What’s the best way to take kids on safari?

When you think of going on safari, what springs to mind? Images of elephants and giraffe wandering around the Savannah with Kilimanjaro in the background? Or perhaps herds of wildebeest migrating in the Serengeti? I grew up watching Sir David Attenborough wildlife documentaries and at an early age I fell in love with the idea of seeing these animals for myself one day.

Herds of wildebeest in the Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania

Herds of wildebeest in the Ngorogoro Crater in Tanzania

Safari Life

Once upon a time, a safari (journey in Swahili) involved hunting big game. Nowadays, thankfully, that practice has almost been wiped out. The guns have been replaced by cameras and it is all about observing wildlife, photography, education and protection of some of the world’s most magnificent creatures.

The first safari I took in 2000 was magical. I was hooked! It is partly the reason why Ed and I decided to incorporate Africa into our 12 month world trip, choosing it over the beaches and laid back life of South East Asia.

We had the most amazing time during our 4 month African overland trip. We went to the Serengeti, Lake Manyara and Ngorogoro in Tanzania, Chobe and Okavango in Botswana, Etosha in Namibia and the Kruger in South Africa. We love reading literature relating to our travels to help get immersed in new countries. Through Africa we read Born Free by Joy Adamson, Cry of the Kalahari by Mark and Delia Owense, Don’t Run, Whatever You Do: My Adventures as a Safari Guide, by Peter Allison, Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux and The Green Hills of Africa by Ernest Hemingway.  All great reads and by the end of the trip, we were both hooked on Africa and on safaris! So much so that there is a theory our first son Ernest is named after Ernest Hemingway!

Ed enjoying a good read with an amazing view of the wildlife at Onguma Fort, Etosha

Ed enjoying a good read with an amazing view of the wildlife at Onguma Fort, Etosha

There are so many fabulous places to go on safari in Africa and we absolutely love every aspect of the safari experience; the unique safari style accommodation; falling asleep to the various wild animal noises (including elephant nudging past the tent); the early morning starts; catching the beautiful African sunrises; the excitement of the first big sighting and the refreshment breaks.

Setting up for a refreshment break during a morning safari in the Okavango

Setting up for a refreshment break during a morning safari in the Okavango

We arranged our Botswana safaris with Audley Travel who create the most amazing tailor made safaris, working with their partner in Africa &Beyond. One of our lasting memories of their safaris was the refreshment breaks which would include tea and coffee and cake, or wine and beer – at 9am! This was our bit of luxury in the middle of 4 months of hardcore backpacking and camping in Africa so we made the most of those beers! But is all this suitable for children? Maybe not the beer and wine at 9am – but why not take them on safari?

Sunrise over the Serengeti during a morning safari

Sunrise over the Serengeti during a morning safari

Safari with kids? Why not?

Never thought of going on safari with kids? Neither had we! We thought that they needed to be over 12 years old to go on safari as we had heard that big game can view young children as prey! And there we were thinking it was because young children would disturb other guests on the safari drive and scare the animals away. We assumed that it would be a long wait before we could go on safari again after we had the kids, but we are pleased to report that we were wrong!

Ernie expressing his excitement about being on safari!

Ernie expressing his excitement about being on safari!

Not so long ago a safari was reserved for honeymooners or couples. It wasn’t really something you would consider doing as a family but nowadays there are many family-friendly safari options available throughout Africa.  We were so excited to share our love of safaris with the boys when we went to South Africa in 2016. They were 2 and 4 and they loved it!

They loved the whole experience of getting into the jeep in the early morning or late afternoon, sitting up front for the best view (their eyesight is a lot better than ours and they were great spotters), bouncing around as the 4×4 jeep negotiates the bumpy tracks, using the binoculars (usually the wrong way round!), the first sighting of an animal (it is usually a competition between the boys to see the first one) and of course, safari snacks!

If you are considering a safari with kids, South Africa is a great place to start because there are lots of family-friendly game reserves in the non-malarial areas of the Western and Eastern Cape. And make sure to check our posts on what to take on safari and our safari wildlife spotting tips to prepare for your safari!

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