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7 Tips to Plan A Perfect Family African Safari

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Mother and kids on African safari enjoying elephants at watering hole

Timbavati Game Reserve, South Africa

Taking your family on an African safari offers all ages the opportunity to embrace nature and wildlife by the most incredible means imaginable.  These seven tips will help you think through the many details to build a foundation for your safari experience.

The idea may seem both exciting and, at first, a little daunting as you start to plan. From picking where to go to how long your journey should be to safety and comfort concerns, planning this vacation perfectly is key.

These tips will prepare you to work with your safari specialist to create an African safari vacation that you will never forget.

  1. 1. Connect With a Safari Specialist
  2. 2. Consider Your Family
  3. 3. Prepare Your Family for What’s Ahead
  4. 4. Explore your Safari Options
  5. 5. Decide the Length of Your Trip
  6. 6. Determine Your Destination
  7. 7. Pack Carefully
  8. How to Get Your Safari Plans Started

1. Connect With a Safari Specialist

Bush breakfast while on family safari in Kenya

Maasai Mara, Kenya

Some trips bring exactly what you and your family are expecting, but a safari will surprise you in many ways. The lure of a safari begins with the 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 professional safari specialist is the best path forward.

When wondering where to start, consider the expertise and shared thrill that a safari specialist will bring to the planning process. Your travel specialist will listen to your family’s safari wish list, consider personal factors such as the ages of all involved or time constraints, and other smaller details that 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.

Related: How to Plan Your Trip in 3 Easy Steps

2. Consider Your Family

Two kids photographing elephants in Kruger National Park, South Africa

Kruger National Park, South Africa

Sharing an African safari adventure with your whole family is exciting, and whether you are a small family of three or a multi-generational group, there is much to consider when planning such a vacation. 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 of 10, 12, even 16 years of age, or older at their property, 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 mountain sides while others have tented accommodations scattered along a windy, rocky pathway perhaps. 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 added bonus is 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, means you get to go out and explore, knowing everyone is in good hands back at camp.

3. Prepare Your Family for What’s Ahead

Kenyan guides on bush walk with kids in Kenya

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya. Photo courtesy of Sirikoi

The attention span of younger safari-goers can be short so encouraging them to engage in your safari planning goes a long way. Start a discussion with younger members of your family regarding the destination and what to expect when there, establishing whether this style of exploring and embracing a wild environment would work for them. Explore what they have heard about Africa, explore what the word safari means to them, and what it is that they expect to get out of this incredible adventure. These conversations are all very important and very fun questions to ask.

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 understand their habits and habitats is enjoyable for the entire family.

4. Explore your Safari Options

Teen horseback riders ride horses in morning near masai giraffe at the lewa wildlife conservancy in north kenya

Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, Kenya

Certain lodges in Africa cater for 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 a dedicated Kid’s Club where children get creative. Activities vary but can include candle making, learning traditional dancing to the beat of a drum, or baking cookies with the 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 to the experience. Combine the game drives with adrenalin activities like zip-lining, 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 around you. Being out in the open, under a warm African sun, a silence to calm the soul is both healthy and refreshing.

Your safari specialist can help ensure that 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 and 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.

5. Decide the Length of Your Trip

Mother and daughter in safari tent

African safari tent

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 time to get 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 Africa safaris are different from southern African safaris, with longer drives between parks and the focus mostly only on safari. Children’s ages are to be considered too, and knowing how long they can be comfortably away from home will help you decide just how long to be away.

6. Determine Your Destination

Two kids on safari watching an elephant in Chobe National Park, Botswana

Chobe National Park, Botswana

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 the number of days in destination unlimited and travel time between each park or lodge not a concern. You may prefer a malaria-free zone, or based on the timing of your vacation this may not be necessary.

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 to discover 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 both east and southern Africa, with a slight advantage given to South Africa. With excellent connection routes to both 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 safari 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, you can create your dream adventure in Africa. Every detail is considered, and open discussions are welcomed during the planning process and beyond.

Related: Why Choose Botswana | Why Choose South Africa | Why Choose Tanzania | Why Choose Kenya

7. Pack Carefully

Two kids on dressed for and African safari

Two kids on dressed for and African safari

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 every one in your family, you will want good walking shoes, khaki or neutral items of clothing perhaps, a camera and a pair of binoculars solely for their use. A journal is always fun too, with the option for children to write a list of what animals they see or to put the check-off list provided by their lodge into for safe keeping.

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 African adventure for your child’s extra comfort.

Related: What to Bring on an African Safari

How to Get Your Safari Plans Started

Brother and sister on sitting a tree swing at Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya

Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya

An African safari has to be considered one of the most magical and exciting vacations and adventures out there. No matter what age, the thrill is real for everyone and sharing this with your children, 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. Get started by filling out a Trip Request or by calling our team at 1-888-265-9707.

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