Safari with children: Kirsty’s top tips

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Kirsty is one of our wonderful Southern Africa experts here at HA. And, with two young children, she’s as clued up about travelling with kids as she is about all things safari. 

Below, she shares her top tips if you’re thinking of heading off on a safari adventure with your own youngsters. 

If you’re considering taking your kids on safari, I say do it! Last year, my husband and I escaped to South Africa (one of my favourite places on earth), for a safari holiday with our two children aged six and eight – and it was magic.

Here are my top tips if you’re thinking of heading off on a safari with small people… there really are few more inspiring experiences you can have together as a family.

Tip 1: Wait until they are 6 years old

If you can manage to, wait. I know it’s a tough ask! But, going on safari with kids will be a much better experience when they are at least 6 years old. Many lodges don’t allow children under 6 on game drives – even in private vehicles!

As incredible and awe-inspiring as they are, game drives are long and there’s never any guarantee of how many animal sightings you’ll be treated to and how frequent they’ll be. (Amazing Africa is unlikely to disappoint on this front though, of course).

Safari with kids

Tip 2: Don’t over do it

A safari is often a once-in-a-lifetime experience. So, it’s tempting to spend as much time as possible in the bush, packing in game drives left, right and centre. However, with the pre-sunrise starts and all that animal-spotting excitement, a safari with kids can get quite tiring. Plus, it’s unlikely that the youngsters are going to let you have a cheeky siesta if it all gets too much in the afternoon.

Two or three nights on safari is a great amount of time with kids. This would give you four or six included activities and plenty of opportunities for pinch-yourself wildlife sightings.

South African Family Holiday

Treat the whole family to all that South Africa has to offer on this 16 day holiday. You’ll explore Cape Town, unwind in the Winelands and enjoy all of the activities on offer on the Garden Route. All before heading to the Eastern Cape for a safari experience you’ll never forget.

Safari with kids

Tip 3: Always be prepared

The weather on safari can be unpredictable. It might be hot, cold, wet or dry – depending on the time of year – so it’s always best to come prepared.

I recommend having sun hats or woolly hats to hand (and even gloves!). Don’t forget to pack a warm wind-proof jacket and a waterproof in case of rain. Driving in open safari trucks before sunrise and after sunset can get a little chilly, even over the summer months.

It’s always a good idea to bring a small backpack on the drives with you so you’re ready, whatever the weather!

Family Namibia

Climb huge orange dunes, kayak in the Atlantic with seals leaping over your boat, watch elephants drinking at waterholes and get unfeasibly close to relatively tame cheetah and leopard. This 15 day Family Namibia itinerary is a dream holiday for young adventurers. Plus, it dodges malaria hotspots, too!

Safari with kids

Tip 4: Dig out the old cameras

Before you leave on your safari holiday, raid through your ‘odd-bits’ cupboard. (I’m convinced everyone has a drawer or a cupboard that becomes the forever-home of many weird and wonderful items you’ll probably never need ever again, but just can’t bear to throw away.)

Dig out those old small digital cameras that you no longer use, charge them up and give them to the children. They’ll love taking their own photos and it’s so nice to sit down together and go through them once you’re home. You could even go old-school, print them and pop them in a real-life album, I highly recommend this!

It’s also worth seeing if you can borrow enough binoculars for all children to have a pair. We found that with a camera and set of binoculars per child there was no squabbling or yells of ”it’s my turn!” every five minutes. 

Safari with kids

Tip 5: Chat about it as a family before you go

The excitement before you go on a big holiday is all part of why we love travels so much. So, definitely take the chance to sit down with your kids to talk about the safari and what to expect.

This is a great time to manage expectations a little! Explain that you’ll be out driving for three to four hours at a time. There will be stops for morning coffee and an evening sundowner, but there is a lot of driving around in between! And, perhaps lightly warn them that they’re unlikely to see a lion around every corner!

I found our kids got genuinely excited about every animal, however big or small. They were much less obsessed about the ‘big 5’ animals compared to the adults! I also made it very clear that they would be expected to keep quiet and sit still when looking at animals – if your child can’t yet sit still, a guided safari may not suit them.

Family Safari in Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls, family-friendly accommodation and pinch-yourself safaris in two of Zimbabwe’s top national parks…

All in all, a safari with kids is such a rewarding experience. Seeing these incredible animals in their natural habitat is always so special, and how amazing to share these moments with your children. If you tick all of the boxes above, you’re sure to have a holiday that you’ll all be talking about for years to come. And the kids will have some ‘wow’ stories to chat about to their friends in the playground once home.

Give me a call on 01242 253 073 or drop me an email at [email protected] if you’re thinking about heading off on a safari adventure with your young family. I’d love to help!

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