It’s a common misconception that planning an African safari for kids isn’t a good idea.
After all, research has shown that unique travel experiences can be highly beneficial to a child’s development. Not to mention there’s no other experience that allows children to get up close and personal with their favorite animals in their natural surroundings.
With the right planning, a safari trip with children can be exciting, memorable and stress-free. Read on to learn more about creating the perfect safari experience for the whole family
Know Your Destination
While most Safari locations are kid-friendly, there are some destinations that are better off for families with little ones. Usually, these are the destinations where you can easily access a store or destinations that include comforts (like wifi, or normal indoor plumbing) that make life easier with little ones.
Some destinations worth considering include the Serengeti, spots near Kruger National Park, and Tanzania. The more research you can do ahead of time on your destination, the more you’ll be able to avoid any challenges that may come with bringing children on safari.
Keep Their Favorites in Mind
Any form of safari is sure to wow your kids, but why not aim to deliver on some of your kids favorite? Certain animals are more likely to be found in specific regions, so it always helps to choose a destination where that animal can be found.
So if your child would go nuts over seeing a big cat in real life, try aiming for the Serengeti. Want to play with monkeys? Head out to more tropical parks and reserves.
Include Your Child in Planning a African Safari for Kids
There’s a lot to do before the big trip, but there are a number of opportunities to include your children in the planning and excitement. If your child is school age, this is a great learning opportunity to utilize.
Once or twice a week dedicate some time to researching an animal native to your destination or learning about the various plants and natural elements in the area. You’ll beam over the proud moment that your child spots something they had learned about in one of their books.
What to Pack
Packing for kids on safari can be a challenge. After all, it’s not an atmosphere or lifestyle that most people are used to. Don’t worry, you can easily pack the essentials if you just know what to look for. In most Safari destinations, the weather tends to change rapidly. The day time can be quite hot with temperatures that drastically drop in the evening.
That’s why it’s best to dress in layers and pack some warm clothing items like beanies, gloves, warm socks or thermal pajamas. Light thermal vests (sleeveless or short sleeved) is another safari essential.
Most of the time, going on safari requires traveling a long distance. Which can mean a day or two of air time, layovers, and several hotels stays. It helps to work your children up to this, with smaller trips that gradually build up their travel tolerance.
This will also give you a better idea of what toys, snacks, and comfort items work best for your children while traveling. Investing in big-ticket items like a children’s travel bed is also one choice you’ll be glad you made.
Going on safari often means being exposed to new languages, food, and customs. Introducing your child to new cultures is a great way to broaden their minds, but keep in mind that children are creatures of habit. Try getting picky eaters to be more open to new foods before going on your trip, and teach children basic phrases in the local language to help them feel included.
Also remember, children, don’t have filters. Letting them know ahead of time that it’s not polite to point or make certain comments is a great way to avoid feeling embarrassed or insulting others.
Kid Friendly Tours
Most tours are kid friendly and know how to safely introduce the kids to the animals and their surroundings. However, many tours do have an age minimum, and it’s vital to check with the tours ahead of time to see if they allow children of a certain age.
The same goes for camps and resorts. Always call and ask ahead of time before assuming children are allowed and booking. It will save you plenty of time and headache to check in advance.
Options, Options, Options
Checking out the animals on safari is great and most children love it. For a couple of days that is. Don’t rely on animal safari to be a source of entertainment for your children for your entire trips. Animals can get old, fast.
Finding destinations with other attractions is always a wise option. This can mean being near museums, interesting marketplaces, or even near the beach. Try to include 2-3 attractions for trips that will be about a week in length. The longer your stay, the more attractions you will want to incorporate.
While no one wants to be “those parents”, you’ll want to bring some extra entertainment along for your little ones. Safari tours often include families other than yours and can take an entire day, so having something to keep your children entertained in between the exciting moments is a smart move.
Whether it comes in the form of a book, iPad, or favorite toy is entirely up to you and your own unique parenting style. Having an extra item will also give your kids something to share and discuss with other kids on the tour.
For most people going on safari, jet lag is an unavoidable reality. Unfortunately, children don’t adapt to this change quite as well as adults do. You’ll want to be patient while your child’s clock gets readjusted.
A good rule of thumb is one day for every hour. For example, if there’s a seven-hour difference at your destination, it will take about seven days to fully adjust.
Bringing along natural sleep remedies like melatonin gummies can help smooth over the transition and avoid any crankiness.
Sleeping in the Wild
Many families opt for resorts and camps that put them right in the action. After all, who wouldn’t love a giraffe joining them for breakfast? While these kinds of resorts can be great fun, it’s important to know the action is 24/7 and the wild doesn’t sleep.
Howler monkeys, hyenas, and a number of other nocturnal animals can often be heard throughout the night at such resorts.
Which is why you’ll want to be sure that a) your kid can sleep through anything or b) your child won’t be too frightened by the sounds to get some shut-eye.
You want to keep your children safe and secure through their safari trip. While you typically won’t have to worry about this while on your tour, thanks to experienced professionals, there are other areas where you’ll want to keep safety in mind.
Be sure to pack plenty of bug spray and repellent to reduce the number of mosquito bites that occur. In areas where the sun is more intense, pack enough sunscreen with a strong SPF solution. Hats and sunglasses are also important.
Making sure to always have water on hand can reduce the chances of dehydration. You’ll also want to make sure your kids avoid walking around campsites barefoot.
Necessary Shots and Medicine
Each part of Africa has their own requirements for vaccinations and immunizations. Your children’s bodies will not be acclimated to these areas, so shots are necessary to keep them fully protected. Failing to do so can expose them to diseases like malaria, dysentery and sleeping sickness.
If you’re not sure if your children’s vaccinations are up to date, or what additional vaccinations are required for your trip, check with your general practitioner.
Also, you’ll want to go as soon as possible as some vaccinations take a specific amount of time to fully take effect.
What Your Children Need to Know
The wild is well…the wild.
Which means animals aren’t usually interested in keeping it PG for your little ones. Animals will do what they are made to do, no matter who’s watching. This includes fighting, hunting, eating, using the bathroom wherever they please, and yes, even mating.
Save yourself the headache of having to explain to your children mid-tour why those two lions are “hugging” and give your kids a heads up on what to expect.
Better yet, show them a wildlife documentary or two and skip the shock factor altogether.
Planning the Perfect Trip for Your Family
When all is said and done, going on an African safari for kids is an unforgettable experience. Not only will you be opening the door to experiencing new cultures but you’ll be encouraging a life of travel and adventure.
However, like anything done with kids, it’s best to research and prepare ahead of time.
Check out our article on What to Know Before Booking an African Vacation to better prepare for your journey.