A trip to Africa with the children? Why not! You will be providing them with memories that will last a lifetime. For the best advice, let’s go to expert Anouk Zijlma, safari specialist, African Portfolio, who has sent hundreds of families on African safaris.
Where to go?
Zijlma suggests the smaller private wildlife parks in South Africa, especially for families with young children. Several of the lodges here have comfortable accommodations, pools and buffet lunches and dinners. She adds South Africa’s Garden Route and Eastern Cape have beaches near the game parks, a win-win for parents and kids.
Zijlma says the Northern Circuit in Tanzania, which includes the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, may be the best safari experience in Africa. Add on a beach vacation in Zanzibar for a fun family trip. Family trips to Botswana and Kenya are other good choices.
How old should children be?
Many safari companies have age restrictions so ask up front when deciding which tour to take. Wild animals roam near and in camps. It’s not unknown to find a lion sleeping on your porch in the early morning or monkeys climbing through open windows.
Many tour operators are concerned about small children sitting in the back of an open safari vehicle. Keeping quiet on game drives is important and young kids get bored easily. Canoeing and walking safaris aren’t appropriate for young children.
Zijlma suggests waiting until children are 8 years old, so they can fully appreciate the experience. She adds that families with children under the age of 12 are best with an independently booked and planned safari, rather than going on a group tour. Stay in a family-oriented lodge that has special game drives for children or babysitting for the toddlers while parents are on a drive.
Tips to Keep Children Interested
Zijlma offers these suggestions for keeping children interested. Buy each child a camera. (If they use their phone to take pictures they may also play games and not watch for animals.) Bring enough binoculars so they can use them, too. Award points or prizes for spotting wildlife. Ask the lodge for animal and bird checklists, so the children can mark off what they see.
Companies with Family Tours
These companies have experience setting up tours for families. They have set routes and lodges, but are skilled in individualizing tours. Natural Habitat Adventures has a Botswana safari guided by naturalists and families stay in tented bush camps. Austin Adventures has a multisport safari in South Africa. Intrepid Travel has a Tanzania and Zanzibar family safari.