ON SAFARI
with the whole family

Don't let anyone tell you that a safari isn't a family-friendly holiday idea. We talk to our tour operators and boys and girls themselves about why safaris are great family fun.


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!

Africa & Beyond
A safari is a great holiday for families and the lodges are so welcoming and friendly

Vanessa from Audley Travel encourages families to go on safari:

Would you recommend going on safari as a family-friendly travel option? Why?

Absolutely. A safari is a wonderful multi-generational holiday with many lodges catering to families of all ages both in terms of accommodation and activities.

What considerations should parents keep in mind when booking a safari for their families?

Location is key as some safari destinations aren't suitable for young children for either safety or health reasons. We would recommend malaria-free areas where there are lots of activities to choose from.

Are there any particular child-friendly safari activities or experiences you recommend to clients?

Madikwe in South Africa is a really great option. It is easy to access from Johannesburg, is a true wilderness location, and is malaria-free which is a bonus for children in particular. Many of the lodges are family-friendly and have services such a child minding, kids' clubs, and can even take younger children out on adventure bush drives (depending on the lodge).

Have you or any of your colleagues been on safari with children before? Any advice?

Lots of our team have young families and visit South Africa regularly. We would suggest going somewhere that caters for children and provides activities suitable for all ages. Don't plan →

to go for too long though. Three or four days on safari is sufficient for youngsters so combine it with an adventure elsewhere, such as Victoria Falls or the Cape region.

Any general comments on choosing a safari for your next family holiday?

Go early in the dry season before temperatures get too high.

Any comments on your travel company and your approach to family safaris?

We specialise in tailor-made holidays and our country specialists have spent time on the ground in Africa so know it well and can make recommendations based on individual interests and requirements.

What is the ultimate family safari destination?

South Africa - it has so much to offer with the different game reserves such as Madikwe in the north, lots of activities in and around Cape Town, and some lovely beaches on the east coast too.

Location is key as some safari destinations aren't suitable for young children

Alex from Extraordinary Africa gives some advice on family safaris:

Would you recommend going on safari as a family-friendly travel option? Why?

Absolutely! It's brilliant to get time together as a family where you're all learning something totally new - just don't expect everyone in the family to be fascinated by the same things. The one thing every child comes back from safari remembering is that hyena poo is white!

What considerations should parents keep in mind when booking a safari for their families?

I think it's important to be realistic about your kids and what they enjoy. Not all children will enjoy a full day in a vehicle for example, so camps with a pool or a wider range of activities like boat safaris would be a good bet. With larger family groups, it's definitely worth considering taking a private safari house - that way the schedule works around what suits your family rather than other guests.

Are there any particular child-friendly safari activities or experiences you recommend to clients?

For young kids, we'd definitely recommend nature walks around camp or a scavenger hunt to collect items or photos. Having children feeling involved with the safari is way more interesting than sitting and looking. For older children, mountain biking safaris are a huge favourite!

Have you or any of your colleagues been on safari with children before? Any advice?

Be realistic. Safaris are a brilliant opportunity for you to all spend time together - both in the vehicle and around the campfire or dinner table - but packing an iPad (and headphones) pre-loaded with videos is still useful for keeping the little ones entertained on flights or long light aircraft transfers.

Any general comments on choosing a safari for your next family holiday?

Do it! It's a wonderful way for children to get in touch with nature and is sometimes life-changing. I've helped plan a family safari for one teenage boy who went straight back to Africa nine months later on his gap year and one is now a professional wildlife photographer.

Any comments on your travel company and your approach to family safaris?

We always try to make sure the children are happy. In my experience, if the children are having fun and taken care of, it's so much easier for the parents to relax and enjoy themselves. Because we've got so much hands-on experience in organising family safaris, we make a real effort to guide families towards what we know will work on the ground, rather than any idealistic or unrealistic expectations!

What is the ultimate family safari destination?

With small children, I'd definitely say that the non-malarial game reserves in South Africa are a good bet. They host so many young families that they've really got the things that families need worked out - private game drive vehicles, babysitting, family rooms, and child-friendly activities. For older families, I'd say that the family-run private game reserves in Laikipia are ideal. When you've raised your own teenagers on the land (and they're now helping you run the lodge), you know what works!

Extraordinary Africa
Don't let anyone tell you that a safari isn't a family-friendly holiday idea.

WHAT THE REAL EXPERTS SAY:

If you are looking to have a safari experience in new and exciting ways, it may be as simple as teaming up with your children and heading out into the bush. We went on a short walk through a nature reserve with some excited safari kids. As they bubbled over with chatter, warning us about ticks and snakes and telling us hours of stories about their animal encounters, it soon became clear that the quality of their observations and the depth of their knowledge is deeply enriching for all involved (none of us wanted the day to end!). We sat down with them to find out more about their safari experiences.

Rachel (9) talks about why game reserves are fun:

Tell us why you enjoy safaris.

I have been camping, but I also stayed at a house where there are crocodiles in a dam. I liked it because we just had fun. I like game reserves. It's nice to see the animals. It's fun and you learn lots of stuff. You learn about mammals and how to tell the difference between males and females. There are lots of flies but, anyway, it's wildlife. You've got to live with it.

When you go on your next safari, what would you like to see?

I want to see elephants, rhinos, leopards - lots more animals.

What is your favourite animal?

My favourite animal is a tiger shark. They are spotty and pretty.

What did you like about Africa?

I like Africa because the animals are free and I liked the weather and the people. I enjoy learning about lots of animals. It was so nice to see them.

Rachel, 9
It was nice to have time outside the city and breathe fresh air

Chad (11) tells us why he loves to go on safari:

Tell us about your favourite safari.

Last year, I went to Kruger. I went on game drives every day with my family. We saw two lions walking in the bush at lunchtime and later saw one male lion with a big thick mane sitting on a rock. On the way back to our camp, there was a huge rhino with a cut-off horn lying on the side of the road next to our truck. We drove past it at first, but my dad spotted it. It was about two metres away from us. We also saw a honey badger running across the road. It was black and white. Back at the camp, there were two hippos swimming in the river outside our cottage. We also saw herds of impala, zebra, and a few elephants.

Why did you enjoy your safari?

My favourite thing was seeing and learning more about the animals and being out in nature. I also enjoyed seeing new things. It was nice to have time outside the city and breathe fresh air. I learn about animals at school and want to carry on learning more.

Do you want to go on safari again?

I want to go on safari a lot more times! Next time, I want to see cheetahs. Cheetahs are my favourite animal.

What makes Africa special for you?

I love that the animals can roam free and that there's lots of reserves you can go and see. Safaris are very peaceful.

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