HOW TO PLAN A SAFARI TRIP FOR YOUR FAMILY

What could be more exciting than seeing your kids encounter animals in the wild and not in a zoo? Family safaris in Africa SHOULD be a trip of a lifetime – one that each of you can remember and share stories forever. However, before being able to tick off this item on your bucket list, you need to know certain things like when are where to go, where to stay, what’s best for the kids, etc. This guide will tell you all about how to plan a safari trip for your family.

THINGS TO CONSIDER

Before anything else, you need to take into account the following things in order for you to create the best safari for the entire bunch:

  • How old are your children?
  • What things do you want to experience?
  • What animals do you want to see?
  • Does the tour operator cater to children?

QUESTION 1: WHICH COUNTRY IS BEST FOR A FAMILY SAFARI?

For Family, we will focus on the top 3 safari destinations in Africa: South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. If you want a more authentic African experience, Tanzania and Kenya are the best places to go. These countries are poorer when it comes to infrastructure and its parks remain “wild” despite the tourism surge each year. Between the two, Kenya’s major international airport (Jomo Kenyatta, NBO) caters more international flights from across the globe compared to Tanzania which is relatively more difficult and expensive to go to. However, even though Tanzania is generally more expensive, the country is endowed with more super activities for the entire family — even with kids in tow.

Most families, especially those with younger kids, opt to travel to South Africa. Thanks to its multitude of things to do and places to see which can be enjoyed before and/or after a wildlife safari, it is often the first choice for family safaris. Aside from a more modern/advanced infrastructure and an endless variety of activities including a visit to waterparks, swimming with the whales and dolphins and several city as well as coastal tours, South Africais also very accessible from other parts of the world – UK and Europe, America, Middle East, Asia and even Oceania. Plus, South Africa is also home to many malaria-free parks as well as a lot of excellent hospitals and healthcare professionals. The downside here, though, is because the country’s infrastructure is more advanced, the “real Africa” feels is toned down. So if you’re after the authentic African experience with your brood, Tanzania is best, followed by Kenya. If you’re looking into doing other activities like visiting vineyards, seeing penguins and whales, and you don’t mind losing the touch of “real Africa”, South Africa is your best choice.

QUESTION 2: WHEN IS THE BEST TIME TO VISIT?

Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa are all year-round destinations but the best time to visit these countries for game viewing is during a dry season. In Kenya and Tanzania, it’s best to visit between June and October and for South Africa is between July and November.  December to February is also an excellent time to visit these countries. In Tanzania for the action-packed calving season during the iconic Great Wildebeest Migration, in South Africa for its dry, summer months in the Cape, and in Kenya for the migratory birds, newborn animals and lush scenery.

QUESTION 3: WHAT FAMILY-FRIENDLY PLACES SHOULD WE VISIT?

There are a lot of places to visit in each country. Here are the top 10 attractions that are recommended for families:

SOUTH AFRICA TANZANIA KENYA
  • Kruger National Park
  • Table Mountain
  • Kirstenbosch, Cape Town
  • Chapman’s Peak
  • Sun City, Northwest Province
  • De Waal Park
  • Cape Town beaches
  • V&A Waterfront
  • Serengeti National Park
  • Ngorongoro Conservation
  • Lake Manyara National Park
  • Mount Kilimanjaro
  • Arusha National Park
  • Zanzibar
  • Tarangire National Park
  • Mto Wa Mbu banana plantations
  • Tinga Tinga Arks Cooperative Society
  • Dar es Salaam
  • Masai Mara National Reserve
  • Nairobi National Park
  • The Crocodile Farm and Snake Park, Malindi
  • Giraffe Center
  • Splash Water World
  • Nairobi City playgrounds and attractions
  • Karen Blixed Museum
  • Elephant Orphanage(David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust)
  • Mount Kenya Safari Club
  • Fort Jesus, Mombasa

 

QUESTION 4: ANY OTHER ACTIVITIES WE CAN ENJOY AS A FAMILY?

