Top 5 ‘Children on Safari’ myths busted
We recently spotted a journalist writing that he wouldn’t recommend a safari holiday for children under ten. Given that we have over 22 years’ experience organising family holidays here at Aardvark Safaris, that’s a statement we would heartily dispute. Safaris have rightfully earned their place as wonderful family holidays and we are proud to be considered among the best when it comes to planning a family safari. Among the statements we thought we’d set straight were, ‘wildlife is a danger to children on safari’, ‘children on safari might catch a tropical disease’, and ‘wildlife viewing can be boring for children’. Time to bust some myths about family holidays to Africa and taking children on safari.
Myth: Don’t take children on safari until they’re 10 years old
Fact: Children of all ages are welcome on safari. The skill – and that’s where we come in – is matching families to the right camps both in terms of style of accommodation and the types of activities available. For example, we would suggest more interactive safaris for younger children along with lodges and camps with some options of childcare so that everyone gets a break. Options for families travelling with older children and teens are likely to include camps with a varied range of activities that will keep everyone enthralled from dawn to dusk.
Alice has taken her girls (now 12) on safari since they were three and says, ‘you don’t have to wait until they are older – it’s wonderful to experience wildlife through a child’s eyes. Between looking for elusive rhino and understanding why the daddy impala had so many wives and babies, we’ve had many laughs.’
Myth: Family holidays to Africa are dangerous for children on safari because of wild animals
Fact: Children are the best listeners. You’ll often find them quite in awe of their guides and they do exactly as told when it comes to holidaying alongside the wildlife – we wish the same could be said for all adults! Lodges and camps have special family accommodation so you can be close to your children while not all sharing the same room. The gorgeous family tent at Cottar’s 1920s Safari Camp is a great example of the sort of tented accommodation you can find where children have their own room but still be under the same roof as you. If you prefer a more permanent style, then exclusive-use private houses like Chongwe House or Mkombe’s House are lovely examples.
Safari activities for children can be the same as those for adults, but planned differently to be kiddie-friendly. 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.
Myth: Children on safari might catch a tropical disease
Fact: All the lodges and safari camps we recommend have exceptionally high standards, with good mosquito nets, purified drinking water and food hygiene records a UK hotel would be proud of. We listen closely to parents’ wishes, taking into account the ages of all the family members when making our safari recommendations. Many families request their first safari to be malaria free, which can be easily accomplished in South Africa where you need only to make sure your general vaccinations are up to date. There are then requests from parents to be more adventurous and travel to countries like Botswana and Zambia where extra precautions are needed. We can give some simple advice and a visit to a travel clinic pre-safari will do the rest.
Myth: Kids need to sit for long periods in 4×4 vehicles
Fact: 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’ve got an incredible selection of camps, lodges and private safari houses at our fingertips where activities range from riding (horses, camels, and bikes) through to walking and boating safaris. So, there is no need to spend hours at a time in the 4×4. We will take into account children’s ages and interests when planning your safari so we can ensure every member of the family has a truly memorable holiday.
Myth: Wildlife viewing can be boring for children
Fact: 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, wildlife drives with children are adapted to their audience – 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!
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 are any wildlife questions they can’t answer
• Identify tracks (books aimed at children on safari like ‘A Bushveld Safari’ are ideal for this)
We would be delighted to help with planning your perfect family safari holiday. Our team of experts has travelled widely, often with their own children, throughout Africa and the Indian Ocean and can offer expert advice. Do get in touch – chatting to people 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. If 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.