Having tots in tow shouldn’t stop you from having the adventure of a lifetime. In fact, it’s all the more special to share the experience. Taking your children on safari, be they tinies or teens, is incredibly rewarding but requires a little bit more planning than your average family holiday. We’ve seen our own children bowled over by safari, and thought we’d share a few pointers we’ve picked up along the way. You can also check out some of our favourite luxury family safari itinerary ideas by clicking here.
How old should my children be before I take them on safari?
Different camps and activities come with varying age restrictions. Normally we say that by the time children are five or six, they’re old enough to start enjoying the bush. With children of this age, you’ll usually have to hire a private game viewing vehicle for your family, so that you can discover the wilderness at your own speed. For safety reasons, most camps will only offer walking safaris to over 16’s.
Giving children anti-malaria tablets is an understandable consideration for parents. Most safaris fall into malarial areas, with the exception of South Africa, where there are some fantastic non-malarial safaris on the Eastern Cape such as Kwandwe and in Madikwe National Park. Many of the camps here are totally geared up for children, with magnificent “dung safaris”, bug collecting, and face-painting of favourite animals.
If anti-malarial tablets aren’t a consideration, we’d recommend almost any country in Africa. Kenya, Tanzania and Zambia are particularly good bets, but often, it’s more about getting the right camp (there are some knockout options in every country), so just ask us: we’ve visited most of them! If your children are young and easily distracted, try to go somewhere where they’ll see a good volume and variety of game, like the Masai Mara. Consider a camp with a pool, such as Impala Camp in the Selous so they have somewhere to burn off energy in between game drives. Better still, go for somewhere that has a broad selection of activities aimed at children, be it visiting the local village for a game of football with the local children, or helping the chef make cakes in the kitchen, as at Robin Pope Safaris Nkwali Camp in Zambia. Above all, don’t make your safari too long; try to mix it in with something else, whether it's a visit to the marvellous Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, or building sandcastles on the beach in Cape Town (check out our Family Adventure in South Africa).
In our experience, teenagers adore the bush. Even the most jaded London glamour girl, or the most computer-fixated teenage boy can’t help but be wowed by safari. We’ve had countless families plan a safari as a last family holiday before their youngsters flee the nest, and at least one boy who loved it so much he went straight back to Africa on his gap year.
We’d recommend a camp with a good selection of activities; some of the very best are run by people who have brought up their own teenagers in the bush, or grown up in the bush themselves. Check out the marvellous Ol Malo in Kenya, where two generations of Francombes keep guests entertained and full of mischief, or our brilliant Active Africa itinerary which takes in everything from mountain-biking through the South Luangwa to waterskiing on Lake Malawi.
Take over a camp! There are numerous luxury camps, lodges and private safari houses which you can take over as a large family group. This means that you can operate completely at your own pace, coming home when your youngsters have had enough of looking at lions, cater to any number of eating times for meals, and planning adventures specially tailored to your family. There are wonderful safari houses such as Chongwe House in Zambia, private villas such as Morukuru in South Africa and numerous smaller camps across the continent that work beautifully for this.