Planning the perfect family safari
Not all safari tour operators are the same. You want to find one with a reputation for planning excellent family safari holidays.
Newspaper editorial, Google, and recommendations from friends will likely give you an idea of who is planning African holidays for families and more importantly who is doing it well. Often, they’ll be family safari specialists and will have travelled to Africa on holiday with their own children. Don’t be afraid to ask what their experience is, how they got it, if they have children, and how old they are – anyone who is truly an expert will be happy to share their background with you.
Have a chat. Checking a website and sending emails back and forth can tell you so much, but if you’ve got five minutes then pick up the phone and chat. You’ll soon see if this is someone you want to invest your time with to plan your perfect family safari holiday in Africa.
If they’re the right person, they should probably let you do the talking. The only way they’ll learn about your family holiday likes and dislikes is by letting you tell them. They may prompt you with some questions, but this is their chance to gather information.
I’ve been planning family safaris for over 20 years, including holidays for my own family to Mauritius, Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia and South Africa. Whether it’s your first holiday in Africa, or a return visit taking your children for the first time, there are a few things to think about that can help make things run more smoothly. Here are my top tips:
1. Plan ahead
The best safari camps are typically small. If you want two or three rooms, or a two-bedroomed family suite, you need to be quick out of the blocks. The same goes for the lovely private safari houses scattered across Southern and East Africa – once they’re booked, that’s it. This is especially relevant right now with a backlog of people whose trips were postponed due to Covid combining with surging demand now we are able to travel again.
If you’re planning a big summer family holiday to Africa, then start thinking about it once the kids are back at school in September. If it’s for a Christmas and New Year safari you ought to begin the process in January at the latest.
2. Have a family brainstorm
The more we know about your wishes, the better we can craft your perfect family safari. Knowing what you’ve enjoyed in previous holidays is helpful and a bit of a brainstorm to give us your top priorities will be useful.
These can be as varied as:
– I’d like to be able to walk as well as view wildlife from a safari vehicle
– We would like to combine some time on the beach with our safari
– I want a loo that flushes
– I don’t want to feel like I’m in some kind of big zoo
– I want a guide who will engage with my children
3. Produce a list
Once you’ve brainstormed I suggest writing a list of ‘family safari holiday priorities’. Not everything is always going to be achievable, but if you know which things ‘have to happen’ and which are ‘nice if they’re possible’ it’s easier to know where compromises might be made.
4. Phone, email, face-to-face
We speak to most of our family clients on several occasions during the holiday planning and booking process. We’ll be tailoring your holiday and will chat to you as often as needed to refine things until you have the perfect safari.
If you’re comfortable doing so, we encourage face-to-face meetings. These work particularly well for planning family safaris, whether it’s a family’s first time or any members have been to Africa before. They allow both sides to get the measure of each other, nobody is left out of the planning, and you get to spread maps on the table, look at webpages or brochures together, and swap plenty of thoughts. You’ll often get to a detailed family holiday plan more quickly than phone conversations and emails.
5. Don’t hesitate, book
Once you’ve found the best family safari holiday for you, book it and you can relax in the knowledge that there’s an exciting trip waiting that’s tailored to your needs and likely to be “The best family holiday we’ve ever done”.
Our team of experts has travelled widely throughout Africa and the Indian Ocean and can offer expert advice on every type of safari from family and beach holidays to riding and primate safaris. If you are keen to plan the perfect family safari holiday do get in touch – chatting to people in person, by phone or email is what we do best. We listen, we explain, we answer all sorts of questions even those you didn’t know to ask, and finally we make suggestions. Whether this is your first time to Africa or your twenty first, we have a team standing by to help make the planning easy and the journey the best ever. Please get in touch whatever stage you’re at.