Africa, without a doubt, is host to some of the most amazing destinations for family vacations. In the great wilderness, children can get up close and personal with the animals they’ve only before seen on their favorite cartoons, be in touch with nature and have fun learning about a new culture.
If you’re thinking of planning a safari for your next family adventure, the team at BookAllSafaris.com is sharing some useful things to consider, to help you have an amazing experience in Africa. As a bonus, we’ve handpicked and included three options that we think you and your children would both enjoy.
Choosing a destination
Having a great experience during a safari for families can depend a lot on choosing the appropriate destination. When making a decision, be sure to take your children’s age into account. For example, South Africa is an excellent choice for children under eight.
Have children that are slightly older (8 to 12)? Consider a family safari which includes guided walks. At this age, children can learn basic tracking skills and exploring nature by foot is a great experience for them.
If you have teens (13-18), you need to consider safaris with a lot of activities included, such as guided game drives, walking, horseback riding, boating or cycling.
Choosing the best time to go
In most of southern Africa, the peak safari travel period is during the dry season (May to November). This is when you can spot the wildlife as it comes to water and the vegetation would less likely be. Plus, this season coincides wit the western hemisphere’s school children’s summer vacation!
If you’re planning to head to countries with excellent infrastructure, such as South Africa and Namibia, you can go year round as there’s always something in season. East Africa is another place where you can go anytime of the year.
Peak season for Tanzania and Kenya is during the Christmas vacation. But if you want to see the wildebeest migration, it’s best to plan your trip between June and September.
If you decide to go during the rainy season, you are likely to spot more baby animals, which children usually enjoy observing. This makes the Easter break a good option for a family safari, too.
Research on activities which allow your children to really get up close and personal with nature. Watching a lion sleep in the sun is not as exciting as being able to lure an ant-lion from its pit with a blade of grass.
Safaris, in general, are quite passive. And children can become bored a lot easier than adults. Make sure there are some activities available to “burn off” all that energy. A swimming pool at the lodge is a great idea. Even putting up a tent or a campfire can keep them busy and engaged.
Self-drive safaris offer the ultimate freedom when it comes to the family needs. Surely, it can only be done in places where the infrastructure – and the parks’ rules – allow for it. If this is something that you’re interested in doing with your family, South Africa and Namibia are excellent choices.
In the countries where self-driving isn’t an option – such as Zambia, Tanzania or Botswana, private safaris are the best way to ensure freedom. The itinerary is shaped around your needs, tastes, and preferences. You will have an experienced guide and you are free to explore the nature at your own pace. If these choices are too pricey for your budget, you can “team up” with another family and split the cost.
Learning during a safari
Many lodges offer Junior Ranger programs in which children take guided walks and learn how to track animals. This allows children to get a better understanding of the wildlife and its environment, as well as the importance of preserving it.
Other lodges offer programs centered on the local culture, where children play traditional games, for example. And they can even learn astronomy by pick up constellations in the unpolluted sky.
Staying Healthy & Safe
The major concern when it comes to visiting Africa is malaria. It is important to remember to use insect repellent and treat your clothes with bug spray. Also, remember to take your malaria pills before and after the trip. It is, however, recommended for families with children under the age of 8 to avoid countries which still have a risk of malaria.
Another health or safety concern to look out for is the water. Unfortunately, Africa doesn’t have the best drinking water and diseases can easily be transmitted through it. But this shouldn’t be a huge issue as your safari tour operators would usually have bottled and filtered water available.
Last but not least, to prevent from getting ill during the trip, make sure that you and your children have all the necessary vaccinations done well in advance.
Cris Puscas is a contributing writer at BookAllSafaris.com. An avid hiker and passionate landscape photographer, she believes that all animals should be protected and loved.