Kariega Main Lodge review to let you know all about it.
With so many game reserves and beautiful safari lodges in South Africa it’s not always easy to choose safari accommodation for families, especially if it is your first time on safari with kids.
We have stayed in lots of different ones over the years but not all safari lodges are family-friendly and although they are advertised as such, you don’t always find out until you arrive.
So what makes Kariega Main Lodge at Kariega Game Reserve a good choice for safari accommodation for families in the Eastern Cape?
Our review of Kariega Main Lodge aims to help you get a better understanding of what you can expect from a stay there.
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Before we get into our review of Kariega Main Lodge, we just want to let you know that we have loads of related information on visiting South Africa with kids that you might find helpful.
We have visited South Africa with kids many times. There is so much for families to do in South Africa, but what we love most is that there are so many places for a family-friendly safari in South Africa.
See here for a fabulous 2 week itinerary for families visiting South Africa. and if you’re staying in Cape Town, don’t miss our recommendations on where to stay with kids in Cape Town.
Kariega Main Lodge Review
As we mentioned, there is a lot of choice when it comes to Eastern Cape safari accommodation. However, not all of them are family-friendly.
We chose Main Lodge at Kariega Private Game Reserve because we knew it was extremely family friendly.
I had been there 25 years ago and it was that stay that kick started my passion for safaris.
They say never go back but we did. See how it went!
Where is Kariega Game Reserve?
Kariege Game Reserve is located in the Eastern Cape in South Africa around 150km north east of Port Elizabeth.
If you are planning a holiday to South Africa and want to explore the famous Garden Route AND fit in a safari, Kariega is the ideal choice.
It can be reached easily from Port Elizabeth which is at the end (or the beginning of) the Garden Route.
It is also worth noting (particularly for families travelling with young children) that Kariega Game Reserve is malaria free.
How to get to Kariega Main Lodge
Kariega Game Reserve is located around 150km further up the coast from Port Elizabeth. It will take you about 90 minutes to drive from Port Elizabeth airport.
Most of the drive is on the N2 which is a main road. The last 15 or 20 minutes is on the R343 which is fairly good but with a few potholes.
When you arrive at the Main Lodge, you will be greeted with a welcome drink and checked in. Check-in is from 2pm.
The roads into Kariega Main Lodge are well kept and easily accessed with a 2WD vehicle.
Booking Kariega Main Lodge
You might find this map below helpful when choosing your Kariega Main Lodge family accommodation because I don’t think you can find it on their website.
It will help you understand how far your chalet will be from the main dining area.
You can book your accommodation directly on the Kariega website or you can book as part of a package through an agent.
If you are booking through an agent, you may get better rates. We like to use Go2Africa for a lot of our safari holidays because they are an industry leader in this area and have won many awards.
If you are booking independently, you can also find Kariega on:
IMPORTANT: If you want to book a chalet with a private plunge pool, you need to book one of the following.
- Chalet 1
- Chalet 2
- Chalet 4
- Chalet 9
- Chalet 24
Don’t worry if you can’t book one as there is a main pool close to the dining area.
Accommodation at Kariega Main Lodge
If you are interested in staying at Kariega Game Reserve with kids under 10, then Main Lodge is your only option.
Having said that, you can exclusively hire the Homestead which sleeps up to 14 people if you are a large group.
There are other accommodation options at Kariega, but they are either adult only or only accept kids over 10.
The accommodation at Main Lodge in the Kariega Game Reserve consists of twenty four wooden chalets. See map above.
The chalets have a lovely rustic safari charm about them and fantastic views.
Note that there is no minibar or tv in the suites but there is a fridge, tea and coffee making facilities and drinking water is provided.
Here are some photos of a Kariega Main Lodge 3 bedroom chalet.
Is Kariega Main Lodge family friendly?
Kariega Main Lodge is one of the few private game reserves in the area that allows kids of all ages so it is perfect for families.
The camp is fenced so you can walk between the restaurant and your accommodation without a guide.
