When it comes to family holidays, the bush can be one of the most magical places for children – and adults – to visit. Seeing wild animals, birds and insects in their natural habitat, getting away from the pressures and stresses of city life and soaking up the fresh air – a bush holiday can be pure heaven for anyone.
Still, as an adult, going on safari with children can be challenging, especially if they’re very young. With companies like the Zambezi Queen Collection offering a safari special where kids 12 and under get 75% off for travel from 1 December 2017 until 31 January 2018, a safari with the little ones is now even more accessible. If you’re planning a bush break with children, here are our top tips to make sure it’s enjoyable and relaxing for the whole family:
Minimise the risks
The main health risks for anyone going on safari are contracting malaria and being bitten by snakes, spiders or other creepy-crawlies. For young children, these risks can be even greater. Take all the anti-malaria precautions you can, such as anti-malaria medication (if your children are old enough), plus pack light clothing that covers their wrists and ankles. Don’t forget mosquito spray and wall pads as repellants, and citronella oil as a good non-toxic option that wards off flies too. Also bring along a basic first aid kit for minor cuts or bites and suncream and pain medication in case your kids get sick while they’re away.
Get your kids involved
The key to staving off boredom for kids on safari is involving them so that they get excited about the animal life around them. Game activity exercise books are great for older kids – they can tick off and write about what they see each day. Kiddies’ binoculars and disposable cameras are also excellent for them to share in the excitement of a sighting.
Take along camp activities
While a bush holiday for an adult may mean plenty of quiet downtime, chances are your kids’ energy levels won’t change. Plan ahead by taking along games and toys that they can enjoy in the limited space of the camp. This could be a cricket bat and ball, crayons, paint and paper for art activities and glue. A bucket and spade is also great for younger children to play with in the sand.
Pack the right clothes
Depending on the time of year you visit, bush weather generally means extreme temperatures, with very hot days and cold nights. Pack a mix of summer clothes for your kids, as well as jackets and jerseys for night time. A wide-brimmed hat is essential for sun protection, and a beanie is useful for keeping them warm once the sun sets. Buffs are also very useful for protecting little ones from the wind, sand and sun – and they can wet them to keep cool in the daytime. Don’t forget flip-flops to protect their feet when they walk around the camp.
Snacks, snacks and more snacks
Few things are more frustrating than a hungry, grumpy child on a game drive (or boat trip if you’re on a water safari), especially when you’re far away from camp. Pack lots of snacks whenever you go on a game drive or day trip; healthy, portable foods like rice cakes, dried fruit and biltong are ideal. Long, hot days also mean that your kids need plenty of hydration, so pack lots of water and/or juice in a cooler box so they stay cold – or freeze bottles the night before.
Don’t rush your itinerary
When travelling with young children, you’ll get more out of your holiday – and your kids will be happier – if you spend more time in fewer places. Plan to stay for at least two nights wherever you go, which also minimises the travel days where you spend long stretches of time in the car or at airports.
Adjust your expectations
A family safari with children is a very different holiday from a romantic bush break with just you and your partner. Travelling with kids involves more logistical planning around your itinerary and plenty of compromise. For example, you may have to do a long game drive in the morning and a shorter one in the evening, as it’s not practical for your kids to be on long night drives long after bedtime. Also, if you’re a stickler for routine, this may not always be possible in a safari environment, so rather go with the flow.
Going on safari with children can be an incredible way to spend quality time together as a family, and it can inspire a love of animals and nature in your children that may have remained dormant in their city lives. With a bit of preparation, you can ensure you make special memories for all of you that last a lifetime.