Whatever has sparked your interest in taking your family on safari, one thing that is certain is that a little planning goes a long way to ensuring that everyone has a great time and that wonderful memories are created. You might think that the kids will automatically want to go and see the lions and elephants in their natural habitats, but you may be unpleasantly surprised at their lack of enthusiasm after spending two hours in a hot safari jeep – it’s enough to curtail the fun for a grown adult, never mind a bored, tired and thirsty six year old, so plan ahead and that dream holiday will become a reality.
Until recently, family safaris were often designed with children aged from about twelve years old and up in mind. Thankfully, many safari operators are beginning to see the benefits of involving families with younger children and you will now find camps and safaris that are designed with younger children in mind. Some have kids clubs to give the children something to do on camp relating to bushcraft, the local culture and wildlife, thus giving them some down-time from being out in the hot car; but it can also give the adults and interested older children the chance to go and experience some safari activities that they might otherwise be unable to with younger children in tow.
Some family-friendly safari operators and parks have also started to provide safari trails that are aimed specifically at children, either younger ones or all ages, allowing them to really feel part of the experience, which can be hard when it seems that everything is pitched to the bigger people! In these experiences, children tend to set the tone and pace of the expedition. If they want to stop to inspect some elephant poo or spend a while watching an army of antlions go about their business, then that is totally cool. It also encourages the adults to see nature from a completely different perspective, instead of worrying about finding the Big Five or trying to capture the perfect snapshot. These child-centred trails are led by guides who are passionate about providing a rich and educational experience for children. Guides will normally be locals; the African people live in a family-orientated society that is incredibly inclusive of children, so you can be sure that your children are well taken care of.
Some top tips (more can be found here) – for ensuring a smooth and trouble-free family safari holiday include:
* Booking with a reputable tour operator.
* Ideally book to visit an area that is classed as malaria-free, especially if it is your first safari; if you’d prefer not to do this, then make sure that you are all inoculated and take any regular medication that you are instructed to whilst in Africa.
* Keep plenty of drinks and snacks to hand when out on safari, avoid salty snacks as they increase dehydration and dehydrated children are grumpy, loud children – the last thing you want is the added stress of grumbling tourists complaining about the temper tantrum your little one is having!
* Pack each child their own special backpack that is filled with interesting things to help pass the time when in the car, but also to enhance their experience once they’re out of it – think paper and crayons for rubbings; magnifying glasses; collection pots or bags for interesting, non-poisonous finds; a small African wildlife guidebook; a disposable or cheap digital camera for them to take their own wildlife pictures; small toys etc. Don’t weigh them down with heavy drinks bottles or packed lunches – if you want as care-free an experience as possible, then you should do most of the heavy lifting, especially when the children are small.
* Try to factor in some chill time at camp, ideally you would be on a camp that has a pool and other interesting activities on site so that if it all gets too much for the little ones, you can kick back and relax for a bit. Who says you need to be out on safari every single day?
When planning your family safari trip, the first port of call will probably be to use a search engine to look at various options regarding packages, campsites and operators; you may also read through numerous consumer travel sites (like tripadvisor.co.uk) for advice and tips from other travellers about the best places to go – this is a really good idea because you’ll be able to find out about those little-known gems that might otherwise have been overlooked.
Regardless of the type of holiday you choose, be it DIY or package, sites like Safari Consultants offer expert knowledge and advice to help you book a holiday the whole family will remember for years to come.