Forget zoos, what could be more exciting to a child than encountering animals in the wild?
A safari is a perfect holiday for the family, because not only will children will be exposed to incredible wildlife but also a vastly different culture, allowing for a fun and educational experience. Imagine your children seeing a magnificent Maasai warrior for the first time or learning to make a fire from wood and stone!
Planning a safari for the whole family can be a daunting experience. Here are our top 10 things to consider before booking:
1. Consider countries in Africa which have more experience in dealing with families such as South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania. These countries have hosted tourists for many years and have all the facilities one would want when travelling with children. That said don’t discount other countries entirely as particular lodges and camps often gear themselves towards families and offer fantastic children’s bush programs.
2. If you want to take the children away during the European / American summer holidays it is generally warm and dry during the African winter months, however, if you want to visit The Cape in South Africa you may be in for some rain and lower temperatures (best from Sept onwards).
3. The peak season for safari is usually June to Oct which is the dry season. That isn’t to say, however, that travel outside of this season doesn’t provide a brilliant safari experience, nor does it rain all day every day. If you are looking to save a few pennies and you are tied to travelling during the European school holidays (ie the peak season), consider visiting South Africa or Namibia which are the exception – having their low season during these months. If you must travel in the December holidays, book early as it is an exceptionally busy and pricey time of year to travel throughout Africa.
4. Flights to East Africa (Kenya and Tanzania) are shorter (around 8 hrs from Europe) so you may want to take this into consideration. Although in saying that, the 11 hr journey to Southern Africa is usually done on an overnight flight and with the time difference either 1 or 2 hours (depending on time of year) there is no jet lag to contend with.
5. Be sure to ask your tour operator whether or not your children can partake on game drives. Some lodges will not allow very young children to partake in shared game drives. You may need to consider a private vehicle or babysitting services. Your tour operator will know the lodges and camps which are child friendly offering specially tailored child-centred activities which will give parents a break and provide endless hours of fun and learning for the children.
6. Ask your tour operator about which countries require vaccinations and malaria tablets. If you are looking for a malaria free safari you will generally only find these within certain parks in South Africa.
7. Plan your itinerary so that you don’t have too long on a safari. If you are away for 2 weeks combine your safari with a beach break in the likes of Mombasa, Zanzibar or Mauritius. Most of the resorts or hotels on the beach offer kid’s clubs, brilliant activities and water sports as well as family rooms.
8. Consider a self-drive holiday through either South Africa or Namibia. This not only saves money but can be quite an adventure, allowing you to visit a number of places and adding to the overall experience. South Africa in particular has a huge diversity of attractions. Not only can you experience an authentic safari but enjoy a beach stay, visit scenic cities such as Cape Town and experience a variety of cultures all within the one trip to the Rainbow Nation.
9. If you have adventurous teenagers to entertain why not consider Zambia’s Victoria Falls? It is known for its adventure activities such as bungee jumping and white water rafting. Following Victoria Falls nothing could be more adventurous than a walking safari in Zambia’s South Luangwa National Park. Namibia may also appeal with adventures such as sand dune surfing.
10. Most importantly find a tour operator or agent that you trust! Safari holidays don’t come cheap and you want to be assured that the agent is fully bonded to ensure peace of mind. As well as this, choose someone that has experience planning family holidays to Africa in order that it is expertly organized. You want to be assured that the holiday will run smoothly and that the destinations / accommodations chosen for you are safe and provide not only entertainment but adequate facilities for children.