Many of us at Aardvark Safaris have children and have traveled extensively with them in Africa, so we know what works for kids of all ages when planning a family safari. We know where to go for authentic tribal interaction, which guides truly engage children and which camps genuinely welcome kids rather than merely tolerating them. While Africa is undoubtedly about the wildlife, we can ensure that you have the unique experiences to make your family holiday unforgettable.
Because we regularly visit all the properties we recommend, we know which safari camps and lodges offer ideal facilities for children. We can tell you where your little ones can help the chef cook breakfast in the bush, who has the best junior ranger programs, which schools and villages are great to visit, and where the guides will play baseball with elephant dung balls and bats made from sticks.
We might steer you away from pre-conceived ideas about certain camps or destinations if we feel they’re not a good fit for your family, no matter how popular or well-reviewed. The truth is that we won’t sell a safari – family or otherwise – unless we truly believe it’s the right holiday for clients we’ve come to know well. We’ve designed trips for families of three to twenty-three and each one has been absolutely personal and uniquely tailored to surprise and delight.
Over the years, we’ve discovered that variety is the key to a great family safari. We’ll recommend an itinerary with a mix of camps and lodges offering a range of different activities because even the most wildlife-crazed child will get bored sitting in a vehicle for days on end. And the stunning Indian Ocean is within reach of many safari destinations making lazy days of snorkeling and sandcastles an ideal finale after some time in the bush.
Over the past decade, Aardvark Safaris has played a big role in making safaris family friendly by encouraging camp owners to construct family tents and to hire guides who are great with children. There’s no doubt that with the right guidance, Africa is a superb choice for a family vacation. So watch the iPads and Gameboys disappear: there is so much to see and do that every member of the family, from the adventurous to the timid, the oldest to youngest, will have the time of their lives.
The chance to see Africa's mighty mammals in the flesh is certainly one of the experiences that make family safaris so memorable and life-changing, but it's worth bearing in mind that young attention spans can be short. Game drives are the usual way to get close to the greatest sights of the African bush but, with a family, it's worth varying the pace. There are any number of activities that fire young imaginations, combining the experience of Africa with excitement and adventure.
On a family safari, try:
Is Africa safe?
The personal security of our traveling clients is our prime concern. We constantly monitor the situation on the ground, and will only recommend you travel to countries, regions, and even specific camps where we feel you will be completely safe. Our constant contacts with local ground handlers, camp owners and managers, and safari guides on the ground means we're first to hear of any potential problems. A properly planned family safari will be safe, enjoyable and free of stress.
Which countries are best for children?
The majority of the regions where we operate safaris work well with children. Our personal recommendation will depend on a number of factors, including the time of year you wish to travel, the ages and interests of your children, and what you expect and hope to experience on your visit to Africa.
What is the youngest age you can take a child on safari?
Children the same age vary widely in their maturity and levels of interest in Africa and its wildlife. Most of the family safaris we arrange are planned for children aged six years and over, though we have sent families with younger children on hugely successful safaris. The best person to answer this question is yourself: you know what vacations have worked in the past with your child, their likes and dislikes. The most important things to bear in mind are that the places you stay can cater to your family's needs, and that any other guests will be comfortable with young children in their vicinity. When choosing lodges and camps for family safaris we tend to favor those where the owners and camp managers have young children of their own.
What happens during the evening and at night?
A key part of the safari experience is relaxing in the evening and enjoying al fresco dining: this is just as true for families as it is for any other traveler. Children of all ages will be welcome at the dinner table, but early mealtimes can be organized for younger children if required, and babysitters can be booked to allow parents to relax, sure that their children are sleeping peacefully.
When it comes to sleeping arrangements, some camps and lodges have interconnecting tents and cottages, which is always ideal for those traveling with younger children. Even if this type of accommodation can not be provided, it is usually feasible to put an extra child bed into a safari tent or guest bedroom. On other occasions, parents might choose to separate at night and each sleep with one or more child through the night. Usually such measures are not necessary, as the young are often more adventurous than their parents expect. Tents are invariably fitted with a whistle or a klaxon for attracting attention, and often children can be supplied with a cb radio to call for help if required. For lots of children, sleeping away from their parents in a cozy tent of their own is a highlight of their safari.
What about malaria and other diseases?
It is vital not to under-estimate the threat of malaria, and we keep a close eye on the prevalence of the disease in parts of Africa and continuing developments in malaria prophylaxis. In safari areas where malaria is found the new medications are shown to be effective for both adults and children, with few - if any - side-effects. Currently the drug of choice is Malarone, with a pediatric formulation available to immunize any child weighing over 33 lbs. All the camps we use have good mosquito nets and repellents, and we also encourage you to visit malarial areas in cooler, drier seasons, when mosquitoes - and, for that matter, all insects - are least active.
There are plenty of excellent safari camps in malaria-free areas, so don't let this put you off travel. Just ask our experts to make a recommendation.
What happens if my child is ill?
All the camps we use are equipped with a full medical emergency kit and staff trained in first aid, and even the most remote camps have the communications to talk to, or summon, a doctor. Where necessary we can arrange a medical evacuation, where a plane, often a specially adapted medi-rescue aircraft - will be called in to land at the nearest airstrip, but for this to be needed is very rare.
Can we combine the beach with a safari?
All children like to spend some time on a beach, and a few nights on the coast is the perfect finale for a family safari. Africa's Indian Ocean coast is blessed with endless beaches and turquoise seas, meaning you can often find your perfect patch of sand in the same country as your safari, though seasonal factors might mean you're better off flying out to Mauritius, the Seychelles or Zanzibar for some relaxing beach time. If beaches are important to you and your family you can always look further: even the remote islands off Mozambique and the new resorts off Madagascar have reasonable connections with the major African hub airports.
The plains and mountains of Africa cross latitudes and seasons, and vary considerably in altitude. Traditional rainy seasons are still reasonably predictable, and it is easy to plan a family vacation in Africa that will avoid wet weather or extremes of temperature and humidity. You can either decide where you want to go and plan to travel at an appropriate time of year, or choose your destination according to the prevalent weather at the time you need to travel.
It is however worth planning ahead. The lodges and camps we use are small and often popular: it doesn't take many guests to fill them to capacity and space is often limited, especially over vacation seasons including Christmas and summer. The more notice you can give us, the more likely it is that we will be able to reserve your place at the best lodges and camps.
January to March:
April and May:
Botswana, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Seychelles, Zambia
June to September:
Botswana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zanzibar, Zimbabwe
October to December: