There can be few family holidays as awe-inspiring as a safari. Vast savannahs, nature at its most untouched, and real-life storybook animals.
Safaris come with a sense of epic, olden-days adventure, which can inspire children and leave them with lifelong memories. Yes, it can take some careful planning to keep them entertained through the quieter moments, but as you watch them wait, observe and learn to notice all of the small things, you will realise just how enriching a holiday this can be, at any age.
Read on for our advice on the best safari destinations with kids.
Start in the stunning Laikipia County where you can experience the thrill of spotting rhinos and lions in the wild. Look out for passing elephants and zebra, and enjoy the area’s rich birdlife, from vultures and eagles to the sacred ibis and the marabou stork. Then move on to the Maasai Mara, the classic safari location. Introduce your children to the people who live and work this land, from the Samburu tribe to the conservationists now calling it home. Ignite your children’s imaginations as they listen to stories and explore new worlds and new communities that others can only imagine.
Kenya is the perfect choice for a safari with kids because of their private conservancy options, which can give you a far more flexible itinerary to some of the more rigid national parks. If your children don’t fancy heading out one day, then perhaps they can go horse-riding instead, or head off with a guide for a bush picnic. It can all be done on your terms. And when booking any safari, it is always worth checking out any timetabling restrictions and rules.
If you are planning a safari with your family, sometimes it is better to focus your search on the camp rather than the country. You might love the remote tent in the middle of nowhere, but children sometimes need a few activities to keep them entertained. And a swimming pool, at the very least. The Kwandwe Private Game Reserve is a verdant valley a few hours north of Cape Town by air. Hidden within it is a wealth of luxury family safari camps where children are welcomed and included with a raft of carefully planned activities. Play centres, treasure hunts, orienteering, and scavenger hunts - these wild landscapes offer so much fun and adventure for little ones, of all ages, so choose a place where that is a focus, rather than an afterthought.
The best safaris should be about more than just the animals. Hang out with the ancient Hadza and Datoga tribes for a taste of the hunter-gatherer existence in Tanzania. Learn how they tend their animals and live off the land. Find out how their climate has changed and their hear stories around a campfire. Experiencing and exploring different lives has the power to enlighten your children at a formative age. Encourage them to ditch the iPad for a while and soak up a wider world.
Of course, Tanzania does have all of the animals too, from the mass wildebeest migration to the bubble-gum pink flamingos and towering giraffes, you will get a front-row seat to one of the greatest wildlife shows on Earth.
If you are travelling with older children and teenagers then it’s a good idea to punctuate your trip with a truly amazing experience like a wild sleep out. Set up camp under the watchful eyes of expert guides, sit around a campfire and enjoy the night sky as you have never seen it before. Botswana’s Kalahari Desert, a sea of deep red sands and incredible sunsets, is the perfect destination for this. Spend the days searching for cheetah, caracal, honey badger, eland and oryx before setting up a pop-up camp in the ancestral homeland of the Kalahari bushpeople.
Botswana is also home to the vast lunar landscape of the Ntwetwe Pan. Take a drive across it and you could go in search of the two famous isolated baobabs (Green's Baobab and Chapman's Baobab) that marked this route for early European explorers. Your kids will enjoy a history lesson without even realising it.
Zambia has somehow remained fairly quiet in terms of tourism, and therefore has a characteristic wildness that encourages everyone to relax and let loose – even the grumpiest of teenagers. The big five are all here, so you can tick them off your list as you spot each one. But this country has some other incredible moments too. Head out in late November and you could time your visit with the wildebeest’s migration in the Liuwa Plain National Park. Or go between October and November when about 10 million fruit bats fill the skies above the Kasanka National Park as they complete the largest mammal migration in the world.
If your children aren’t inspired to become writers after witnessing these feats then we’ll be amazed. Though it might also inspire them to become conservationists, or scientists, or artists, or philosophers, or really anything, because a safari anywhere is like one massive classroom of the most brilliant kind. Opening up your children’s brain and imaginations to the widest world and familiarising them with communities that might have once felt a million miles away, can absolutely be transformative. It will also build family memories that will travel down through generations.
For more advice and ideas on luxury safari travel with kids, get in touch with our Untold Story Team today.