Family Safari Planning Tips
We have lots of families enjoying their Spring Break safaris right now, from Kenya on down to South Africa. A family safari is an exciting and adventurous experience for all ages, from grandma to teen. Better yet, it’s screen-free if you’re looking to get the kids off their phones and X-boxes. No teenager will eye-roll when they see an elephant for the first time. If you have younger children, fantastic – the action starts just as they get up at 6 am! We have lots of experience booking family safaris, and taking our own children on safari. So do ask us for more advice, and read on to learn more about where to go, and what to keep in mind when planning a family safari.
In general South Africa offers the most choice as far as safari accommodations are concerned, and you also have the option to go on a malaria-free safari (if you are worried about your child taking anti-malaria pills). The food is very westernized, and most lodges and camps are child-friendly as there is a large domestic tourism market they cater to. South Africa also boasts some of the best doctors and hospitals on the continent. Some of the smaller, private wildlife parks and concessions are perfect for those traveling with younger children (even young teens) as you will see a lot of varied wildlife in a relatively short amount of time. Check our our affordable Cape and Kruger itinerary.
Kenya is an excellent family-safari destination with a good network of flights linking all the major national parks, and thus limiting long road transfers between safari destinations. You can also easily add some extra beach time as there are flights operating from the Masai Mara straight to the coast. A visit to the Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage and Giraffe Center in Nairobi makes for a wonderful start or end to the trip.
Tanzania offers a truly fantastic safari experience in Africa, and if you stick to the “Northern Circuit” which includes the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, it’s not too expensive to have your own private 4×4 and guide for the duration of your safari. Be prepared for long days on the road as many game drives are “all-day” affairs, so we would recommend your children be at least 12 years old. Check out our Tanganyika Wilderness itinerary, a great mid-range safari option with private vehicle and guide throughout. Adding beach time in Zanzibar is a good idea two wash off the safari dust. (See more about adding Beaches to your safari …)
Namibia has a large coastline, fun sand dunes and good roads. The distance between places of interest is significant so unless you have children who don’t mind long drives, then it’s best to opt for a flying safari. Namibia makes a wonderful family safari destination because it is so varied with excellent wildlife viewing, a magnificent coast-line, shipwrecks, seal colonies and very interesting cultures. If you have an elastic budget, try one of Wilderness’s flying safaris to get around.
Botswana is another great family safari destination and not a lot of driving is required since many of the safaris offered are fly-in. Make sure your children are old enough to appreciate this vacation; not just because it will cost you more than other destinations, but also many safaris include traditional canoe rides through the delta region, and this could be dangerous with small children or simply disallowed. Many of the lodges and camps will require families with children under 12 to book their own exclusive-use vehicle, which generally adds around $500 per family per day to your safari cost. Check out our Heart of Botswana itinerary, a wonderful option for families.
Age-Restrictions on Family Safaris
- At an all-inclusive safari camp or lodge, your game activities will be shared. Sharing a vehicle with other guests means you have to take their interests into account, and willingness to spend a lot of time with your children. Everyone pays a premium price for a safari, a honeymooning couple is unlikely to enjoy your younger children as much as you do!
- Safety is key, many lodges and safari camps are unfenced and animals roam right through them day and night. Your child is an easier target than a grown up for hungry animals.
- Safari vehicles that belong to lodges and camps are usually open on all sides, it’s easy to either fall out, or jump off to see something interesting. There is not always the ability to stop and get out to stretch your legs whenever the children get antsy.
- When you view wildlife it’s important to keep quiet and that’s sometimes difficult to enforce with smaller children when they get excited or even scared.
- Some adventure safari options like canoeing or walking safaris are not suitable for children under 12. Gorilla tracking is not allowed for anyone under 15 years of age.
- Smaller exclusive lodges may not have dining options suitable to children or picky younger eaters. Dinner tends to be served after 8 pm, that may be too late after a long day of action. Breakfast is also often not served until after a 3-4 hour morning game drive, so bring snacks for growing teens if you think they’ll falter half way through.
- Stay in a family-oriented lodge that offers special drives for children or baby-sitting options so you can leave them at the lodge if they are under 10 for a few hours while you enjoy a sundowner in the bush. Or if you have teens, let them sleep in if they want for a morning. Ask us about which lodges and camps are truly family-friendly with quality programs that will entertain and educate your younger ones, while you also get time to yourselves.
- Buy the children their own camera (don’t encourage the phone camera, too tempting to play games while they have it in their hands).
- Bring extra sets of binoculars.
- Award points or a prizes for spotting birds, insects, wildlife.
- Give them a bird or animal checklist to mark off what they see (every wildlife park will have these available).
- Ask us to book your own exclusive use vehicle if your children are under 10.
- Make sure the lodge or camp allows children and find out what the age limit is. If you occupy a whole camp on exclusive-use basis, sometimes they will make an exception for the age limit.
- Stay somewhere with a pool during the hotter months (September – May).
- Make sure the safari you choose is age appropriate. Canoeing or walking safaris are not suitable for children under the age of 12 -15.
- Wait until your children are 8-10 years old so they can fully appreciate the experience.
- If you’re worried about malaria, South Africa has malaria-free game parks you can enjoy.