When it comes to the ultimate safari experience, Africa is undoubtedly the king of the world. With more than twenty countries to choose from and thousands of safari packages on offer, the hardest part is deciding which particular one to book. Depending on the number of children in your family and their ages, you’ll want to be sure to choose the kind of safari that will not only be unforgettable, but that will make allowances for their limitations.
If your aim is for the whole family to go out on game drives and see the animals first hand – which after all is the activity at the heart of most safari trips – then it is also vitally important that you check the rules of your lodge. There is no set standard – each lodge has its own regulations about the minimum age at which a child can join their parents on a game drive. This is because, while seeing any of the ‘big 5’ or other animals in the wild is always thrilling, there are often long gaps between sightings, during which young children can get extremely bored or agitated.
The most important step to take before you make a booking is therefore to check that the lodge you wish to stay at will accept your children. Almost all lodges are happy with kids over the age of 12, but the younger they are, the fewer the number of places in which they will be welcomed. Wild animals are able to roam close to the camps, so there are genuine risks for children who might wander off alone.
Many lodges, particularly some of those in South Africa, have special programs that specialise in family adventure holidays for those with younger children. These can include bush walks to explore local bird and insect life, special enclosures where they can have hands-on encounters with particular animals and mini game drives, where the vehicles do not approach the animals as closely as they do when they are carrying adults. In many cases, these activities are carried out under the supervision of qualified child care professionals, allowing the adults to go out and enjoy a full game drive alone, knowing their children are in good hands.
If you are eager for your children to experience the full African safari game drive experience, regardless of their ages, it may be possible to arrange for a private drive into the bush in a closed vehicle, though this will involve additional expense.
As younger children may not be willing or able to take the necessary preventative medication, you may also want to consider booking your family adventure holidays in a part of Africa that is free from malaria. South Africa is one such destination but Namibia also has many malaria-free areas. A safari in Kenya can easily be combined with a few days at the beach in Mombassa so that you can enjoy a relaxing end to your holiday. If you choose Tanzania, you can finish your trip on the beaches of Zanzibar.
Wherever you choose to go, both you are your family are certain to come away from the experience with wonderful memories and a great appreciation for the beauty of the natural world.
Adriana Frederick writes regularly on the joys of the African safari holiday for a wide range of travel-related websites and blogs. A particular fan of Kenya, he was one lucky enough to see all of the ‘big 5’ in a single morning.