Planning a wildlife viewing family safari holiday with kids is one of the best vacation gifts that will fascinate the whole family. From a very early age, children are fascinated by wild animals, and that’s why animated stories with animals get more screenplay in our living rooms and on our ipads. A family safari vacation in Africa’s natural habitats will enthral the children and give them lasting memories vital in saving our future dying natural world.
However, planning a family safari holiday in East Africa is a demanding task that requires a considerable amount of your time and careful consideration of all parts of a journey that involves kids. Safari holidays usually involve travelling long distances, staying in very remote places with limited facilities, long hours in the bush looking for animals, a significant amount of patience, and important but intrusive, demanding safety precautions. These make Africa safari better suited for teenagers and adults.
Nonetheless, with proper planning, you can make the dream of taking your younger kids on an African wilderness adventure come through.
Here are some valuable tips on how to make vacationing in Uganda’s rainforest jungles filled with giant primates or Kenya’s vast savannah wilderness a family-friendly adventure filled with remarkable memories.
Game drives on the African plains viewing wild animals can take long hours sitting in the back of the four-by-four truck. Can you guarantee that your children will not get bored during those long-hour game drives waiting for the next big sighting?
Before you commit to booking a family safari vacation, slowly induct the children into the holiday idea with a day’s visit to a local wildlife park. Or even buying a couple of African wildlife books and watching National Geographic documentaries about Africa’s wild will be great to gauge whether the kids would love the expedition or how much attention to wildlife viewing they can spare on a game drive.
Discuss everyone’s expectations for the safari; it will help you find the right tour operator who will take care of your vacation needs.
If your trip involves air travel, eliminate stress from the get-go by opting for a direct flight. Short layovers when travelling with your children can be unbearable as you hurriedly navigate through unfamiliar airport terminals, searching for food and restrooms.
On the other hand, long layovers generate tiredness and boredom. Taking a direct flight will also help you avoid spending money on airport food and unnecessary shopping purchases.
When planning a family safari vacation in East Africa, you should be aware that although most safari camps and lodges welcome children of (nearly) all ages, some have a minimum age restriction commonly of about 4 to 12 years. If you’re travelling with children below 12 years, make sure your safari manager checks the accommodation’s child policy before confirming your booking.
You’ll find that some safari activities are restrictive to age. For example, gorilla trekking and chimpanzee tracking in Uganda & Rwanda have a minimum age limit of 15 years. Teenagers above 15 will find both activities adrenaline-exciting, which will keep them focused.
However, activities like walking safari, canoeing, nature walks, and community visits are available at most safari vacation camps and would need the parent’s decretion for admittance.
Most safari camps/lodges consider anyone over 12 years of age to be an adult, which is nowhere related to the age restrictions on activities. Therefore, in your family safari vacation budget, consider your children above 12 years to pay for accommodation as adults even if you want them to share the same room with you. Other lodges will offer you a child discount rate only if your child under 12 years is sharing a room with an adult.
Many safari vacation camps have developed family-friendly activity programs, and some have a dedicated guide for children’s activities.
These family-friendly safari programs typically include a local family guide specialized in keeping children on safari active and excited. The guide entertains the children with a range of safari activities around camp, including telling African bush stories, painting/drawing animal pictures, bird watching, and collecting bugs.
They can take the children on short bush walks or game drives during which they help the children collect pods, feathers, insects, and leaves, and identify different animal spoor and droppings. Planning for a child-specialized safari guide who can keep an eye on the children while the parents go on long-hour game drives or any other activity will help tone down child-care stress during the family safari vacation trip.
Regardless, other parents would prefer to share the many wilderness safari experiences with their children while managing their expectations during the whole vacation. If you’re taking kids a little older (8 to 12 years), they can appreciate going on a game drive or walking in nature.
Therefore, you will highly appreciate planning for a private four-by-four safari truck that can whisk all the family members into the wilderness. That way, you can determine the game drive durations and return to the camp when the children are exhausted.
Give the kids the responsibility to choose safari activities. It’ll increase their excitement and enthusiasm for the safari. They’ll also learn about the importance of flexibility and be more open to doing things that others want to do.
Make them feel part of the expedition by including them in the planning and decision-making from the beginning. After all, the family safari holiday is, as its name suggests, a time for the whole family. And, happy kids on vacation means happy, stress-free parents.
It goes without saying that travelling with children is very different from travelling alone, with friends, or with a partner. Gone are the days of running around and squeezing as many sights and activities into a day as possible. Babies, toddlers, and teenagers can all get restless, so slow down, be realistic, and do what feels right.
If your family members are early risers, then plan a big activity or adventure in the morning and relax later in the day. If the family is sluggish in the morning, move the activities to the afternoon; you don’t have to tick off everything you set out to do.
Plan for downtime to slow down, and don’t try to cram too much into your family safari holiday trip. Remember that babies and younger children will still need a nap. Meanwhile, older children might yearn for some alone time to play with their gadgets.
If you’re travelling with your spouse, you will probably benefit from an hour or two away from the kids. Downtime doesn’t necessarily have to be spent in your lodge room either, and you can spend it on an afternoon nature walk, sunset gazing, swimming pool or campfire.
