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A family safari in Kenya or Tanzania offers a superb opportunity for your family to share a remarkable adventure, including vast plains, mountains, lakes and spectacular wildlife. The key to a successful safari with kids and young people lies in the selection of bases, guides and suitable activities
With advice from experts, you can enjoy a safari that ensures the needs, expected level of comfort, individual interests and, of course, the safety of your nearest and dearest throughout a memorable trip. The goal is a safari that is unforgettable - enjoyable for all family members and perhaps more than a little educational in the process, including wildlife encounters on vast open plains with a professional guide.
Safaris inspire children aged six and over in many different ways – not only for game viewing. After a morning watching a hundred elephant splashing and wallowing at a waterhole, for instance, they could spend the afternoon on a beginner’s tracking course, playing with local Masai children or learning the medicinal use of plants from a bushman guide. For older siblings – the tricky teenage years - imagine a day canoeing together down the Zambezi or creeping up stealthily on a herd of giraffe, along with an excellent guide.
Also, you can combine time on safari with a city break, such as Cape Town or a beach holiday, such a remote Mozambique island or a luxurious five-star hotel in the Seychelles or Mauritius.
As with all travelling, a little groundwork is the greatest preparation – especially important with a family including young children. Some lodges, such as Treetops and The Ark, do not accept children under seven years old, while Mount Kenya Safari Club, children use a different dining room.
Child-friendly safaris: There is quite a lot of “downtime” on a safari: hours spent sitting quietly in the vehicle, patiently waiting for, or watching, animals who will be frightened away by sudden movement and hours whiled away in the camp between drives. Fractious and argumentative children (and adults!) can annoy fellow travellers and scare the animals away and some travel agencies organise family safaris that are especially designed for couples travelling with children.
Some of the lodges cater for young ones with children clubs focusing on games and nature activities. Many of the lodges and permanent tented camps have swimming pools. Staying at a lodge with a pool is recommended for occupying the unoccupied daytime hours, especially as there are unlikely to be many other children around. That said, safaris are now increasingly popular among families, since watching wildlife is something adults and children can do with equal pleasure.
Some activities are specifically age restricted to 15+, including walking and canoe safaris, but can still accommodate 11-year-olds. They may, however, require a specific guide and are limited to certain camps and locations. Some activities are strictly not permissible for youngsters.
One safari operator says: “Kids often change character in the bush. Without exception we've found that youngsters whose attention span is normally no greater than that of a flea suddenly become totally engrossed in the new and foreign safari experience. They can turn into ‘knowledge sponges’ and sometimes put us adults to shame.”
An increasingly popular event is the safari as a family reunion, often including members of the group who have never experienced Africa and members joining across separate continents. A strong formula is to arrange well in advance through a designated leader and choosing a specific camp offering a wide range of activities, catering for different ages and interests at the same time.
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