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Taking children on safari

Taking children on safari

Taking children on safari

Helpful hints on planning and taking children on safari.

Thanks to the wonderful wildlife programmes on television these days, we have seen an increase in families wanting to come on safari with their children. I think this is fantastic as it’s great to educate kids about the bush and wildlife.

Many guides get great pleasure sharing their knowledge with enthusiastic children who are eager to learn, and there are many lodges and safari operations which do cater for families. Our daughters have been exposed to this from an early age and love to go on game drives, walks and fishing trips.

However, some careful planning is needed when taking children on safari, from choosing the right location / lodge / hotel that suits you and your family, especially if this is your first safari to Africa.

Not all safari lodges will take children under 12 years. This may be due to safety factors with wildlife in close proximity. Some lodges and camps restrict children under nine years, so it’s important to find family-friendly lodges that will cater for your children’s ages.

Some points to consider when planning your safari:-

            •           What are the ages of your children?
            •           If you have children under six years, will your child have the attention span to sit on a three hour game drive and the ability to travel long distances without getting tired, bored or hungry? This is often a problem for children who, after the excitement of seeing their first elephant or lion, lose interest and would rather be playing at the lodge. Some lodges will only allow children under six to participate on a game drive if the parents take exclusive use of the vehicle. There are a number of lodges that offer private houses which are ideal for families, with exclusive access to the whole house and a private guide and chef.
            •           Will your child listen to instructions from the guide and keep quiet when told to do so?
            •           Are they well behaved enough not to spoil other guests’ game viewing if you are on the same vehicle?
            •           Does the lodge have a swimming pool if your children need to be kept entertained between activities?
            •           If they are toddlers or younger – do you need a baby sitter? A number of lodges will provide the service while you are having dinner for instance, however, these are not fully qualified personnel, more often simply experienced child minders.
            •           Does your child need meals early or at certain times? Child friendly lodges will cater for this.
            •           If you have a teenager, are they really interested in going on safari?  I have been horrified to see parents allow their children to play on their phones, games and gadgets whilst be on a game drive. These should be banned!
            •           Some teenagers also want to be kept active so locations such as Livingstone and Victoria Falls are ideal as they offer many different activities, such as riding elephants, canoeing, whitewater rafting – however, there is an age restriction for all of them.
            •           What is your budget?
            •           Are you on a tight budget, want to self-drive and self-cater or a luxury all inclusive safari?
            •           Malaria and vaccinations
            •           Malaria is endemic in many parts of Africa, with some areas worse than others, but it is also seasonal, so consider taking small children in the cooler or drier months when there are fewer mosquitoes. Take all the precautions against malaria such as prophylactics, lotions and insecticide.
            •           Enquire what vaccinations your children will need to visit various countries – yellow fever is the most common.
            •           What to take for your children on safari
            •           Try getting your kids enthusiastic and involved from the beginning, especially if this is their first safari, taking bird and animal identification books with you and getting them to tick the check lists which most lodges provide.
            •           Binoculars are a must.
            •           Encourage children who are old enough to photograph the animals, tracks, etc.
            •           If you are flying by light aircraft you will be restricted to how much luggage you can take, so stick to neutral/bush colours but take warm jackets and beanies for early morning or evening game drives if you are going on safari in winter.
            •           During summer when it is hot make sure children wear hats, drink lots of water and are covered in sunblock.
            •           Take a small first aid bag.

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 09, June 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide: