An African safari offers all ages the opportunity to embrace nature and wildlife by the most incredible means and our tips for planning the best family safari on the continent offer ideas that can seem exciting and, at first, a little daunting as you consider your trip.
From picking where to go to how long your journey should be to safety and comfort concerns, planning your family safari with kids perfectly is key. Understanding everyone's wants and needs, while also managing expectations, can help create the right balance for your African safari vacation with children.
These seven tips will prepare you to work with your safari specialist to create an African safari vacation that you and your family will never forget.
Some trips bring exactly what you and your family are expecting, but a safari will surprise you in many ways. Their lure begins with unexpected thrills, as one never really knows what adventure lies around each corner.
But where to start? Different ideas of what to expect from each family member and an array of locations to choose from may make the planning process seem a little overwhelming. This is one trip where working with a safari specialist is the best path forward.
When wondering how to plan an African safari, consider the expertise and shared thrill that such an expert will bring to the planning process. One of the many reasons to work with a safari specialist includes the fact that they will listen to your family’s wish list, consider personal factors such as the ages of all involved or time constraints, and other smaller details you believe will make your safari just perfect.
Moving forward and knowing that your well-crafted, once-in-a-lifetime experience is in capable hands will leave a positive mark on each family member for years to come.
Learn more: How to Plan Your Trip in 3 Easy Steps
A family safari in Africa is an adventure, full of excitement, and whether you are a small family of three or a multi-generational group, there is much to consider when planning such a vacation beyond the top safari countries to visit or the best time to go on an African safari. While sharing this adventure with your little one may sound amazing, it is important to note that most safari lodges and camps only allow children aged 10, 12, 16, or older, while others might accommodate younger kids, but only permit older children on game drives.
Safety of all in the vehicle and at the lodge is a top priority and part of the discipline on a game drive is to be able to sit quietly and practice patience when searching for wildlife. Consider the stunning locations in game reserves and parks and you will see that some lodges are perched on rocky mountainsides, while others have tented accommodations scattered along a windy, rocky pathway. The tranquil African bush certainly can be shared with everyone. However, some younger folks may find this remote, peaceful setting not quite right for them.
Likewise, traveling with grandparents requires certain logistical considerations, such as distance from your room to the main lodge area, as well as getting from one place to another comfortably. The best African safaris for families could mean that if your children are too small to go on a game drive, perhaps remaining back at the lodge with a grandparent willing to sit this one out, you get to go out and explore, knowing everyone is in good hands back at camp.
The attention span of younger safari-goers can be short, so encouraging them to engage in your planning goes a long way. Start a discussion with younger members of your family regarding the destination and what to expect, establishing whether this style of exploring and embracing a wild environment would work for them. Perhaps they are interested in the different types of safaris to experience or eager to learn what to expect during a day on safari. Explore what they have heard about Africa, share what the word safari means, and find out what it is they expect to get out of this incredible adventure. These conversations are all important and fun.
Helping children understand the difference between seeing animals in a zoo and out on safari is helpful, and talking about how to behave in the bush is a great idea. Perhaps create an initial checklist and get them excited about searching for those animals on their game drive or junior tracker’s experience. Bearing in mind the flight to Africa will be long, encourage children to include books, activities, and even a tablet to tackle those hours spent in the air.
Once you have established that everyone is on board, take a moment to consider the age of your children and work out how many days you feel you could comfortably spend out in the wild. Start to educate them and get them excited with discussions about Africa, its animals, and the landscape they will be traversing, sharing online videos or following a live safari from various game reserves. Getting to learn about the fascinating wildlife and understanding their habits and habitats is enjoyable for the entire family.
The different types of safari accommodations in Africa can cater to young explorers, starting in the kitchen, embracing the nearby bush, and extending out to discover more of their surroundings, with options for older children to partake in more interactive activities. Some properties have dedicated kids’ clubs where children get creative.
A family African safari offers diverse activities beyond game drives. These can include candle making, learning traditional dancing to the beat of a drum, or baking cookies with a chef. A short time out on a safari bumble gives young adventurers the chance to track spoor, which they would have learned about in their keepsake journal, back at camp.
