Family Safaris: Take the Trip of a Lifetime – with Your Kids

An African safari is a once-in-a-lifetime, dream-come-true kind of vacation, if ever there was one. A safari allows you to view extraordinary wildlife up close. It allows you to see and participate in a whole new culture and way of life as well as to become immersed in nature, while still spending your evenings and nights in relative luxury (depending, of course, on the safari tour you choose.)

Because it’s such an adventure, you might have always assumed you would take a safari once your kids have grown, but more and more safari companies and adventure tour operators are creating family-friendly safaris in Africa.

What Makes an African Safari Family-Friendly?

The options run the gamut. You can choose from an all-inclusive resort-style safari where you and your kids enjoy a view of the bush from your lodge and then a drive to nearby game parks.

Until recently, most safaris did not allow children under the age of 12 to come along. That’s largely because tour operators question the safety of allowing small children to sit in the back of an open safari vehicle (for good reason.) Children can also contract malaria and digestive illnesses more easily than adults. And children need to be able to stay quiet and observe safety rules around the wild animals.

More recently, some tour operators have changed their facilities and certain tours to accommodate those younger passengers. You’ll have to check with each tour operator for specifics, but the accommodations include malaria-free areas of Africa, shorter drives within the game reserves, as well as children’s activities back at the lodge.

If your kids are over the age of 12, your opportunities do open up in terms of what you can expect to do. Some tour operators will allow older kids to camp with the family while on safari.

Children and Safaris: Important Considerations

If you do plan to take children under the age of 12 on a safari, here are some points to consider:

* Make sure the safari you choose is age appropriate. Be honest and upfront with your tour operator in terms of the ages of your children and the standards of behavior they can reasonably be expected to uphold. This is an important matter of safety, after all.

* Even if your tour operator accepts young children, it’s generally a good idea to wait until they are at least 8 to undertake an adventure of this magnitude. They’ll be better able to remember it, too, after this age.

* Consider a self-drive safari. You’ll be better able to control how long you’re driving in the park and you’ll be able to leave when you need to.

* Book a lodge with a pool, so kids can cool off and enjoy some free play time in a somewhat familiar vacation environment.

* Stay at a malaria-free game park.

* Consider a shorter trip. Family-friendly options begin at 4 days and extend to 13 days.

* Consider the Garden Route in South Africa. The Garden Route offers more than drives through game reserves. You can also enjoy beaches, whale-watching, hiking, ostrich riding, golfing, swimming, and bungee jumping. The Garden Route is east of Cape Town and enjoys a year-round mild climate, making it a favorite destination any time of the year.

Where and How to Book a Family-Friendly African Safari for Your Family

There are a number of places to safari in Africa including:

* Kenya’s Tsavo National Park

* Tanzania’s Northern Circuit which includes the Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater

* Kruger National Park

* Pilanesberg

You can book a tour by connecting with a travel agent you trust, by browsing the options at your favorite adventure travel site, or by simply visiting the African tourism website and by booking a trip yourself online. Prices range depending on the time of your vacation, the duration, the age of your children and the amenities you want.

Gap Adventures/Discovery Channel Adventures offer a variety of African Safaris, including the 7-day Serengeti Family Safari, which is billed as the perfect safari for families.

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