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Family adventures

Plan the perfect family safari holiday

Clive Wedderburn May 22, 2018

Advice for taking children on safari

For wildlife-loving families there can be no better travel experience than an amazing safari holiday. Swap learning in the classroom for real world experiences amid the rainforests, wetlands, and arid savannahs of Africa and discover the truly wild side of life on a family safari holiday.

Travelling with children on safari

The good news (actually, there is no bad news) safaris offer family-friendly flight times and time zones. There is not a great time difference between the UK and South Africa.  So even though this is a long haul flight, jet lag should be greatly reduced for children. Many airlines operate an 8–10 hour journey time. So book an overnight flight from London to Cape Town and this should be a breeze for most kids and there’s a good chance they’ll arrive at their destination feeling refreshed and raring to go. 

Enjoy the freedom of a self drive safari

You can self drive a safari as part of a wider road trip through South Africa, Botswana or Namibia. Why? Because it’s a cost-effective alternative to staying at a lodge. Self drive safaris also offer freedom and greater independence to choose how long your visit will be and you’re free to stop off where you please. Campsites are usually of an excellent standard providing facilities including toilet and showers. You simply stock up on food, water and petrol and drive into your chosen national park. We can provide you with sample itineraries, should you wish, but there’s no reason why you can’t explore further afield. That just depends on how adventurous you prefer to be. 4x4 vehicles are usually advisable for tricky terrain, adding to the excitement of your amazing holiday.


Best time of year for a family safari

The simple answer here is that there’s no bad time to go on a family safari. The dry season is the best time to spot the wildlife. Animals will gather around watering holes at this time; thus you’ll know where they’ll be and therefore they’re easier to spot. However, the dry season can see temperatures rise and this may not suit all your family. On the other hand, the wet season can be incredibly verdant and scenic – Africa at its most alluring. However, it may rain from time to time, making self drive safaris trickier, and the animals will be camouflaged by the ensuing foliage, so less easy to spot. 

Easter is a great time for spotting baby animals, it’s during the rainy season, and younger children will like seeing the baby animals. If travelling to Kenya or Tanzania to witness the Great Annual Migration, you will have to plan your visit in keeping with the progress of the wildebeest as they circumnavigate the Serengeti and Masai Mara. Take advice from our specialists and you could be in for a real treat.

Safaris with older children

No matter what safari experience you choose it’s always possible to personalise your trip. While self drive safaris are not always advisable in some African countries, many private safari lodges will allow you to tailor the experience around your family’s needs, so you’ll be able to explore the landscape at your own leisure.

Book a private jeep so that you can determine the length and type of game viewing that is suitable for you. For example, they can take into account older children might not be so chirpy during the early mornings and can rearrange game viewings when it is more convenient. They can also offer shorter game viewing times to suit the attention span of younger children.

Your safety, health risk and malaria

There are fewer health considerations than you realise when taking young children to Africa.

For example, the Eastern Cape in South Africa and parts of Namibia all have lower risks of malaria with some areas being malaria-free. Call our Destination Specialists for the latest reports and always talk to your doctor to get the most up to date advice before you travel.

How long to go on safari for with children

Safaris are suitable for all ages. Although it is important to check what age restrictions there may be for children on any particular game viewing, especially around big cat encounters, this will depend upon the country you are visiting and the type of safari you are doing. There are game drives where you spend many days bumping around in a jeep, or those that take place over a few short hours, and could be preferable for families with younger children. However, you don’t always have to jump into a jeep to see the animals. Some lodges, such as Shamwari Riverdene Lodge offer wildlife encounters that are not far away from your accommodation and actively welcome young children.

Walking safaris are mostly prohibited to children of 12 or under. Also, some safari guides will not allow toddlers and babies because their cries may scare the animals away, thus spoiling the experience for others. See also whether the camp or lodge is fenced so that children can access the environment in safety. If it is not fenced, children will have to be supervised at all times.

Family safaris offer more than game viewing

There is other stuff to do, besides look at the incredible wildlife. Older children (teens) may prefer safari holidays with more additional activities, such as horse-riding, canoeing or cycling. When you go on safari at the Pilanesberg National Park in South Africa, for example, you’ll be able to enjoy the delights of Sun City, nearby; one of the most activity-rich and family-friendly resorts in the world.  

It’s not all about the safari. TIA (This is Africa). It is different, and gloriously so. For some, it’s love at first sight. Your family will learn about conservation and discovering the challenges of the environment and the surprises that this beautiful continent has in store. A safari adventure never ceases to amaze.

Whether that’s exploring the culture of a local community or enjoying a magical night spent under the stars. An African safari is an adventure of the senses that goes far beyond the actual animals. It’s unlike any other in the world, a diverse collection of habitats from the wetlands of Botswana, to the giant sand dunes of Namibia and the vast plains of Madikwe in South Africa. 

Safaris are also not just about the Big Five.  Yes, we love the Big Five, but they are not the only stars of the safari. Look closer and there are an array of smaller natural wonders, fascinating creatures ranging from dung beetles to monitor lizards, to meerkats, plus exotic birdlife including flamingos flocking lakeside in their thousands, to insects chirping hypnotically at night.

Safaris are the perfect digital detox

No WIFI – No problem! Consider this holiday to be a digital detox for screen-addicted kids (and adults!). On most safaris there’s a lack of TVs, WIFI and other digital entertainment, with internet access usually restricted to a single place, like the foyer of your safari lodge, and even this cannot be guaranteed. You’ll be pleased to hear that Africa has plenty of ways of entertaining its guests other than social media.

What to pack for children on safari

You don’t need to dress like Indiana Jones to go on safari. We wouldn’t suggest you splash out on an entire new wardrobe of khaki green outfits for you and your family either. Pack the normal clothes you wear at home. Stick to colours that aren’t so bright. Bring hats, closed shoes and sun cream as normal. Add a jacket if the mornings or evenings are colder. More importantly, ensure every child has their own proper pair of binoculars too, as these will stop arguments on games drives.

Family safari and beach holidays

Think you know what’s in store – think again! There are many stunning options to create a stunning beach/safari holiday.  South Africa, Kenya, Mozambique and Namibia and even combining with the dreamscapes of the island of Mauritius. There are many breath-taking resorts for the perfect contrast to the sights you’ll see while on safari. Swap red ochre sweeping vistas for the wide panoramic of the Indian Ocean to really create a lasting impression on impressionable young minds. Plan well and your only dilemma will be how to exceed expectations on your next holiday – but as we’re Hayes & Jarvis, we have plenty of ideas. 

Safari holidays are a dream come true and top many people’s travel wish-list. But if you need a little more advice and inspiration, visit our family safaris page and start planning your next wildlife adventure holiday.