[email protected]

What Age is Best for Safari with Kids?

If you’re dreaming of taking your family on the ultimate wildlife adventure – an African safari – you may be wondering what age is best for your kids to have a safe, educational, and thrilling experience. While safaris can be an incredible way for children to connect with nature and learn about the world, it’s important to consider their age, maturity level, and your family’s individual needs. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore what to expect on a family safari and provide tips for choosing the optimal age and destination for your unforgettable journey.

What Age is Best for Safari with Kids?

The ideal age for taking children on safari depends on several factors, including their attention span, physical stamina, and ability to follow safety rules. Here are some general age guidelines to consider:

Infants and Toddlers (0-3 years)

  • Most safari lodges and camps have a minimum age requirement, typically 6 or 12 years old
  • Very young children may find long game drives challenging due to limited attention spans
  • Safety concerns with wild animals and rough terrain make safaris less suitable for babies and toddlers
  • Some camps offer specialized “bush baby” programs for toddlers with shorter activities and childcare

Preschoolers and Young Children (4-7 years)

  • Children this age can start to appreciate wildlife but may still have limited attention spans
  • Choosing a family-friendly camp with engaging ranger programs is key
  • Flexible scheduling and downtime for naps is important
  • Safety is still a top priority, so constant adult supervision is necessary
  • Best suited for shorter, less remote safaris in kid-friendly destinations like South Africa or Kenya

School-Age Children (8-12 years)

  • Most children this age can enjoy a full safari experience with some age-appropriate accommodations
  • Have the focus and stamina for longer game drives and nature walks
  • Can participate in “junior ranger” programs to learn tracking, animal identification, and bush skills
  • Able to better understand and follow safety rules around animals and camp
  • Ready for a wider variety of safari destinations and activities like canoeing, fishing, or visiting local villages

Teenagers (13+ years)

  • Teenagers can fully engage in all aspects of a safari
  • Have the patience and attention span to appreciate rarer wildlife sightings
  • Can go on longer, more adventurous game drives and walking safaris
  • Able to join adults for meals and campfire stories, absorbing cultural knowledge
  • May enjoy the challenge of photographing animals and landscapes
  • Independent enough to safely occupy themselves at camp during downtime

Ultimately, you know your child’s personality, interests and limitations best. Some mature 6-year-olds may do wonderfully on safari, while some energetic 10-year-olds may struggle with the patience required. Use your best judgment and work with a knowledgeable safari outfitter to plan an age-appropriate itinerary.

Choosing a Family-Friendly Safari Destination

Once you’ve determined your children are at a good age for safari, the next step is picking a destination that caters well to families. Here are some of the best safari countries for families:

South Africa

  • Home to many malaria-free reserves, a top concern for families
  • Wide range of lodges with interconnected family suites and dedicated children’s programs
  • Easily combines with coastal cities, beaches, and landmarks like Table Mountain and Cape Point
  • Best for first-time safari-goers and families with younger children

Kenya

  • Offers both lodge-based and tented camp safaris catering to children
  • Iconic parks like the Maasai Mara are great for spotting the “Big 5”
  • Many lodges have swimming pools, family-friendly meals, and on-site naturalists
  • Combines well with beach stays on the Indian Ocean coast
  • Best for families seeking a classic East African safari with diverse cultural opportunities

Tanzania

  • Home to famous parks like the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater
  • Some camps have family tents and dedicated children’s activities
  • Opportunities to interact with Maasai communities and learn traditional crafts
  • Can be combined with beach time in Zanzibar
  • Best suited for families with older children due to more remote camps and longer drives

Botswana

  • Known for very authentic, immersive wilderness safaris
  • Select camps in the Okavango Delta welcome children as young as 6
  • Activities include game drives, nature walks, fishing, boating, and meerkat encounters
  • Malaria-free Kalahari reserves are great for kids
  • Best for adventurous families with older children and bigger budgets

Namibia

  • A great option for self-drive safaris in well-equipped rental vehicles
  • Etosha National Park has excellent game viewing and accessible lodges
  • Unique desert landscapes are educational and beautiful
  • Opportunities to track desert-adapted elephants and visit Himba communities
  • Best for independent families seeking a more unusual, hands-on safari

When choosing a destination, consider working with a safari specialist to identify camps and lodges best suited for your children’s ages and interests. Look for family-friendly amenities like interconnected rooms, kids’ menus, swimming pools, specialized activities, and childcare. Many camps offer discounted rates for children, so price out different options.

