Father with children on the savannah on an African family safari

Everything You Need to Know Before Booking an African Family Safari

Embarking on an African family safari presents an extraordinary opportunity for individuals of all ages to immerse themselves in the wonders of nature and wildlife. Planning the perfect family safari on the continent can initially seem both exhilarating and daunting as you navigate through various considerations for your trip.

From selecting the ideal destination to determining the duration of your journey, as well as ensuring safety and comfort, meticulous planning is essential for a successful family safari experience. It involves understanding the desires and requirements of each family member while effectively managing expectations to strike the right balance for your African safari adventure with children.

Here’s what you need to keep in mind as you begin to plan an unforgettable African safari vacation for you and your family.

Game drive on a African Family safari watching elephants


Taking into account the age of your family members


An African family safari promises an adventure brimming with excitement. Whether you’re a small family trio or a multi-generational group, there are a bunch of factors to consider beyond just selecting the top safari countries or determining the best time to embark on an African adventure. While the idea of sharing this thrilling experience with your little ones is undoubtedly appealing, it’s crucial to note that many safari lodges and camps have age restrictions, typically permitting children aged 10, 12, 16, or older on game drives.

Ensuring the safety of all passengers during game drives is paramount. Part of the etiquette on these excursions involves remaining calm and patient while observing wildlife. Surveying the diverse landscapes within game reserves and parks reveals a range of accommodations, from lodges nestled on rocky mountainsides to tented campsites scattered along winding pathways. While the serene African bush is an enchanting setting for many, some younger travellers may find its remote tranquillity less appealing.

Similarly, travelling with grandparents necessitates specific logistical considerations, including the proximity of accommodations to the main lodge and ensuring comfortable transportation between locations. Opting for the best family-friendly African safaris may involve strategic planning. For instance, if your children are too young to join a game drive, arranging for them to stay back at the lodge with a grandparent who’s happy to sit it out ensures that you can explore with peace of mind, knowing everyone is well cared for back at camp.

Father and children sitting on camp chairs watching animals in the background on an African family safari


Engage your young safari adventurers with the planning process


When planning an African family safari with younger members of your family, it’s essential to recognize that their attention spans may be short. However, involving them in planning can significantly enhance their excitement and anticipation. Begin by initiating discussions with them about the destination and what they can expect, gauging whether the idea of exploring and immersing themselves in a wild environment resonates with them.

Encourage them to share their interests, whether it’s the different types of safaris they’d like to experience or their expectations for a typical day on safari. Discussing what they’ve heard about Africa and explaining the concept of a safari can also help align everyone’s expectations for this remarkable adventure. These conversations serve an important purpose and can be enjoyable and educational for the entire family.

Helping children understand the distinction between seeing animals in a zoo versus encountering them in their natural habitat is valuable. Discussing proper behaviour in the bush and involving them in creating a checklist of animals they hope to spot during their game drives or junior tracker experiences can further ignite their enthusiasm.

Engage them in learning about Africa, its wildlife, and the landscapes they’ll be exploring by sharing online videos or following live safaris from various game reserves. Learning about the fascinating wildlife and understanding their behaviours and habitats can be a captivating experience for the entire family, fostering excitement and curiosity for the adventure ahead.

Choosing the best time to travel on an African family safari


Picking the right time of year to travel is also essential. Africa has two primary dry seasons and two wet seasons, all of which impact wildlife viewing, accessibility, and comfort. Wildlife viewing is typically cozied around the dry season, and travelling during this time maximizes your chances of seeing animals in their most active state.

The peak season is usually from June to September, which is also the busiest time, with prices to match. If you want fewer crowds and balanced weather, consider staying at shoulder seasons, from March to May (wet) or October to December (wet/dry transition).

Mother and daughter in a luxury tented camp on an African family safari


Tailoring safari accommodations for young explorers


In Africa, the array of safari accommodations caters to young adventurers, offering experiences that extend from the kitchen to the surrounding bush. Properties often provide options for older children to engage in interactive activities. Some will feature dedicated kids’ clubs where creativity flourishes.

Beyond traditional game drives, an African family safari presents a wealth of activities to captivate young minds. From candle making to learning traditional dance rhythms or baking cookies alongside skilled chefs, there’s no shortage of hands-on experiences. Short excursions into the bush allow young adventurers to track animal prints, applying their newfound knowledge from keepsake journals back at camp.

For teenagers, the safari experience can include horseback riding, cultural immersions, brief walking safaris, or even exhilarating gorilla trekking opportunities. (typically available for travellers over age 16). Each activity adds an element of excitement to the adventure, fostering valuable learning experiences along the way.

Mobile camping offers a dynamic approach, allowing families to explore different parks and environments, ensuring each day brings new and thrilling discoveries. Combining game drives with adrenaline-pumping activities like ziplining, kayaking, or treetop canopy tours creates an immersive adventure experience.

A knowledgeable guide can enrich the safari experience for children of all ages, capturing their attention and sharing insights about the environment. Even in the absence of significant wildlife sightings.

I can assist in ensuring your children are well-entertained during their stay at the lodge. It’s essential to choose accommodations with family-friendly rooms or tents, as well as the option to hire a private guide and vehicle for added convenience. With a safari circuit catering to all ages, there’s an adventure waiting to be explored, and we’re here to guide you every step of the way.

Mother and son eating a picnic on a game drive on an African family safari with land rover in the background


Consider the length of your trip


The duration of your African family safari experience can vary significantly depending on your family’s schedule and preferences. Some families may only have a few days to spare, while others can dedicate several weeks to their adventure. The length of your trip will influence the type of safari you choose and the destinations you explore, taking into account factors such as travel distance to Africa and whether you plan to combine your safari with beach relaxation or urban exploration.

