The desire to see the vast savannahs where wild animals roam free might have put an African safari high on your bucket list. Better yet, if you have recently seen the remake of The Lion King, you might be getting pretty strong hints from your kids. Whatever your motivation, vacationing in Africa with kids is an extraordinary adventure that will leave you with a lifetime of beautiful memories. Understandably, you might have some reservations about taking such a long trip with kids. With proper planning, however, there is no reason why you should not have a successful and exciting vacation.
Here are our top five tips for vacationing in Africa with kids:
1. Consider your Children’s Ages
You might be wondering how old children should be to go on an African Safari. Technically, there is no age limit, but there are a few factors that might influence this. One, some lodges and camps only allow children above the age of six, so confirm with your travel agent before you book. Secondly, if your children are too young, they might find the long flights, bumpy game drives, and the new environment somewhat daunting. The whole family should enjoy the trip, so consider how taking care of small children might impact this. Let your family dynamics guide you into making this decision.
2. Where to Stay
Africa has some of the most luxurious camps and lodges, but you can get accommodation on any budget. Make sure that you get a lodge or camp that has a family room or adjoining rooms. This way, you will have the kids near you at all times. Another benefit of a family-friendly lodge or camp is that it will likely have child-friendly meals. Some hotels will have a children’s playroom that can keep the kids busy for an hour or two in between activities. A lodge with a watering hole is a bonus as you can watch the animals from the comfort of your veranda during lazy afternoons or early evenings.
3. Means of Transport
During your vacation, especially in the game reserves, you will travel utilizing safari jeeps. These can either be shared or private. It is crucial that you get a private safari vehicle for your family. While this may cost slightly more, it will afford you some freedoms that you will not have in a shared car. For instance, a shared vehicle needs to stay on a set schedule. If you are using a private jeep, you can arrange to have shorter game drives to avoid tiring out the kids, especially if they are young. You can take as long as you like on spots that you find interesting. Most importantly, you don’t have to worry about your kids crying, talking or snacking in the presence of strangers.
4. What to do
One of the significant activities that you are likely to do is game drives. While coming face to face with the king of the jungle is exciting, you should plan for other activities as well. This is important to ensure that the kids do not get bored with long game drives. Some of the activities you can arrange include visiting cultural villages, game tracking, bird watching, guided nature walks, swimming and horse riding. Even better, most African countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. You can break the monotony by planning for a beach and bush safari.
5. What to Carry
You do not need to buy any unique clothes for an African Safari. What you pack, though, depends on where you are going and what time of the year/ season it is. Most of Africa has hot/dry and rainy/wet seasons. Contrary to what you have heard, the mornings will be cold, especially on top of a safari jeep at dawn. Pack warm fleece jackets and hats for this. During the day, you can get away with shorts and t-shirts, and long pants/ trousers in the evening. For footwear, a pair of canvas shoes for the outdoors and sandals for the indoors will do. Other essential items include sunglasses, binoculars, prescription medicine, sunscreen and other personal effects.
With proper planning, there is no reason why you should not have a fantastic vacation in Africa with kids. Do your due diligence, and book with a reputable company. Discuss expectations with your children and remind them that wild animals are dangerous and should not be provoked.
Some countries such as Kenya and Tanzania require Yellow Fever vaccinations and Malaria precautions as well. Your travel agent should be able to guide you on this and other requirements. Lastly, keep an open mind and let Africa charm its way into your heart faster than a horse running in the Kentucky Derby odds.