Going on safari is an incredible experience, so it makes perfect sense to enjoy it with the people closest to you. A safari might not be the first trip that springs to mind when thinking of a traditional family holiday but as safaris continue to evolve, the family safari is becoming ever more popular.
Of course everyone’s family is different; parents, children, grandparents, aunties, teenagers, grown up children, cousins, fiancé’s, throw some friends in there, no you can’t bring the dog. Multi-generations, best friends families, or just groups of totally unrelated friends. The only buy in its that everyone is excited to go on a safari. From there it’s important to recognise that everyone’s expectations will be different.
A safari is an amazing adventure for anyone, but especially children. Grown ups will often say how they gaze in childlike wonder at the wildlife and landscapes they see on safari. Having the opportunity to see elephants, lions, hippos and flamingoes at a young age is exceptional. Fortunately, not every kid who goes on a safari is going to grow up to be a safari guide, but for me, it really did change my life. Meeting and absorbing new cultures is particularly enriching for children. The people you meet on safari are super friendly and will always go out of their way to make your children smile and keep them entertained.
Another thing that grown ups ponder is whether children are old enough to appreciate something like a safari. Parents are of course best positioned to know this, but in my humble opinion I also think that children are a lot more perceptive and appreciative than we sometimes think.
Safari camps do have age restrictions. Some of them even don’t allow children at all. Generally it’s around 7 years old, but there are more camps now that are lowering this and trying to appeal to younger families. Safety is a serious consideration, age limits for activities like bush walks are often older, in the region of 12 years and up. Safari camps are mostly unfenced, wildlife wonders through, snakes, spiders and scorpions are around. Well supervised, children’s natural curiosity can provide hours of rewarding fun just in and around camp. Lots of camps now have large family rooms, conjoined rooms or even whole suites catering specifically for families. Parents can have the piece of mind of being right next door, or indeed at the other end of camp!
Yes, people go on safari pregnant. In this case and for small children, malaria needs to be taken very seriously and we strongly recommend talking to your family doctor, and us, about the risks involved.
More senior folks will share similar concerns when it comes to comfort and safety. The way the safari is designed is really important. No one wants to spend hours and hours in a hot dusty vehicle on a bumpy road. Least of all if you have frustrated children or a sore back. This applies to game drives, which should be kept short and sweet, but also travelling between destinations, which should be kept to a minimum. The effects of the African sun, sunburn, heatstroke, dehydration, are particularly pertinent for our younger and older folks.
Flexibility is the key. I encourage families and larger groups to consider privately guided safaris. This means that myself or another private guide will design your safari with you and then be there with you for the journey. Privately guided safaris can use private safari vehicles, charter flights and private or exclusively booked safari camps. If grandma and grandpa want to go out for a leisurely boat cruise with the hippos, while the ladies go looking for leopards on a game drive, and the boys want to track lions on a bush walk, we can do that. With everyone meeting up for a sundowner afterwards for good measure. If someone can’t commit until nearer the time, or someone needs to fly in a few days later, we can make that happen. I am a strong proponent of fewer destinations for longer and this really does apply for family groups. A quick way for everyone’s nerves to be tested is one night here and one night there, packing, unpacking, stuck inside a car. Much better to pick the right place (one or two, three tops) and stay there.
Talk to us about your family safari and read about what other families have done below.