Although it might sound like a challenge, a safari with children can be an amazing adventure for the whole family. A bit of careful planning goes a long way when considering family travel. Here’s how to get the details right for a fantastic family safari trip.
The fascinating sight of a gecko on the ceiling of your tent, thrilling encounters with African monkeys around camp – it’s a recipe for the holiday of a lifetime. Think tactile adventures for children, and plenty of action – the traditional game drives will prove less entertaining for smaller visitors, so choose walking safaris or canoe rides instead.
Busy camps with lots of animals and experiences waiting to happen will also be a huge plus on your trip. If you can afford a camp with a pool or if you choose a hands-on place where children can help build tents or fires, it will be easy for them to blow off steam after quite a passive day of animal spotting.
Don’t put off the fantastic game drive idea completely! The big five are sure to captivate young minds – just keep drives and excursions short enough to match young attention spans. The best way to find the freedom you need is to choose a self-drive holiday with a personal itinerary. South Africa and Namibia are the best, with good family accommodation on a budget and plenty of ice cream and pools back at camp.
If the self-drive approach doesn’t appeal, you can also find luxury tailored tours with family-friendly packages. These typically include kids’ activities like bush-craft courses, mountain biking and lots of walking. You may even have a small private lodge or camp to yourself!
Whilst high prices for this kind of trip have typically put off many visitors from seeing a safari as a family holiday, it is possible to find a good deal. Many luxury camps, however, have a minimum age limit of 12, so check before you book that this won’t be an issue when you have small children.
Still worried about your options? Combine a few days on safari with a different kind of holiday to keep the whole family happy. You could mix beach with bush in Tanzania (think Serengeti then Zanzibar) or Malawi. A stop at Victoria Falls after a safari in Zambia or Zimbabwe can also be a fantastic experience, with bungee-jumping and white-water rafting offering the perfect foil to a quiet few days on safari.
Best Time To Go On A Family Safari
The travel season could affect your destination – May to November is the peak time for southern Africa and self-drive safaris, with dry weather, open roads, and easy viewing when wildlife congregates at water sources. The all-weather roads in much of Namibia and South Africa, however, mean travelling is possible all year round.
In Zambia, Easter vacations can be a good option as there are some good ‘emerald season’ deals in the wet season, with good wildlife at this time and plenty of baby animals to spot.
Top Tips for Family Safaris
- Make your drives short, with two hours or less in the car at one time
- Get out of the vehicle wherever possible to allow kids to interact with the wildlife more personally
- Stop when the children ask, even if you can’t see the attraction at that spot
- Take pens and pencils for a quick and easy activity in any situation
- Invent games to spot different natural things or animal features to keep entertainment levels high
- Give the children their own binoculars and cameras to get them involved in the process
- Keep the kids drinking plenty of water in hot climates
- Have emergency snacks on hand, especially whilst on drives
- Make sure a car seat is set high enough for good views
- Take plenty of entertainment for nights and relaxing times at the camp, such as books and playing cards
- Be rigorous when it comes to insect repellant and malaria precautions, as small children are at high risk
Ideas For Great Family Safaris
- Self-Drive: South Africa is great for family safaris. Head to Kruger Park in South Africa for DIY safaris and a flexible itinerary. There are good roads if you’re not an experienced 4×4 driver. Plus good self-catering cottages and family-friendly camps to stay at in the park itself.
- Bush + Beach: Tanzania is a great destination, with 10 day holidays including three days at a safari camp and seven at a beach retreat that kids will love.
- Active Trips: Try Kenya for a family adventure. In the remote Laikipia region, you can have an active holiday including river swimming, camel safaris, biking and sleep-outs under the stars on top of the game drives. Look for a package deal that includes meals, drinks, and activities for a good price.