Top 5 ‘Children on Safari’ Myths Busted

November 22nd 2018  |  Family Safaris, South Africa  |  by  Richard Smith
Top 5 ‘Children on Safari’ Myths Busted

Google ‘children on safari’ and on the first page of results you’ll find a newspaper article that begins with the following paragraph: ‘I would generally advise parents to wait until the children are at least 10 years old before taking them on safari. They are then at an age to appreciate the experience, and there are obvious dangers and tropical diseases to protect against. Also, safaris usually involve long periods in 4×4 vehicles, which can be boring for kids!’ Wrong, wrong and thrice wrong! Time to bust some myths about family holidays to Africa and taking children on safari.

  1. Don’t take children on safari until they’re 10 years old

There’s no minimum age and while it’s true that toddlers probably won’t get as much out of a family holiday to Africa as school-aged children, it’s possible to arrange a safari for children of all ages. As mum of girls aged 5 and 4, Suzanne Bayly-Coupe says of her holiday to Kwandwe Melton ManorDon’t wait until they are older–it’ s wonderful to experience wildlife through a child’s eyes! Between looking for the Gruffalo (buffalos are boring) and understanding why the daddy impala had so many wives and babies, we had many laughs.” 

ranger tracking game with children

You’re never too young to learn to track wildlife on safari Photo: Suzanne Bayly-Coupe (on left)

  1. Family holidays to Africa are dangerous for children on safari because of wild animals

If you’re a twit, a safari is dangerous whether you’re 5 or 65, but actually children on safari are often better at listening to a guide’s instructions than some adults! Lodges and camps have special family accommodation so you can be close to your children while not all sharing the same room. &Beyond’s Phinda Homestead is a great example of a sole-use property where children can have their own room but still be under the same roof as you.

Phinda Homestead pool

Photo: Phinda Homestead

Safari activities for children can be the same as those for adults, but planned differently to be kiddie-friendly and safe. Walks for example might be within the perimeter of the camp, rather than deeper into the bush, but there will still be animal tracks to follow, piles of poo to examine, and beetles to look at through a magnifying glass.

  1. Children on safari might catch a tropical disease

There are parts of Africa where precautions need to be taken against diseases, but a specialist tour operator can give some simple advice and a visit to a travel clinic pre-safari will do the rest. If you don’t want extra jabs, or even tabs, a malaria free family safari in South Africa means nothing more is needed than checking you’ve all had the normal boosters and everything is up to date.

CDC Malaria map

CDC Malaria map

The Cooper family’s malaria free family safari combined Cape Town with the Ant’s Nest in the Waterberg and Jaci’s Safari Camp in Madikwe.

  1. Kids need to sit for long periods in 4×4 vehicles

If you use a tour operator who is a specialist in African family holidays they’ll match you with properties where you’ll feel at home, and with guides who’ll ensure everyone has fun. We often use Singita lodges, such as Singita Boulders, which has two family suites. There children’s ages are taken into account when planning activities while still ensuring that you all have fun. Younger children may earn ‘Mini Rangers’ badges for:

  • Tracking animals close to camp
  • Finding frogs or toads
  • Catching and releasing butterflies
  • Learning about stars and planets
  • Simple bush survival techniques
  • Flower pressing
  • Quizzes and a ‘Junior Guide’s Test’
guide cooking with children
child on tracker's chair

Photos: &Beyond

Teenagers get their hands dirty as they:

  • Learn to make a fire without matches
  • Find water sources
  • Identify, even try, some edible plants
  • Plant trees in a local community

And there’s even more to enjoy for riders in South African safari camps with horses, or for swimmers at lodges with rivers or reservoirs. Africa is about animals but also about enjoying being in the bush.

  1. Game viewing can be boring for children

Vehicles help you cover more ground so you see more of the African animals you’re here for, and they can also safely get you closer than you could ever imagine. However, game drives with children don’t work the way they do with adults – they’re typically shorter for a start – but with a few secrets from some of our favourite family safari guides they can be educational while they’re busy being fun!

two girls on a trackers chair

Photos: Singita

children on a game drive

Singita

Here are some tips to make your family game drive truly memorable:

  • Tick animals off your list, or make a list if you don’t have one to hand
  • Do the same for any birds you see that are bigger than a chicken!
  • Draw the animals you’re looking at – there’ll be a competition with prizes later
  • Quiz your guide and see if there’s any questions they can’t answer (about the animals, not capital cities from around the world, or which team does Chris Baird play for now!)
  • Identify tracks (books aimed at children on safari like ‘A Bushveld Safari’ are ideal for this)

The Aardvark Safaris team has lived and worked in Africa, many have taken their own family to luxury African safaris.  We can arrange everything to make your family celebration spectacular. All you need to do is email us or call us and tell us what you’d like to see and we’ll do the rest, giving tips and advice, and then putting together a full detailed itinerary.

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