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There are few family vacations that can match a safari in East or southern Africa in terms of the deep bonds that you will forge and the memories you’ll make. Never mind the wildlife; nothing beats watching your child’s face as they first see an elephant at close quarters, or watch spellbound as playful lion cubs ‘hassle’ the adults lolling in the sun on a grassy mound. For my kids, all it took was a curious young nyala nibbling at a twig in their hands to kickstart their love affair with the African bush.
As they’ve got older, safaris have turned out to be the very best family vacations we have had, far removed from modern distractions but jam-packed with adventure, thrills, fun and meaningful family time. That said, for a successful multigenerational safari, there are factors to consider at the planning stage. Here is our guide to planning a successful safari vacation with young kids and tweens in the mix.
Honour their ages
Always let us know your children’s ages – some experiences are unsuitable for youngsters, and some destinations and locations have age restrictions for very young kids. At Nziza Hospitality we have a wealth of insight into planning a successful safari for the whole family, and we will help you to develop the itinerary of a lifetime, tailored to your precise needs and interests.
Depending on their age, very young children may find an itinerary packed with new locations unsettling and disruptive. The solution? Don’t try to tick off all your dream destinations in a single trip. Instead, choose to spend more nights – at least three or four – at fewer destinations so your kids can settle in and become familiar with their surroundings. They will be more relaxed, will sleep better and have a lot more fun.
Consider private-use villas, camps, or lodges
Many lodges or camps offer the possibility of booking a private section for family use. Our favourite option, though, is to choose an exclusive-use bush villa or camp for a stay completely tailored to your needs. This feels a bit like having your own private holiday home in the bush, fully staffed with your own chef, ranger, tracker, and more. We love this solution for its flexibility, from when and where you eat (and what) to how long you feel like staying out during game drives. This is also a great choice for several families travelling together, as well as for multi-generation groups, when grandparents and young children are in the mix.
Plump for your own private safari vehicle
Game-viewing is why you’re there, right? But many children struggle with the need to sit still and keep quiet at critical moments. Kids get restless – they need to move and bounce around; if you’re in a shared game-viewing vehicle, this can be challenging. And prime game-viewing times can clash with kids’ sleep routines.
The solution? Choose the option of a private, exclusive-use safari vehicle with your own guide. This is the best investment in your safari experience you can make. The guide will tailor each game-viewing drive to your needs and interests, and your kids can be as exuberant as you can manage.
Check out the children’s programme
Even with a private safari vehicle and guide, there’s a good chance the adults will want some concentrated viewing experiences. This is where selecting a lodge or camp with a dedicated children’s programme pays dividends. These flexible programmes are thoughtfully designed by experts, so they cater to children of various ages, from the very young to tweens.
Our experience is that our young guests can’t wait to experience each day’s adventures, and that these kids’ programmes are a big-time hit. Activities range from learning how to track game and recognize plants to interacting with local communities – including drumming, learning how to make bows and arrows, or nature walks with Maasai or San locals, for example.
Engage your teenager
Teens love more challenging excursions and adventurous activities. Here you could add in water- and land-based activities such as a mobile safari, walking safari or guided mokoro (canoe) or motorboat safari, getting you right into the prime zone for thrilling wildlife interaction. OIder tweens and teens alike enjoy cultural interactions with local communities, including learning how to track wildlife, participating in a football game in a nearby village, or even attending the local school to see how things are done. Catch-and-release fly-fishing, balloon safaris, and visits to and volunteering at animal orphanages are just a few examples of the thoroughly engaging experiences your teens can participate in.
Fun in the sun
Look for a stay that includes a swimming pool – even the smallest plunge pool will provide hours of fun in the heat of the day. Even better, make it a ‘bush-and-beach’ vacation. Unwind and relax after safari with a stay at one of East Africa’s glorious tropical Indian Ocean beaches or on an island like Zanzibar. What could be better way to round off your family vacation than swimming in the transparent tropical waters, snorkelling the pristine coral reefs or chilling out in a hammock strung beneath the palm trees that fringe the white-sand beaches?
Contact Nziza Hospitality to start planning your dream family safari.