Consider how many days you and your family feel comfortable spending in the bush. And how many game drives would you like to include in your itinerary? Think about whether you’re prepared for long-distance travel over several days. Can your children handle being away from home for an extended period? It’s important to note that East African safaris differ from those in southern Africa. East Africa offers longer drives between parks and a primary focus on safari activities.

Factor in your children’s ages. What is their tolerance for extended travel? Are there any budget considerations that may affect the duration of your safari? By carefully weighing these factors, you can determine the ideal length of your safari adventure. This will ensure a more memorable and enjoyable experience for the whole family.

Mother and dauther watching elephants on a African family safari


How to decide the best African safari destination for your family


Choosing the ideal location for your African adventure involves considering various factors, which may initially seem daunting.

Africa is a vast continent with many different countries. Each country has its unique blend of wildlife, cultures, climates, and geography. When planning an African safari, you need to pick a country and area that will connect with your family’s interests. Are you interested in gorilla trekking? Safari in the desert or in the grasslands? Beaches? Adventure activities? I can help you find the best country or parks for your preferred activities.

In East Africa, the emphasis is primarily on game viewing, with closed 4×4 safari vehicles commonly used. These vehicles feature pop-up roofs, providing ample space to stand and admire the diverse wildlife across numerous parks and reserves. Conversely, in southern Africa, game drives typically occur in open 4×4 vehicles, often with the option for short walking safaris.

Once you’ve narrowed down your preferred country or region, the next step is to explore accommodation and activities. Many lodges in southern Africa are well-equipped for family safaris, offering children’s clubs and activities tailored to teens. Collaborating with a travel specialist can help pinpoint accommodations that align with your family’s needs and preferences.

Both East and Southern Africa offer opportunities to extend your adventure with post-safari activities. You might want to consider a city escape or a beach break. South Africa, in particular, boasts excellent connectivity to urban and coastal destinations. This allows you to craft a comprehensive itinerary that caters to everyone’s interests.

Working with a safari specialist like myself streamlines the process of selecting your ideal safari destination. By sharing your preferences and desired experiences, I can recommend parks, reserves, and accommodations that suit your family’s needs. I encourage open discussions throughout the planning process to ensure that every detail is carefully considered. You’ll have a tailored and memorable African adventure for you and your loved ones.

Father and son taking photos on a game drive on an African family safari


Age Restrictions


Most national parks have age restrictions when it comes to participating in activities like gorilla trekking or hot air balloon rides. Some game drives impose age limits due to the duration and other transportation considerations, such as open-air vehicles. To ensure safety, your family must comply with these requirements. I will advise you which options are best for you.

A child sits outside of a luxury tented camp on a African family safari


Packing for your African family safari adventure


When packing for an African family safari, pack light and smart. Carry minimum bags. Focus on essential items like comfortable and easily breathable clothing. Consider closed-toe shoes, binoculars, sun protection, insect repellant, and a first-aid kit. Consider packing a sturdy camera with extra batteries or power banks. Smaller books or activity sheets for your younger ones and medications for emergencies.

International flights can feel long for even the most frequent of travellers, never mind a child. It’s essential to pack wisely. Consider including their favourite electronic device, some compact books, travel-style games, and colouring materials that can easily fit into your carry-on luggage – along with their favourite snacks.

Ensure that everyone in your family has sturdy walking shoes and outfits in neutral tones suitable for outdoor activities. Don’t forget to bring along a camera and a pair of binoculars to capture the stunning wildlife and landscapes you’ll encounter. A journal can also be a fun addition, allowing children to jot down their safari experiences or keep track of the animals they’ve seen.

While packing, avoid bringing bulky items that will just weigh you down, no matter how important they may seem. Encourage your family members to pack light, as it will make the journey more comfortable and hassle-free. Additionally, consider bringing along your child’s favourite stuffy or small blanket. This will provide them with a little extra comfort from home during the adventure.

Consider these tips for health and safety for your family


Essential Vaccinations and Immunizations


Before travelling to Africa, it is essential to consult with your doctor or a travel health clinic. This will determine which vaccinations and immunizations are required. In addition to routine vaccinations, you’ll also need to be vaccinated for yellow fever, hepatitis A and B, meningitis, and typhoid. For US citizens, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) issues up-to-date recommendations for travellers to African Countries. For Canadians, check out the Government of Canada’s website.

mother with children watching a rhino on a African family safari


Choosing a reputable travel operator and advisor


Africa is a vast and diverse continent with many different countries and regions. Each country has its own unique characteristics, challenges and attractions. Understanding these differences can help you choose the best African country for your family safari.

As a travel expert in Africa, I’ve helped many families plan and book safaris. I’ve helped them to explore the continent’s diverse and thrilling natural landscapes. An African family safari can be an incredible experience, but it’s important to consider several factors before booking. 

Secondly, it’s important to set realistic expectations. An African family safari is not a vacation at the beach or a theme park. While it can be luxurious and comfortable, it is still an adventure and an immersive experience in nature. Before booking, make sure that your family is prepared for long days of travelling. This will include early mornings and some level of physical activity.

Choosing a reputable tour operator or guide is essential to your safari planning process. An experienced guide can help you navigate the terrain, spot wildlife, and offer a broader understanding of the area. Based on my experience in the region, I’ll use my contacts to ensure you get the best safari guide.

An African family safari can be one of the best ways to experience the continent’s wild beauty, creating everlasting memories for your family. But to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, you must carefully prepare and consider each aspect. Choosing the right country, season, accommodations, safety, age requirements, professional guide, and packing will save you the headache and maximize your fun. With careful planning and the guidance of a travel expert, an African family safari can deliver an unforgettable experience for your family.

I can help. Book an appointment with me to learn more.

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It can be challenging to know where to start when trying to book an African family safari. This article will help clear things up.



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