WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY:
Want to know the ins and outs of taking your little ones on safari? Look no further than our tour operators. With a number of their specialists having gone on safari with their children, they can offer first-hand advice from their own experiences. We interviewed them for family-friendly safari advice, considerations, recommendations, and insights into choosing Africa as a destination for your next family holiday.
Sheena from Africa & Beyond talks about family-friendly safaris:
Would you recommend going on safari as a family-friendly travel option? Why?
Absolutely! There is a perfect safari out there for everyone, which is why all our safaris are tailor-made and families shouldn't be put off. It also doesn't have to mean seven hardcore nights out in the bush. We can arrange for families to stay at accommodation offering anything from a morning taster drive to a two-week fully-immersed safari. There are also a huge number of lodges that actively welcome families and have dedicated programmes for children of all ages. Kids love going out and collecting stuff and will come back with feathers, quills, bones, and even poo!
What considerations should parents keep in mind when booking a safari for their families?
Nobody knows their children better than their parents, so they'll be able to judge their attention levels. Game drives can be bumpy, hot, and tiring, so choose a safari accordingly - smaller reserves on short drives for a few hours or huge reserves where you can spend the →
whole day out in the park. There is nothing worse than fidgety, irritable kids for all concerned! Also, do they want to take malaria medication or not? And, for first-timers, maybe just do two or three days and combine with city or beach.
Are there any particular child-friendly safari activities or experiences you recommend to clients?
Across the various countries we deal with, there are lots of activities that are fun in addition to the traditional 4x4 vehicle safari: horse-riding for all levels from novice upwards, canoeing, nature walks, and young ranger training courses/days.
Have you or any of your colleagues been on safari with children before? Any advice?
All the staff here with children have taken their kids on safari. Personally, mine first went to Tanzania when they were three and four years old. As mentioned before, know your kids' limits and push - but respect - their comfort zones. Journals to note down interesting facts learnt and draw what they see are great. A pair of kids' binos and a camera are also great accessories.
Any general comments on choosing a safari for your next family holiday?
A safari is a great holiday for families and the lodges are so welcoming and friendly and, if you enjoy seeing new places and having fun and exciting experiences, then it's for you. Give us an idea of your style and how adventurous you want to be, choose a specialist to arrange everything for you. Logistics can be tricky so don't try to do it yourself. I know that's a bit of self-promotion but safaris aren't cheap so can't stress enough how vital it is to travel with someone reputable, fully bonded and insured, and will be there 24/7 to help if needed when you're miles from anywhere with your family. To bear in mind:- the flights are all long-haul so be prepared with onboard TV and games, plus books, puzzles, iPads etc. You don't want to start off by hearing the 'bored' word! Include them in the planning so it feels like their holiday too and not just tagging along with what parents want. Try to include something they are really interested in, like down time at a beach or a museum on a topic that they are particularly keen on, or a stopover to break up the journey.
Any comments on your travel company and your approach to family safaris?
Because we have all travelled with our children, we know the pleasures and pains of travelling, so we're really keen to find out about all the family because sometimes the kids are more adventurous than the parents! Plus it's really important that customers feel safe. Some will be happy with tented rooms, others a solid wall, so recommending the right accommodation to the right people is essential. Also - and this goes for all trips we arrange not just for families - we don't use mini vans. They don't offer a great safari experience. They are cramped and visibility poor and they are restricted where they can go. We only use open-sided 4x4 vehicles - great views, fewer people on board, and a generally more authentic safari experience.
What is the ultimate family safari destination?
There are only ultimate safaris! Any destination can be tailored to families - using accommodation with family rooms, kids' programmes, or private vehicles - but, unless there are specific age restrictions, like gorilla trekking, there's nowhere kids can't go. Personally, our next stop will be Botswana and Victoria Falls.
Do you have any stories about family safaris (personal or one of your clients') you would like to share with us?
Last August, my family headed for southern Tanzania - four nights in Ruaha National Park, five nights in Selous Game Reserve; then five nights on the beach at a lodge called Lazy Lagoon just off the Tanzania coastline. We spent full- and half-day trips out in the vehicle with bush picnics, as well as nature walks around the safari lodge with our guide. My seven year old daughter spotted the only snake on the trip whilst out walking, identified by the guide as a black necked cobra. Thankfully I did not! (Yes, despite being an African Safari Specialist, I don't like snakes. It's a no-legs thing!) We saw huge numbers of hippo, elephants, lions, wildebeest, warthog, giraffe, and zebra. The kids had their iPods to take pictures (wrist strap essential). They each took a million photos using every filter available which have overwhelmed our iCloud account, but they were fascinated with everything that moved and genuinely loved every minute, especially playing guess who the skull belonged to!