Should you take children on an African safari?

Going on an African safari as a family is a fantastic opportunity for children to experience another way of life, and to disconnect from technology, thus allowing their imaginations to run wild as they encounter the unique plants, animals, and insects in the African wilderness.

Age restrictions apply to children travelling on an African safari because wild animals often react unexpectedly to something smaller, slower, or younger than they are. You might not realise how overwhelmed your child or children might become when removed from the comfort of their home and backyard by the size and variety of Africa’s insects and wildlife. Even if you think your five or six-year-old enjoys a wide variety of animals and insects, they might be overwhelmed when in Africa.

Most safari camps and lodges consider anyone over the age of 12 years to be an adult for purposes of price. Do not mistake this for minimum age requirements or age limits that might apply to particular activities. For example, you need to be 15 years old in order to trek Mountain Gorillas.

What is the earliest age I can take my children on safari?

How old should children be before you take them on a safari is a question that is frequently asked, and almost impossible to provide a straightforward and definitive reply.

It genuinely depends on the children and the parents. To begin with, children will need to be able to spend a minimum of two to three hours in a 4WD without making everyone stir crazy. Some children can already do this at the age of 3 or 4 years, while others would be a nightmare. For this reason, some lodges and camps insist on a private vehicle when travelling with young children, but where they don’t, they advise opting for one anyway. A private vehicle adds to the cost and is something you need to be aware of, but also allows you to have exclusive use of your driver and guide, thereby being able to make decisions easily.

Each lodge and camp have their own age restrictions.  

As a company, we feel ten years old is a terrific age to go on an African safari. By this age, children can connect with the tour guide or a other people they meet on excursions, such as village visits. And, these interactions may truly be remembered for a lifetime. Children ten years and older also frequently behave better both within the lodge and outside on game drives.

What about young children in preschool?

As a company, we do not recommend taking children on safari under the age of 10 years.  For pre-school age children, it is debatable whether children are just along for the ride at this age. You must make your own determination on the child’s attention span. Going to a small lodge with planned kids’ activities or renting out a private safari home exclusively can make a lot of sense.

Do all lodges and camps accept children?

No. Lodges and camps all have their own child policy.  For example, many camps and lodges in Botswana do not allow children under the age of 12 years.  This is because the camps are small, maybe 9 rooms or less, and are not fenced. Throughout East Africa and Southern Africa, the lodges that have more rooms and that are fenced will allow children of most ages. There is no one size fits all, and so this is where you really do need to speak to an experienced African travel consultant.

What about activities besides game-drives?

If you want to trek gorillas or chimpanzees with your children, they must be at least 15 years old.  Other activities such as walking and mokoro will depend on the rules set by each lodge or camp.

Where can we travel that is malaria free?

In South Africa, there are a few game reserves that are malaria-free.  Madikwe Game Reserve offers excellent and diverse wildlife viewing and family-friendly camps. Tswalu Kalahari is one of the largest private game reserves in Africa, is malaria-free, and offers wonderful family-friendly activities like daylight meerkat tracking and stargazing under the Southern Skies.

Where should I go to expose my children to the local culture?

East Africa is a great place whereby you can immerse in culture.  Tanzania and Kenya have around 50 million people and are rich with different tribes.  Kenya has around 42 different tribes.  Tanzania has more than 100 different tribes.   Kenya and Tanzania are where your children will encounter Maasai wearing traditional shukas (robes), which are frequently covered in beads from head to toe.  You can learn more about daily living in this region by visiting real Masai villages, conversing with residents, and frequently visiting a school or clinic.

What kinds of accommodation should I look for?

Look for camps and lodges with family rooms/tents. These are typically two bedrooms, and most significantly, two bathrooms. Why? You will all need to be up early because game drives start early. The getting-ready process will go more quickly if there are multiple bathrooms and showers.

What about including a non-safari destination with other activities?

In East Africa, it is very easy to combine a safari with a beach holiday, such as Zanzibar. 

In Southern Africa, combining a safari with a few days in Cape Town, is a great option. Cape Town has many family-friendly activities like penguin excursions, walking up Table Mountain, cycling, township visits and vineyard visits.