For teens, there may be the opportunity to venture out and enjoy horseback riding, cultural interactions, short walking safaris, or even gorilla trekking, which is often possible for travelers over age 16. Every activity can add a thrilling element to an already captivating adventure and offer an incredible learning experience.
Mobile camping offers the chance to move from park to park, the different environments staving away any possible boredom and introducing new and exciting elements each day. Combine the game drives with adrenalin activities like ziplining, kayaking, or treetop canopy tours to get an overall adventure.
Whether with young children or teens, a good guide can capture your child’s attention and pique their interest. Even if you don’t happen to see a lion on a game drive, they can explain smaller sightings, such as insects and grasses. Being out in the open, under the warm African sun, a silence to calm the soul is healthy and refreshing.
Your safari specialist can help ensure your children are kept busy and entertained when at the safari lodge. It is also good to ensure the lodges you stay at have great family rooms or tents for you and your family, as well as the option to hire a private guide and vehicle if you can. There is a safari circuit to suit all ages and we can help you explore them all.
Some families find themselves with limited days to work with, while others might have several weeks. How many days you have to enjoy a safari can determine the type of trip you book and where, taking into consideration the distance to Africa, whether you are just looking to do a safari, or if you will be extending your adventure to include some downtime on a nearby beach or in a must-see city.
Consider the number of days you feel comfortable with being out in the bush, how many game drives would be perfect for you, and if traveling long distances over several days is something you and your family could do. East African safaris are different from southern African safaris, with longer drives between parks and the focus mostly only on safari. From considering the children’s ages and knowing how long they can be comfortable away from home to accounting for the things that affect a safari’s cost, you can decide just how long to be away.
It is essential to consider a variety of factors when determining the ideal location for your African adventure and picking the perfect place may seem a little challenging at first. Perhaps the sole purpose of your trip is to go on a safari with an unlimited number of days in a destination and travel time between each park or lodge is not a concern, or you may be interested in visiting our top places for an African safari.
Consider that in East Africa the focus is mainly on game viewing. Closed 4x4 safari vehicles are often utilized, with a pop-up roof providing the space to stand and admire the abundance of wildlife across the many parks and reserves. In southern Africa, game drives are done in open 4x4 vehicles, with opportunities for short walking safaris often an option.
Perhaps you have decided on your preferred country or region for your adventure and now you need to look at accommodation and activities. Many lodges in southern Africa, especially, cater perfectly to family safaris. Working with your travel specialist to discover which lodges or camps offer children's clubs or activities suited to teens may be your determining factor.
Options to connect to post-safari activities, such as city escapes or beach breaks, are easily done in East and Southern Africa, with a slight advantage given to South Africa. With excellent connection routes to urban and coastal add-ons, you can create a trip that engages all attention spans.
Choosing your ideal safari destination is made easier when working with a safari specialist, as they will ask relevant questions to obtain your desired experience. Knowing as much about what you are looking for guides your safari expert to search for parks or reserves, properties or camps that will work well for you and your family. Every detail is considered and open discussions are welcomed during the planning process and beyond.
Learn more: East Africa Travel Guide • Southern Africa Travel Guide
As you plan for your flight, you will want to consider having your child’s favorite electronic device, as well as books, games, and coloring-in material, all small and neat enough to fit into your carry-on luggage.
For everyone in your family, you will want good walking shoes, khaki or neutral items of clothing, a camera, and a pair of binoculars. A journal is always fun too, with the option for children to write a list of what animals they see or in which to keep the check-off list provided by your lodge.
Bigger board games and bulky electronics should be left behind, and encourage them not to pack too many clothes as traveling light makes the journey more enjoyable. Your younger child may wish to share their safari experience with their favorite stuffy, so bring it along on your adventure for your child’s extra comfort.
Learn more: What to Bring on an African Safari
An African safari has to be considered one of the most magical and exciting vacations. No matter what age, the thrill is real for everyone, and creating memories of wildlife experiences as a family is truly special.
There are so many options to choose from when it comes to countries and lodges, length of stay and combination ideas, and your Zicasso safari specialist will work with you in planning it all. Our African safari travel guide has information on where to go, what to do, when to visit, and more to help you start your family adventure. You can also use our ideas from our African safaris and vacations before speaking with a local specialist.