Are you thinking of going on safari with kids, but not sure what to expect? There is a common believe that safari and family travel doesn’t go well together. Let me tell you that it’s not true. Given we all want our family safari to be a fun, trouble-free holiday, here are eight rules we have borrowed from Condé Nast Traveller India you should follow to ensure exactly that:
Thou shalt choose the destination wisely
When you’re on safari, there are things you can’t control, but choosing the right destination is not one of them. Get the entire family involved when you’re picking a place. Avoid long flights, multiple stopovers, tedious drives and strenuous walking. African destinations such as South Africa’s Kruger National Park and Kenya’s Nairobi National Park are popular getaways. They are easily accessible from India and feature a rich and diverse wildlife. Closer home, there are national parks and reserves across the country that can be fun for the kids, such as Ranthambore, Kanha and Periyar, among several others.
Thou shalt be well informed
Read up on medical facilities, health warnings and vaccinations. Many parts of South Africa and Sri Lanka are malaria-free, but tropical diseases such as malaria and yellow fever are prevalent in popular safari destinations such as Brazil and East Africa. Therefore, make sure all the required vaccinations are taken on time. Bear in mind that immediate access to full medical facilities can be scarce, though most places will have basic first-aid.
Thou shalt set the right expectations
When preparing your kids for the upcoming trip, let them know the difference between a zoo and a jungle safari. Teach them to enjoy nature and the jungle. Let them know that it is important to be patient—and silent—while they wait to spot the big animals. And in case they don’t, point out the smaller animals and the birds so they don’t feel disappointed and they understand that the excitement of the quest often equals actual animal sightings, particularly the big ones who can be quite elusive.
Thou shalt find a lodge that’s great for kids
All safari lodges don’t take children under a certain age for safety reasons, so find the ones that do beforehand. Pick hotels that have kids’ clubs, children’s activities or babysitters. In South Africa, Madikwe Safari Lodge (doubles from R13,790 or Rs68,667) welcomes kids of all ages, including toddlers. The Taj Safaris lodges, such as Banjaar Tola (doubles from Rs38,000) near Kanha, offer Wild Kids@Taj programme, which includes safari trips in specially designed open 4x4s and excursions to nearby villages.
give up gadgets
A safari is a great time to break the unhealthy habit of gadget addiction. Make wildlife and bird-viewing checklists to keep the kids interested. Picture books on local wildlife are always available and are a great souvenir. Travelling with other families who have kids of a similar age always helps. Think of creative word games and have a list of fun animal facts to narrate on the long drives. If you absolutely must let them watch a movie, pick jungle-themed ones to set the mood. And most importantly, lead by example.
Thou shalt pack smart
Fussy parent travellers make fussy children travellers. On safaris, excess luggage is always an issue. Pack only the essentials. Carry a small first-aid kit as a precaution. Pack for your kids the way you would pack for yourself and don’t sweat the small stuff. A favourite snack always helps, but avoid carrying entire meals; most lodges are happy to cater to dietary restrictions and preferences.
Thou shalt plan child-friendly activities
Certain activities, such as walking safaris, gorilla and chimp trekking, canoeing or horse riding, are not suitable for younger children. Most child-friendly lodges have cultural and outdoorsy things to do. The Royal Chundu lodge (doubles from ZMK59,63,636 or Rs74,020) on the banks of River Zambezi in Zambia offers activities such as treasure hunting, fishing and frogging safaris. The Four Seasons Safari Lodge (doubles from TZS35,58,420 or Rs1,02,566) in Tanzania’s Serengeti National Park has a Kijana Kids Klub, with a variety of options, including spending an afternoon with a Maasai Warrior.
Thou shalt encourage conservation
Safari guides and local hotel staff can be very knowledgeable and informative. Give your kids an inexpensive camera and encourage them to keep journals of their experiences. Last but not the least, inculcate the importance of preserving nature and protecting wildlife. Encourage them to get involved in programmes offered at your lodge.