Tips for a Successful Family Safari

No matter what age your children are, careful planning and preparation are key to a smooth safari. Here are tips to set your family up for success:

Health and Safety

  • Consult a travel doctor about necessary vaccinations and medications, especially for malaria
  • Pack child-friendly insect repellent, sunscreen, hats, and layers for chilly mornings
  • Explain safety rules about not approaching, feeding, or startling wildlife
  • Ensure everyone stays hydrated and protected from the strong sun
  • Remind kids to always stay within eyesight and obey their ranger’s instructions

Packing and Gear

  • Choose versatile layering pieces in neutral, breathable fabrics
  • Pack light as most camps offer laundry service
  • Bring small entertainment for long drives like coloring books, games, and tablets
  • Pack child-sized binoculars and cameras to engage kids in spotting wildlife
  • Include familiar snacks and creature comforts like a beloved stuffed animal

Managing Expectations

  • Set realistic expectations that safari involves long periods of quiet observation
  • Discuss the need for patience, as every game drive is different and sightings aren’t guaranteed
  • Explain basic wildlife behavior and ecology ahead of time so kids understand what they’re seeing
  • Talk through the daily camp and game drive routine so kids know what to expect
  • Plan downtime for rest, play, and processing the experience in between game drives

Engaging All Ages

  • Encourage older children and teens to help spot and identify animals, birds and plants
  • Ask your ranger to teach tracking, map reading and bush survival skills
  • Provide sketch pads and journals for recording sightings and impressions
  • Bring a wildlife guidebook and make a game of checking off species
  • Visit a local school, village or market to learn about the human side of the ecosystem

Making Memories

  • Give each child a disposable or instant camera to create their own safari album
  • Designate a family member to be the trip journalist, noting funny quotes and observations
  • Choose a theme animal, like elephants, to collectively learn about and photograph throughout the trip
  • Make a family safari playlist to listen to during long game drives
  • Pick out special souvenirs like animal carvings or Maasai blankets to remember the experience

By thoughtfully choosing your destination, outfitter and camp, preparing your children, and embracing the adventure as a family, a safari can be an unforgettable way to bond and grow together while discovering the wonders of the natural world.

Key Takeaways

  • The ideal age for safari depends on a child’s maturity, stamina, and ability to follow safety rules
  • Children under 6 may be too young, while ages 8+ can enjoy most safari activities with some adaptations
  • Family-friendly safari destinations include South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, and Namibia
  • Look for camps and lodges with amenities like family rooms, kids’ programs, swimming pools, and childcare
  • Prepare carefully by discussing safety, packing smart, managing expectations, and engaging kids in the experience
  • With planning and flexibility, a family safari can be a profound way to appreciate nature and bond as a family

Conclusion

An African safari is an extraordinary opportunity for families to unplug, connect with each other and the natural world, and create lifelong memories. By assessing your family’s needs, choosing a kid-friendly destination and camp, and involving your children in the safari experience, you can design the perfect educational adventure for your crew. With a bit of preparation and an open mind, a family safari can be a fun, safe, and enriching experience for everyone from wide-eyed toddlers to worldly teens. So go ahead and start dreaming up your ultimate family safari – the lions, elephants, and endless horizons await!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is the minimum age for children to go on safari?
    While it varies by camp and country, most safaris set a minimum age of 6-12 years old for game drives, with some offering shortened “mini-drives” for younger children.

  2. Are safaris safe for kids?
    Safaris are generally very safe for kids as long as basic safety rules are followed, like always listening to the guide, staying in the vehicle on game drives, and not wandering around camp unattended.

  3. What should I pack for a family safari?
    Pack versatile layered clothing in neutral colors, a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, insect repellent, binoculars, camera, and any essential medications. Don’t forget a few creature comforts for kids like small toys and snacks.

  4. How long do game drives typically last?
    Game drives usually last 2-4 hours in the early morning and late afternoon when animals are most active. All-day drives with a packed lunch are sometimes offered. Drives are broken up with bathroom breaks and snack stops.