There are lots of activities that you can enjoy as a family or each of you can enjoy yourselves. Depending on your interests, travel style, budget and country to visit, these are the activities we recommend:

ACTIVITIES SOUTH AFRICA TANZANIA KENYA
Hot air balloon ride
Helicopter tours
Beach
Open air cinema
Karting
Indoor trampoline park
Snorkeling
Water/Amusement Park
Painting a Masai masterpiece
Conoeing/ boating
Cycling
Horseback Riding
Dolphin watching or swimming
Whale watching

 

QUESTION 5: HOW CAN WE GET THERE?

There are plenty of flights from all over the world to South Africa, Kenya and Tanzania but among the three, Tanzania is the most expensive to fly to and flights, although plenty, isn’t as much available compared to the other two countries. What other people do to visit this ultimate safari paradise is they book a flight via Nairobi or Johannesburg and then take a connecting flight to Tanzania, which is usually cheaper than a direct flight. Kenya and South Africa are the biggest hubs in the continent as both international airports are linked to the rest of the world by a plethora of major airlines like KLM, Delta, Emirates and Turkish Airlines. Due to competition, airfares to either Kenya or South Africa are relatively cheaper.

When it comes to flight duration, travel to East Africa (Tanzania and Kenya) is shorter., which takes about 8 hours from Europe. Traveling to South Africa, on the other hand, is roughly 11 to 12 hours on average. Most families take an overnight flight or make a short stopover to acclimate to the time difference and avoid any jet lags.

QUESTION 6: CAN WE SELF-DRIVE?

Self-driving is the most ideal way to go on a family safari because of the freedom when it comes to the needs of each family member. However, this option is not available nor advisable in East Africa including Tanzania and Kenya. If you want to self-drive, South Africa is the place to go. It has excellent roads with good signs or posts for directions and there are many vehicles you can rent.

QUESTION 7: WHAT TO PACK FOR THE KIDS?

There really is nothing special to pack for the kids unless they have special needs or restrictions or personal preferences. These are the usual stuff for any kid on a safari:

  • comfortable clothes and lots of extras
  • comfortable closed shoes
  • sun hat/cap
  • sunscreen
  • light jacket
  • binoculars
  • mosquito repellant or bug spray
  • malaria tablets
  • interesting books or African wildlife guide
  • sunglassess

 

TIPS ON PLANNING A FAMILY SAFARI:

Serengeti National Park

  • Plan ahead and brainstorm with the entire family for ideas and preferences. Is there anything specific you want to see as a family, like perhaps a variety of birds, a large pride of lions or an adventure up a mountain? One member might want a toilet or loo that flushes, the other might want to stay in a camp with a swimming pool and your spouse might want to have a bottle of champagne at night. List all the wants and needs and tailor your safari as well as picking of tour operator from there.
  • Decide on what kind of accommodation you would like to stay in…and make sure the lodge/camp allows children. Would you prefer connecting rooms, a family suite or a private villa? Or maybe you want to try roughing it out in a budget camping tent for a few days?
  • Do not hesitate to give the tour operator/specialist a brief of what you want on your safari. Each operator offers different tried-and-tested tours and frankly, most of them offer more or less the same itineraries. The difference comes in with the level of service they provide. If you can’t find a perfect ready-made itinerary, always confide in the tour operator and find out what they can offer. Contact as many operators as you can and when you find an operator you’re comfortable with, work with them and refine your tour with them until you have the perfect family holiday of your dreams.
  • Get details. Don’t be shy to ask for all the details from your chosen tour operator regarding your trip. You can call them, send them an e-mail or even talk to them in person.
  • When happy with the plan, book. Prices may increase or accommodations may become unavailable in time. If you are already confident with the tour operator and the tailor-made itinerary you’ve created with them, book it right away and relax in the knowledge that probably the best family vacation you’ll have awaits you and your family.
  • Keep your kids interested when you’re already in the safari. Let them use the binoculars and camera, give them a checklist of animals to watch out for, and stay with family-oriented lodges particularly in those with kid-friendly programs and childminders/babysitters.
  • Make sure that safari activities are age-appropriate. This way, you can be sure that everyone in the family gets to enjoy the vacation.
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