From best ages to perfect accommodations, here’s our guide for keeping everyone happy on a family safari.
Q: What is the best age to take my children on safari?
A: Each camp has their own rules on ages, but often this is flexible and at the camps discretion. We believe that eight is a good age for a first safari, by this age, the children can engage with the guide, and a trip such as this can really have a lasting impression. Also, children eight and older tend to have a longer attention span and behave better out on game drives and at the lodge or camp. Of course you can take children at any age as some camps take infants and toddlers and even have babysitting services. However, remember the flights are long; it’s not just a matter of what to do with young children, but how they will adjust to long international flights and early morning wake-up times.
Q: Do all camps accept children?
A: No. We will need to check with specific camps to see what their policy is on children. Some activities, such as walking safaris are limited to those over the age of 16. While children younger than six cannot participate in some lodge activities, child minders can be arranged at an additional cost. We can work with the camps and guides to make sure there is flexibility with the daily schedule to allow for children’s naps and meal times. You may even find the teenagers will want some down time after being dragged out of bed early! There are however activities and excursions laid on specifically for children such as The Young Explorers Safari at Footsteps Camp in Botswana where they will learn how to track animals, make small animal traps, shoot an air rifle and identify animal poo as well as making bows & arrows, baking with the cook and melting marshmallows on the camp fire.
Q. What are the best malaria-free destinations so to avoid giving children anti-malaria pills?
A: South Africa is the only country in Africa that can officially offer a fully malaria-free safari experience. Having said this, not every safari destination in South Africa is malaria-free so we will advise on which areas are best to visit. The assured malaria-free safari areas are the Eastern Cape, North West Province (including the Pilanesberg National Park and the Madikwe Game Reserve), and the Waterberg. The Madikwe Reserve is an excellent choice for family safaris; you can see the Big-5, easy transfers by road or air from Johannesburg, and some lodges even cater for child-friendly activities.
Q: Where is the best place to go to experience local cultures and traditions?
A: In Kenya and Tanzania you can visit authentic Masai villages where you will have the opportunity to talk and engage with the locals. Some may invite you into their homes and tell you about their daily routine and lives. You will see them dressed in their tribal shukas (robes) and they may perform a traditional dance which you can join in on!
Q: What about teenagers who are looking for a more active-safari experience, where is best to go?
A: If you have adventure-seeking teenagers then a more active holiday experience might be what you are looking for. Gorilla trekking (children 15+) and white water rafting (children 8+) in Uganda, horse or camel safaris in Kenya, canoeing the Zambezi River or dune buggy tours in Namibia – there is plenty to choose from. Lake Malawi has a lot to offer – PADI scuba courses, fishing, kite surfing, kayaking and star gazing make the perfect adventure holiday for older children.
Q. What type of accommodation is best for families?
Some camps offer family units with two adjoining bedrooms and a shared communal area. You could even book a private house with your own guide and vehicle. This way you can do exactly what you want, when you want. There is so much on offer so spend time choosing the set-up which suits you and your family best. Maybe you would prefer to be around other groups of people so you can swap stories over a glass of local beer once the children are asleep.
Q: What about combining a safari with other activities such as a beach holiday?
This is often the preferred experience when choosing a safari-style holiday. It is good to include different locations on your holiday as even the most riveted wildlife enthusiast can tire from endless hours in a vehicle. Kenya and Tanzania are brilliant for safari and beach holidays, with travel from one place to another being easily accessible by plane or road. South Africa is also perfect for combing a safari with lively Cape Town which can include fun things for both children and parents, such as penguin tours, Table Mountain hikes, and vineyard visits.
Q: Any tips on what we should bring to entertain the children during down-time?
A traditional safari day usually includes some relaxation time so pack some colouring books, small games such as playing cards or the trusty iPad so you don’t have to entertain them during ‘your’ quiet time! Some camps will lay on activities for the children which we can help plan. A camp or lodge with a pool will also make your stay more relaxing. Also remember to take a couple of pairs of binoculars so they don’t fight over them while you are out on safari! It’s also a good idea to bring a notepad for the children to write down what they spot whilst out on a game-drive. They can then turn their notes into a holiday diary when they are back at camp – lovely to look back on in years to come when they are planning their own adventures!