As a South African family we love heading out on a family safari holiday, nothing beats the bush, except maybe exposing your kids to the bush and creating safari kids!
Taking our kids on safari has become one of my favourite family holidays and I just love seeing their faces when we come nose-to-trunk with an elephant or we track down a herd of wild dogs lazing the afternoon away. Over the years they have become real Safari Kids and just love spending time in the African bush.
Their enthusiasm and excitement makes all the tough stuff of taking kids on a safari holiday totally worth it, because, let’s face it, bush holidays can be tough with kids in tow, especially those not used to being stuck in a car for so long!
To make your next family safari holiday with kids that bit easier, here are my top tips…
Top Tips for a Family Safari Holiday in Africa
1. Preparation is key
Pack a carry-on bag for flights and long drives that is full of entertainment for kids. Colouring-in books, etch-a-sketch, small games like Top Trumps, Sudoku puzzles & books for older kids. Make sure all cell phones and iPads are charged and carry extra backup battery devices if possible. Download a few movies onto your devices from Netflix. Pack headphones for each member of the family! Don’t forget the healthy snacks!
2. The weather on a safari can be unpredictable
A cold kid is a cranky kid… pack warm jackets AND swimming costumes. On our last visit we had gloves, scarves and beanies, but this time but we didn’t need them at all… in fact we needed more pairs of shorts and had to buy an extra hat!
3. Tell your kid what to expect on a game drive.
3 hours of driving through the bush can be heaven for those who love animals, like my son, or a bit torturous for those who don’t! Prepare them for dangerous animal sightings by telling them upfront about the need to be quiet near the animals, and that staying seated and keeping their limbs inside the vehicle is for their own safety! Many kids aren’t aware that these animals are very dangerous!! You might also want to prepare them for the more hectic side of animal sightings… on our first game drive we watched a lion kill from start to finish and it was quite gory in parts! Fortunately my kids were know that this is what happens in nature from all the wildlife documentaries they watch, but some might have got quite a fright!
4. Give them some extra equipment to enjoy the experience.
Give them the bird book and a pair of binoculars to identify the bird species spotted. We often take along a second camera to allow my kids to “practice” their wildlife photography which they really get into! A checklist to tick off the animals spotted is always fun, or ask the little ones to draw the animals they see. One of the things that can help to keep older kids interested is to sit them up front next to the ranger and asking them to be the “tracker”!
5. Get them interested in the process.
If animal sightings are few and far between, direct their attention to the other wonders of the bush – unusual insects, spider webs, bird life, interesting trees. At our final destination the animal sightings were fewer than before (although we didn’t mind as we’d spotted the Big 5 already)… what this meant is that we had much more time to learn about the other aspects of the bush… termite mounds, seed pods, trees, tracking etc etc.
6. Realise that kids need to slow down occasionally
5am wakeups and 8pm dinners can catch up with them quickly so schedule in some down time for them to recuperate. We were in the bush for 6 days so after the first 3 early mornings we alternated as parents, allowing the kids to sleep in a bit. We also enforced a quiet time during the middle of the day when we also needed a nap… and one afternoon it paid off when they slept for 3 hours (even the 10 year old!) Our youngest also loved dozing off on the evening game drive.
7. Be flexible!
The trick is to be as flexible as possible… this is meant to be an enjoyable family holiday for all members of the family which means you should ALL be having fun and making memories! The kids are as much a part of the holiday as the adults so try to keep that in mind and your safari kids will be asking when their next family safari holiday will be!
I hope you enjoyed this post about my tips for raising Safari Kids (kids who will fall in love with the bush and ask to go on Family Safari Holidays at every opportunity!) Mine certainly are and I think these tips have helped them foster a deep love for the African bush.
Let me know if you have any further tips to add to this post in the comments below!
Images: Kathryn Rossiter