Kids on Safari
Taking kids on safari is a bucket-list dream holiday for most families, but often parents and grandparents are not sure when is a suitable age for kids to experience their first safari. There are many questions and concerns parents will have around taking kids into the ‘wilds of Africa’, and we are here to help!
Image by Little Chem Chem Lodge
Can you take children on safari?
Children love nature and animals, even if it is animated ones or ones seen on nature documentaries. Can you imagine the awe when they see these in real life in their natural habitat? No TV and limited Wi-Fi means really connecting to each other and nature. Learning to identify spoor and how to brush your teeth with a bush twig are just some of the fun elements on safari , over and above the excitement of safari drives to the see the Big Five and more. And if you have very young kids, who might not be able to do a full safari drive of 3 hours, lodges offer fun shorter Bumble Drives close to the lodge.
What is the minimum age for a safari?
Different reserves and lodges and camps will have different regulations. Some will allow children of all ages, and others only from 6 or higher. It is important to select a safari and accommodation that will work for your families’ ages. You don’t often see babies or toddlers on safaris, but it can be done. Certain lodges offer babysitting or will even allow for babes in arms to go on safari drives, if exclusive use of a vehicle is taken.
The best age is between 6 and 8, when curiosity is at its peak and kids can take it all in and appreciate the wonder of it all. Many lodges and camps require that families with young children book private game-drive vehicles. The great thing about this is that you can return to camp whenever the children have had enough without bothering other guests.
If you have young ones on safari, your ranger may restrict how close you can get to predators, especially in open vehicles. This means your viewing of the big cats and even other unpredictable game like buffalo may be restricted or distant.
Activities kids can participate in :
Some activities will have an age restriction. Most walks in the bush with your ranger has a minimum of 16, as does gorilla trekking. Safari drives are available from as young as 6 (or younger on exclusive use vehicles).
Kids Safari Clubs are an excellent feature at some lodges, where activities include nature rambles around the lodge, nature themed arts & crafts, games and even basic baking, all with age-appropriate interaction and professional child-minders. For very small children, childminders will ensure they are fed, cleaned and have their naps while you are out on a game drive, tracking that elusive leopard.
Need to know
- Inter-leading or family units are in limited supply and go quickly, especially for peak season. The ideal option is to book a villa as private and exclusive use. These come with your private chef and ranger – so you can dictate your schedule; dine and go on safari drives as and when you wish. Be sure to book as early as possible to ensure you get the best option.
Image by Kwandwe Fort House
More you need to know
Travelling on small planes
- Some camps are only accessible via light aircraft, especially in Kenya and Tanzania. These are unpressurised and have limited space, which can cause discomfort to small children. There are ways to deal with this of course and we will happily share some advice.
- A game drive cannot be compare with a normal drive in a car. We never hear of kids asking ‘how much long’ when they are on a game drive. The fresh air, the magical surroundings, the knowledge of the game rangers and of course the wildlife spotting keep children completely engaged.Usually we recommend to consider how well your child can sit still and how well they listen to instructions to be quiet or be still. This will help your Travel Manager recommend the best appropriate lodge for you and your children.
Dust, heat, restrooms and bumpy roads
- A safari drive can be hot, bumpy and sometimes dusty. Bear that in mind when considering if a safari is age appropriate. And remember, bathroom stops mean stopping and finding the nearest big bush.
The interest factor
- There is so much to captivate children of all ages like an African safari can. And so much to do and learn. Surrounded by nature, immersed in new sensations, new people to learn from… It is the perfect opportunity to all get off your screens and get into the world and connect with each other. Watching children experience the secrets of the African bush is such a treat. From learning to identify birds, to naming all the new animals and fun groupings like The Ugly Five, to maybe have a safari drive nap, experiencing a safari with them will be an absolute delight.
Add on a beach destination
- Africa’s safari destinations are easy to combine with a popular beach destination. How does a few days in Mauritius, Zanzibar, Seychelles or Mozambique sound?. After the early mornings and late nights of safari, a few days in a tropical paradise would be pure bliss for the whole family.
What about malaria?
- If you are not keen on having your young one taking malaria prophylactics, there are a number of no-malaria reserves in South Africa that offer exceptional safaris. These reserves have numerous child-friendly accommodation options with plenty of family suites and villas.
- Camps and lodges may be fenced or unfenced. Unfenced camps allow all wildlife – including predators like lions, leopards and hyenas that are very active at night – to wander through. Guests are not allowed to leave their rooms at dawn or at night, unless accompanied by a ranger. Fenced camps are a safer option, so do ask your travel manager about options. The majority of lodges will have a swimming pool, which will not be fenced. Some luxury lodges have private plunge pools at your suite, which will be unfenced.
Book with Louise
Our family travel expert, Louise, has sent many multi-gen families on multi-destination trips, and is standing by to plan your seamless safari in Africa.