Although we all have fond memories of family holidays, we can probably look back on trips that haven’t always gone according to plan. Travelling with kids can be stressful for parents, no matter what age the children are.
Nevertheless, you don’t have to get your hands dirty in the planning logistics and keep your children in check during the trip. Consider booking an all-inclusive private safari with a local tour operator.
An all-inclusive family safari vacation means that your entire expedition is in the hands of the tour operator, ensuring that they take care of everything, including family-friendly accommodation, meals, transport/transfers, standard drinks, and all safari activities. It means saving time for the experience with your loved ones and reducing trip fatigue. An all-inclusive safari may be pretty expensive at first glance, but it offers excellent value for money.
Also, it’s the extra details that really add value to an all-inclusive-family safari. The exceptional skills of your expert safari guide, that chilled drink perfectly prepared when you stop to watch the sunset in the middle of nowhere, freshly baked treats with your morning coffee, a surprise family dinner with breathtaking views of nature’s paintings, or native storytelling around the campfire.
Hungry kids can be monstrous and make any adult on the same adventure stressed out. With children, hunger can strike at any time. Whether you’re on a game drive in a national park or hanging at the poolside, make sure to have a solid supply of everyone’s favourite snacks. With some luck, it’ll satisfy your children enough to boost their mood and energy and tide them over until the next meal.
Packing a pair of binoculars for each kid is one of the best bits of advice for planning a family safari vacation in East Africa. When each family member has their own binoculars and finally spots the elusive leopard, you’ll be sure no one misses out on the extraordinary sighting.
Equally, children’s books that detail Africa’s wildlife, animals and birds you’re likely to see will be vital for an educative exploration. Much of African safari game driving often shows the same animals, so spotting differences and learning about them in detail keeps the children attentive and passes the time.
Family vacations are all about having fun, new experiences, and making memories. So often, it’s about the little things and those unexpected moments. Allow everyone to take part in capturing the moments on camera; you’ll be surprised at what they get.
In this digital age, it’s so easy and cheap for every family member to have a camera and snap a few hundred shots in a single day. Most of us carry smart gadgets with pretty darn good cameras. If you cannot afford a DSLR or point-and-shoot camera for everyone, they can still get some lovely photos with their smartphones or iPads.
Nonetheless, don’t spend the entire time worried about capturing the moment; remember you’ll be on a family holiday. What’s more important — the photo or happiness? We’ve all seen those family vacation shots in which one or more members have a tear in their eye or are sporting a deathly smile. The parent’s obsession with taking the perfect picture of everyone having the time of their lives will ruin the once-in-a-lifetime getaway.
Nonetheless, the best lenses for capturing memorable images are your own two eyes. Encourage the children to put the camera and smartphone down, cherish the moment, and become more present. The chances are that the ideal photo opportunity will just pop up naturally.
Although the Africa BIG FIVE animals draw crowds on safari, it shouldn’t be for the kids on a family safari holiday. Children can look at things differently and are often equally interested in smaller creatures. With some guidance, they can find birds and other little wilderness creatures fascinating.
Plan with your family safari guide to search for the “Small Five” that include rhino beetle, buffalo weaver, ant lion, leopard tortoise and elephant shrew.
Lastly, as we’ve already said, taking children to watch animals in the wild usually comes attached to health and safety warnings. Your kids need to be able to understand and adhere to instructions when it comes to their safety (no running, always stick with an adult, never leave the truck or camp on their own, and so on), but you also have to be prepared to be on watch at all times.
Having a sundowner in the African bush is something you want to remember for the calm and beauty – not because your youngest decided to make friends with a nearby zebra when your back was turned.
Some general precautions for families on safari include protection from the hot African sun. Hats and sunblock are a must on drives and walks, and mosquito repellent and ‘covering up’ areas of exposed skin in the early evenings are necessary, especially in malaria areas. Also, be sure to explain to your children about only drinking filtered or bottled water.
Most safari lodges and camps place a strong emphasis on peace, tranquillity and getting back to nature, which may not be your children’s style. An ‘adults’ safari is really not suitable for many young children who often become bored and act up. You must ensure that your children do not infringe upon the enjoyment of other guests in the safari camp.
Most importantly, it would help if you took heed of safety issues as prescribed by the lodge/camp regarding walking/running in camp. Make sure that your children know the restrictions (and that you keep an eye on their movements). Many safari lodges have no fence, and you may need to keep a closer watch on your younger ones.
Because we’ve had more than a decade to practice and perfect safari holiday planning and management, we can comfortably say that we’ll take care of you and your whole family in the furthest remoteness of East Africa. Nkuringo Safaris is a family-owned and managed safari company specialising in operating safaris holidays in East Africa’s Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya and Tanzania.
With all our resources at your disposal, we can help you customise your safari holiday in your style and budget. From gorilla trekking in Uganda’s mountain jungles, walking with wild chimpanzees in their natural cradle to gazing at elephant herds or lion prides, our expert local team will guide you on which family activities suit you. We’ll also provide you with exceptional family guides to distract the kids while you go on an adult expedition.
Our family safari holiday trips are entirely private; that means private accommodation, transport & transfers, personal guides & tour manager and everything is not shared with other travellers.
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