  5. What is the best time of year for a family safari?
    The dry season (June-October) is generally best for spotting wildlife, but the shoulder seasons can also be good for families, with cooler weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices. The best time ultimately depends on your destination and priorities.

  6. How much does a family safari cost?
    Safari costs vary widely depending on the country, camp, season, and length of stay. On average, expect to pay $300-1000+ per person per night, with discounted children’s rates at some camps. Budget for flights, tips, travel insurance, and gear as well.

  7. Can children go on walking safaris?
    Most walking safaris have a minimum age of 12-16 due to safety concerns. However, some camps offer shorter “nature walks” suitable for younger children, always accompanied by an armed guide.

  8. What health precautions should I take for my family before safari?
    Visit a travel clinic to get any necessary vaccinations and medications, particularly malaria prophylaxis if visiting an affected area. Pack child-safe insect repellent and sunscreen, and ensure everyone stays well-hydrated on safari.

  9. What types of animals will we see on safari?
    The animals you see will depend on your destination, but common sightings include elephants, lions, leopards, buffalos, rhinos, giraffes, zebras, hippos, hyenas, wild dogs, monkeys, and countless antelope and bird species.

  10. How close do you get to the animals on safari?
    While it depends on the animal and situation, safari vehicles often get remarkably close to wildlife, sometimes within a few meters. Guides are experts at reading animal behavior and keeping a safe distance.

  11. What is the accommodation like on a family safari?
    Family safari lodges range from rustic tented camps to luxurious villas with private plunge pools. Many offer family rooms or interconnected tents, kids’ menus, swimming pools, and special children’s activities.

  12. Are there age restrictions for certain safari activities?
    Yes, activities like walking safaris, fly camping, horseback riding, and certain cultural visits may have age minimums for safety reasons, typically starting at 12-16 years old. Confirm age policies with your camp before booking.

  13. Can we self-drive a family safari or do we need a guide?
    While some destinations like South Africa and Namibia lend themselves to self-drive safaris, guided safaris are recommended for most first-time visitors and families. Guides keep you safe, help spot animals, and share invaluable knowledge.

  14. What should I do if my child gets bored or tired on safari?
    Bring along small toys, coloring books, and digital entertainment for downtime. Don’t be afraid to take breaks or opt-out of game drives if kids need rest. Many camps offer pools, board games, and chill-out areas for relaxing between drives.

  15. Are there family-friendly cultural activities in addition to game drives? Absolutely! Many safari itineraries include opportunities to visit local villages, schools, and markets, take cultural tours, learn traditional crafts, and interact with indigenous communities in a respectful way. These experiences can be very educational for kids.

  16. What is a typical day like on a family safari?
    A typical day starts with an early morning game drive, followed by a hearty breakfast back at camp. Midday is spent relaxing, napping, swimming, or doing optional activities. After afternoon tea, head out for an evening game drive, returning for dinner and campfire stories under the stars.

  17. Can we request specific foods or accommodate picky eaters?
    Most camps are very accommodating of dietary needs and preferences, including picky eaters. Notify your camp of any requests or allergies in advance. Many offer dedicated children’s menus with familiar options alongside milder local dishes.

  18. How far in advance should I book a family safari?
    For the best selection of family-friendly camps and activities, it’s recommended to start planning your safari 6-12 months in advance, especially if traveling during peak season or school holidays. Last-minute bookings are sometimes possible, but options may be more limited.

  19. What should I tell my children about safety around wild animals?
    Emphasize that while wild animals are beautiful to observe, they can be unpredictable and dangerous if approached. Teach children to always stay close to adults, never wander off alone, keep their voices down, and avoid sudden movements that could startle animals. Ensure kids understand the importance of following their guide’s instructions at all times.

  20. Are there any safari discounts or special packages for families?
    Yes, many safari camps and tour operators offer discounted rates for children sharing a room with their parents, as well as special family packages that may include extra activities, babysitting services, or private vehicles. Some camps periodically offer “kids stay free” promotions or family-themed weeks with additional children’s programming. Work with a knowledgeable safari specialist to identify the best deals for your needs and budget.

Leave a Comment