What? Take children on an African safari?
The notion of taking kids on safari may seem both enticing and impractical. You imagine the exciting wildlife encounters, the iconic photographs you’ll take, the quality time spent with family and the lifelong memories you all will cherish. Then your kid throws a tantrum at the supermarket and you reconsider, thinking “If we can’t get through 30 minutes of shopping how are we going to survive a safari in Africa?” It can seem insurmountable. However, the question you should be asking is “Is it worth the challenge?” And to that, I can tell you that the answer is: “Yes, without a doubt”!
While this type of family holiday certainly has its challenges, with a little knowledge and preparation, you can all have the trip of a lifetime.
Here are my top 5 tips for taking kids on safari:
1. Choose your destination wisely
For very young children, I believe the number one consideration is diseases and the preventative medicines that are required for protection. After a consultation with your doctor you will be able to make an informed decision on the destination that would best suit your family. Don’t despair, there are many areas in South Africa that are outside of the malaria-zone and are free of tropical diseases, like Rhino River Lodge!
2. Select your accommodation carefully
Self-driving, self-catering safaris may seem a safe option (being able to contain screaming kids in your own private car sounds comforting, I know), but this sort of holiday can be hard work for parents. On the other end of the spectrum, high-end luxury camps aren’t necessarily the most appropriate place to take kids.
- Look for a family friendly establishment and
- Read the reviews to see if people with children have had positive experiences.
- Try to find accommodation with a large range of activities available on-site or close by.
- I also highly recommend booking a camp with a swimming pool which will help you fill those long leisurely hours in-between game drives (and expend extra energy).
3. Slow down
In my opinion long hours in cars, driving between destinations day after day, does not make for a memorable holiday for little ones, or for adults for that matter. Be realistic about your expectations. When you are at your destination don’t expect to be able to (or for your kids to want to) join in on every available activity. Give yourself enough time at each destination to be able to enjoy all aspects of the safari and not feel like you are missing out if your kids want to skip a game drive. Personally, I think the magic number is 3-4 nights per destination depending on your child’s temperament and the number of activities on offer.
4. Start early by engaging your children with the idea and purpose of the trip
Once the trip is booked, start to pique their interest in where you are going and what you will see. Do safari themed arts and crafts. Buy them a children’s guide book to the animals of the area. Take them shopping for their own binoculars or camera and have them start to practice using them beforehand so they are ready when they arrive. Your imagination is the limit on this one.
5. Always be prepared
Yes, you are probably going to have to pack a little heavy for this trip. Many safari locations and game parks are remote and do not have access to the same goods you can buy at home. Bring along anything special your child requires that will make your life easier. This includes anything from medicine to a stash of travel-proof snacks your kids like. The last thing you want is a child crying “I’m hungry” mid-game drive. If your accommodation doesn’t provide a children’s activity packet, then look up some activities on the internet.
Watching your child’s face light up the first time they spot a wild lion or excitement as you track the footprints of a rhino is incomparable. These days, children are more disconnected with nature than ever before. Family holidays that encourage them to connect with the natural world are good for their bodies and souls. You may even find when children disconnect from the digital world they begin reconnecting with their families. So, while at first a safari may seem an unlikely suggestion for a family holiday, the safari experience is about connecting with nature and one another, and is best shared with those you love the most.
Written by Shannon Airton, Mom, Owner and Manager at Rhino River Lodge.