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How to Plan an African Safari for Kids of All Ages

At Nyamera Treks and Safaris, we understand the significance of exploring the world with our children, but we also recognize that traveling with kids, if not well-planned, can feel more like work than a vacation. To ensure everyone enjoys the adventure, careful planning is essential.

Choosing the right hosts, maintaining an appropriate pace, selecting knowledgeable guides, and engaging in suitable activities tailored to your kids’ interests and ages are crucial factors. Given these considerations, here are some expert tips to help ensure your family’s African safari adventure truly feels like a vacation for all.

Tips for all ages

Focus on activities, not just destinations: Choose a safari destination that suits your family’s interests by considering the activities they enjoy. Instead of trying to cover multiple countries in one trip, plan your adventure within a single country.

Opt for a private guide: Having a private guide is crucial when safariing with kids. It allows your children to connect with the staff while giving adults a much-needed break from constant parenting duties. If a private guide isn’t feasible for your budget, private vehicles at each camp provide flexibility to ensure everyone has a great time.

Pre-trip discussions: Before your journey, discuss accommodations, wildlife expectations, transportation, and available activities with your kids. Involve them in the planning process to ensure they feel fully engaged in the adventure.

For young children (under 6 years old):

Choose safari camps that welcome younger children, as many cater only to ages 5 and up. South Africa and Tanzania are ideal destinations for families with preschoolers, often offering free accommodation for children under 5, with costs limited to park fees and flights.

  • Take it slow: Consider staying four nights at each safari camp to allow your children time to acclimate to the environment and people, especially if they are shy. This settling-in period helps the camp feel like a home away from home, promoting relaxation for the whole family.
  • Incorporate non-safari activities: While camps typically offer activities like pizza making, archery, and tracking, seek out accommodations that offer unique experiences such as interactive farms or evening river cruises for hippo watching.
  • Pack swimwear: Swimming pools are a great way to unwind in the afternoons, though not every African camp has one. Confirm with your travel specialist if this amenity is essential for your family’s enjoyment.
  • Consider your child’s interests: What activities ignite their curiosity? Whether it’s playing soccer with local kids, engaging in arts and crafts, harvesting vegetables from a garden, or observing penguins on a beach, sharing these details with your specialist ensures a more personalized experience for your family.

For elementary-aged children (7-11 years old):

Expand your horizons beyond traditional destinations, as this age group has more patience for travel and can appreciate the journey as much as the destination itself. Consider adding these destinations to your list:

Kenya: With a personal connection to Kenya, I recommend exploring with a sense of adventure. Kenya’s private conservancies offer a tailored bush experience that caters to your family’s daily needs. Unlike national parks, conservancies and privately-run camps provide flexibility and exclusive activities. Many lodges in Kenya are family-owned and operated, enriching your safari with a genuine local touch.

Tanzania: Known for its iconic wildlife reserves like Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania offers a wealth of experiences for families. Consider staying at lodges that cater specifically to children, offering educational activities and wildlife encounters suitable for younger travelers.

Zambia: Ideal for families seeking intrepid adventures, Zambia offers an incredible wildlife experience suitable for both first-time safari-goers and seasoned veterans. While some of Zambia’s open-air bush camps may not suit everyone, they reward visitors with uncrowded areas teeming with wildlife, providing that authentic safari feel. Less commercialized than neighboring Botswana, Zambia offers excellent value for your family safari budget. Mix game drives and walking safaris (recommended for ages 12 and up) with leisurely activities like boating, fishing, and canoeing in the Lower Zambezi.

Zimbabwe: Somalisa Acacia in Zimbabwe welcomes all ages and organizes tailored nature walks around camp, led by dedicated child specialists. Zimbabwe boasts five World Heritage sites, including Mana Pools National Park, Matobo Hills, Great Zimbabwe Ruins, and Khami Ruins National Monument, not to mention the breathtaking Victoria Falls. For families with young train enthusiasts, the Elephant Express offers a memorable journey through Hwange National Park aboard a dual-engine tram.

These destinations provide diverse opportunities for families to create unforgettable safari experiences tailored to the interests and ages of their children.

For tweens and teens (ages 12+):

Taking younger children on safari is one thing, but keeping a brooding, smartphone-addicted teen or tween engaged in quality family time without WiFi can be a challenge. Here are some exhilarating activities that will captivate everyone in the present moment:

Fly Camping: Experience sleeping under nothing more than a flysheet in the bush—a timeless adventure that never goes out of style. With no walls separating you from the great outdoors or the starry skies, it’s the ultimate escape.

ATV Quad Biking: Zoom across Botswana’s lunar salt pans or cruise through Namibia’s desert landscapes in a rugged 4×4. If your teen is eager to take the wheel, this is their chance to explore Africa’s dramatic terrains. Age restrictions vary by country and camp, typically starting from age 16, but some camps in Botswana welcome ages 12 and up with parental and camp management approval.

Cultural Experiences: Safari offers middle and high schoolers a chance to bring their classroom learning to life. Engage in ancient traditions like leaping competitions with Maasai warriors or learn traditional beading techniques from Samburu women.

Conservation Activities: One of the greatest rewards of an African safari with teens and tweens is the opportunity to participate in conservation education and activities. Join pump runs in Hwange, Zimbabwe, or accompany anti-poaching dog teams. For conservation-minded teens aged 16 and older, consider adding rhino darting to your safari—an experience that leaves a lasting impact.

In essence, a family safari in Africa offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for kids and adults of all ages, but it requires expertise and careful planning. It’s transformative travel that inspires a love for wilderness and creates unforgettable memories for the entire family.

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