If you are in one of the furthest chalets from the dining area, you may want to drive especially at night for dinner because it is very dark.
There is a Kids’ Club at Kariega which offers activities between 11am and 2pm.
On arrival, the kids received a Kariega backpack with some lovely goodies for the kids. Most importantly, it included a ‘Kids on Safari’ booklet with lots of safari related challenges. Our kids love these.
I won’t spoil the surprise but there may be a bit of ‘poo collecting’ involved!
All of the staff at Kariega were incredibly friendly and welcoming with the kids. We felt really looked after.
Can children go on game drives at Kariega Main Lodge?
Probably the most asked question we get is ‘how old do kids need to be to go on safari?’
Children of all ages are welcome at Kariega Main Lodge but it will be at the manager’s discretion whether children under the age of 5 can go on game drives.
It really is also up to the parents to think about whether their children will enjoy going on a game drive. They are often 3 – 4 hours long and children are required to remain still and be quiet when close to dangerous animals.
This is not only for their own safety but also for the enjoyment of other paying guests.
In addition to game drives Kariega offer bush walks within camp for children under the age of 16. Anyone 16 years and over can go on a guided bush walk.
Please refer to the Kariega kids on safari page at the time of booking to make sure you have the most current information.
Food at Kariega Main Lodge
In short, the dining at Kariega Main Lodge was excellent.
All meals were held in the main dining area, except for Boma evenings where everyone gathers around the firepit area for a buffet meal with entertainent.
Each meal was buffet style so there were options for everyone. All meals are included in the room price but drinks are excluded.
Having said that, drinks on the afternoon game drive are included.
We liked the buffet style approach to dining because it was very social. You also get the chance to dine with your fellow game drive companions and your ranger for some meals.
Which animals can I see if I stay at Kariega Game Reserve?
Kariega Game Reserve is home to the Big 5 so this means you have a chance of seeing elephant, lion, leopard, buffalo and rhino.
Having said that, it is extremely difficult to spot leopard because of the terrain.
The landscape at Kariega (and this goes for most of the Eastern Cape game reserves) is made up of dense vegetation.
During our stay we saw lion, elephant, buffalo and rhino. We narrowly missed a cheetah.
There are also lots of giraffe, hippo, zebra and other plains animals.
Activities at Kariega Main Lodge
One of the most common questions we get asked about going on safari is ‘What is there to do when not on safari?’
One of our most common answers is – sleep!
When you’re getting up at 5am to go on safari, there’s no harm in getting a quick nap in after breakfast. This is particularly important when you go on safari with kids so they aren’t too tired for the afternoon game drive.
When you’re not napping, here are some other things to do at Kariega Main Lodge (most of which are included in your stay):
- Relax by the main pool (or at your own one if you have one).
- Kids can take part in one of the kids club activities (between 11am and 2pm).
- Enjoy the singing and dancing ladies from the local township around the boma with dinner.
- Take a river cruise along the Bushmans River.
- Visit the spa for a relaxing treatment (additional cost).
- Take the Blue Duiker walk (which is about a 45 minute trail) through some dense bush.
Our kids also spent time going through their animal spotter books and making sure they had ticked off all the animals they saw on the game drives.
Our final thoughts on Kariega Main Lodge
As a family with young children, we felt very comfortable at Kariega Main Lodge.
We would say that Kariega Main Lodge is mid-range in terms of accommodation and facilities. However, the safari experience and the attention from the staff was high end and this is what matters to us most.
Some safari lodges are eye-wateringly expensive which is entirely unnecessary, especially when you are paying for a family.
And even paying these high prices does not guarantee that they will be family-friendly. And it certainly does not guarantee animal sightings!
Actually, what also matters to us is how safari lodges give back to the local area and whether they are doing their best in animal protection and conservation.
Kariega is definitely doing their bit here. You can find out more about their efforts here. It is a really interesting read.
Kariega Private Game Reserve – Main Lodge is the perfect choice for you family safari in the Eastern Cape.
We hope you found our Kariega Main Lodge review helpful but if you have any more questions, please do get in touch.