Safari with children: Africa as a travel destination with children sounds like an absolute no-go for many. I have often been asked how I dare to do this with my own sons - by friends, family and acquaintances, but also by readers, customers and clients. The solution is very simple: preparation and planning.
Of course, a trip to Africa, for example a safari in Tanzania, harbors certain dangers and difficulties: high-risk diseases such as malaria or yellow fever, the proximity to wild predators in the national parks or simply the boredom potential of an extensive jeep safari. Yet all of this can be avoided with proper planning and preparation.
Here are my personal tips on how to make a safari with children an all-round successful event:
Is safari with children dangerous? Safety first
African mosquitoes can transmit many diseases, so the correct travel medical precautions must be clarified beforehand with the family doctor and pediatrician. Unfortunately, in some African countries the risk of becoming infected with malaria is particularly high. To avoid mosquito bites, it is important to use insect nets on the one hand to be protected at night. But travel time and destination can also be an important factor, for example there are fewer mosquitoes during the dry season. But even higher areas are mosquito-free. The Ngorongoro Crater and the Arusha National Park in Tanzania are over 1600m and are therefore my hot tip for safari with children.
Africa safari with children: choosing the lodge
Some safari operators and lodges in wildlife parks do not accept children under the age of 12, sometimes even 16. But don't worry, there are plenty of family-friendly alternatives. Such lodges and camps often have a child-friendly program on offer and are often a little more “closed”, that is, wild animals are kept away from the immediate camp area. In principle, certain safety regulations must be adhered to - for example, you are sometimes not allowed to step in front of the bungalow or tent at night.
Long, uncomfortable jeep transfers should be avoided - whether from lodge to lodge or at the beginning of a game drive. I therefore recommend choosing a lodge that is in the national park and close to an airstrip. Then the safari starts right in front of the front door and instead of the jeep you can arrive by the safari plane. The advantages of a lodge outside the park (walking safari, dinner under the stars or night drives) are of little interest to children anyway.
When choosing the room category, I recommend choosing a hut over a tent, as solid walls give the little ones a feeling of security. In the tent they like to lie awake, listen to the environment and may even be afraid of the unknown noises.
Most of all I like lodges that promise “resident wildlife”; that means that the animals stay here permanently - for example the giraffes at Hatari Lodge in Arusha National Park. There, the wilderness is within reach even without a lengthy jeep ride. Safari Light, so to speak, from the veranda.
Children's safari Africa: hands-on safari
Despite the exciting promises of being able to observe real lions, giraffes and elephants, a jeep safari for children can quickly get boring. Although there is an almost unbelievable biodiversity in the national parks of Tanzania, the animals also like to hide from time to time and demand a lot of patience from excited travelers. But patience is exactly what many children don't have. That is why it is all the more important to choose routes and travel times well and to keep the little ones happy.
To turn a normal safari into a hands-on safari, it doesn't take much magic. Experienced guides are of great advantage because they can explain a lot to the children or bring them closer to the 1 × 1 of track reading. Checklists or picture books in which children can record their animal discoveries are also ideal.
Why not just entrust the children with a camera or video camera? So they can create their own memories, are busy and feel more involved in the adventure. In addition, children often observe situations very differently than adults - the resulting images help to see the world through the eyes of their own child.
The dry season not only drives away the mosquitoes, it also makes it difficult for many animals of the savannah to search for water. One man's meat is another man's suffering; because that means that sightings near water holes can be all the more productive. The ideal travel time is therefore December to March.
Safari vacation with children: Take it easy
The biggest difference to a classic “adult safari” is that it is best to spend 3-4 nights in one place instead of moving on every day. Children prefer slow travel to get used to the surroundings.
In general, it is important to keep calm and an overview on safaris, especially with small children in an open jeep. Children should never be left out of sight and / or out of the car - due to their size, wild predators may mistake them for prey. The same of course also applies to adults.
In order to enable the children to process what they have experienced fairly, enough time should be allowed for rest phases. An overly full safari plan and sitting quietly in the jeep for a long time are exhausting, so shorter tours and lodges with resident wildlife are more suitable. A day off at the camp is also worthwhile if the animals graze in front of the balcony or a child-friendly program, such as tracking or handicrafts, is offered.
With the right preparation and planning, nothing stands in the way of a safari with the whole family. My team developed this travel route through Tanzania especially for family trips - maybe you feel like it?