Family Safaris are best with children of seven or so. By this age, the safari planning questions become easier to answer. If a lodge takes children under 12 then they’re allowed to go on the ‘adult’ game drives once they are six years old (eight years at some lodges). There’s loads of info on safaris with younger kids (some of it written by us!) This article is focusing on tips for family safaris with older children or even teenagers.
Lodges try to put families together on a game drive, providing some flexibility in game drive lengths. But there is no guarantee of this. Nor can you guarantee that the other family has the same expectations as yours – they might have been coming to the bush for years!
So if you choose a safari lodge on the basis of its game-viewing rather than its kids’ safari programme, your children need to be comfortable spending 3+ hours on a game drive. However in our experience most children can do this as it’s such a novel experience. Some lodges are particularly family-friendly with kids’ activities available. But often these are geared towards younger kids of under 8-10 years old. Other lodges are happy to accept children but they don’t provide any special facilities. So your kids need to be happy to amuse themselves without the aid of television…
Tip One: Private Landrover
If you are unsure about whether your children will cope with a long game drive, consider booking a private vehicle and guide. It’s a great option (and often not too expensive at the more modest game lodges). The advantage is you can make the game drive as long as you like and also your ranger will know what you’ve seen, and focus on showing you new things. He gets to know your kids and builds a relationship with them.
There is an extra cost for this which is sometimes based on the number of spare seats left in the landrover. (So if you have a large family or you are bringing grandparents along, this may not cost too much more).
Some game lodges even now guarantee a private vehicle if you are six people. The other option is to take a two-bedroom safari villa as these often come with their own private guide and vehicle.
Tip Two: Safari Structure
A safari is – for a few days – a fairly structured way of life. Some kids will easily adapt into the routine of early morning and late afternoon game drives interspersed with time at leisure. However more boisterous or active kids find this more difficult especially in the winter months when swimming in the pool may not be an option, as they will not be able to run around freely.
If this describes your family you may want to choose lodges which offer a structured kids’ programme to keep them busy.
At the other end of the scale, a sleep-junkie teenager may find the early morning starts a particular hardship…
Tip Three: Forewarn your Tech-Savvy kids
We live in a technological age – especially our kids. We can’t deny that. My middle child loves his computer with the best of them. Yet most safari camps deliberately try to keep this at bay and let’s be honest, this is a large part of the attraction for parents.
So forewarn your kids that there will NOT be a television in the room. (The lodge may have a TV or DVD player tucked away somewhere, but they’ll keep this very quiet). Similarly more remote lodges may not have internet reception, and if they do, it will not be of great quality.
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Tip Four: Variety on Family Holidays in Africa
Try to include lots of variety – either in the activities available at different safari camps or in destinations. Most South African game lodges focus on game drives. Some offer other activities such as horse-riding, canoeing, mokoro trips, boating (even camel safaris up in Kenya!)
Similarly if you are planning two different safari camps within one trip, we recommend breaking them up with a different destination altogether, so that the children don’t get bored of the safari lifestyle.
Note on walking safaris
For safety reasons, no children of 12 years and under – by law – are allowed on a game walk in South Africa. That’s non-negotiable. Some lodges allow a child of 13 or 14 years to join a game walk but others set the age limit at 16 years.
Some suggested Sample Family Safaris with Older Children
Kids in Style (South Africa)
Cape & Kruger Family Explorer (South Africa)
Young Explorers (Botswana)
Mvuu & Mombo Island (Malawi)
Romantic Zambia & Malawi (No sample family price, contact us for a quote)
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Have a look at our blog post on Best Destinations for South Africa Family Holidays for ideas on places to visit in addition to your safari…
Safaris & Older Kids – was written by Cedarberg Africa?
Cedarberg Africa is a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa focusing on upmarket tailormade safaris for discerning and busy people. We make our money on the difference between our trade rates and the rates that are available to you, so that means that effectively all our years of experience and expertise comes free of charge…
Contact us if you’d like a tailormade safari quote for your family