Taking kids on safari – what you need to know

Planning your dream holiday with children is no small feat. Add the African bushveld, long game drives and wild animals and you might feel slightly overwhelmed.

To help you on your way to having an unforgettable, stress-free time with your family under the African sky, we’ve put together a checklist of things you really shouldn’t leave without. Also, read our blog post with 10 things to take on safari to make sure you have covered all bases!

happy little boy travel by car in mountains, kids travel

Getting there:

If you are traveling by air to reach your safari destination, make sure you take note of the following:

1) Check-in online beforehand so that you can book preferred seats from home and cut out queuing.

2) Sucking or drinking during take-off is helpful for toddlers; also pack their favourite something to take their minds off this ‘scary’ part of flying.

3) Pack blow-up neck pillows and their favourite blanket to make it as comfortable as possible for your child to fall asleep during the flight – ensuring they are rested and ready for your adventure.

Happy woman and child in car against blue sky background. Summer vacation concept

Whilst on safari:

1) Layered cotton clothing – with kids, comfort is key! Dress them in comfortable and breathable clothing in natural tones, to prevent heat rash and excess sweating against their sensitive skin. Temperatures can vary greatly from morning to evening, especially in winter – ranging from being very cold on the morning drive, to warm and even hot at midday. The secret is to dress them in several layers that you can take off or add to as needed.

2) Sun protection – protect your little one’s delicate skin from the harsh African sun with a lightweight, wide-brimmed hat and child-safe sunscreen no less than 50 SPF. Be sure to apply generously in the morning and re-apply every two – three hours.

3) Quality trainers or hiking shoes – although you won’t be doing too much walking, children will feel any distance on their feet a lot quicker than adults. Keep discomfort and complaining at bay and encourage exploration, with ultra-comfortable trainers or hiking shoes that will both protect them from stumbling on uneven terrain and keep their feet cool and well supported.

4) Food and drinks – don’t forget that kids burn energy a lot quicker than we do! Although meals are likely to be included in your package, have a compact cooler bag with their favourite healthy snacks and cold drink readily available to keep them hydrated and happy.

5) Entertainment – game drives and lazy afternoons in the camp or at the lodge can quickly become boring and monotonous for young minds. Here are a few ideas to keep them entertained:

– Load an iPad or other devices with their favourite games, music and programmes (be sure to pack the headphones as to not distract the animals or other guests, and make sure the device is fully charged each day).

– Encourage your child’s engagement with nature by giving them a durable digital camera and making it a competition to see who can photograph or film the most (interesting) animals each day. Have a small daily prize ready for the winner. If you have teenagers, why not take it to the next level by creating a unique hashtag for your holiday and loading the winning photo to your various social media platforms each day? This way, friends and family at home will be able to share in your experience.

– Surprise them with a new toy or book when you see they are bored or frustrated. To keep it fun and relevant, make it animal-themed.

– Encourage them to make memories. Give your older child a journal and encourage them to write or draw things they see or experience. Give your toddler a colourful box that they can fill with interesting things (dead or alive) they find whilst playing outside. Create a moment each day to sit down and have a look at what they wrote or collected.

– Most lodges offer child-care facilities and entertainment for those days that your kids would rather not join you, or for evening/ sun-rise drives where you’d prefer to leave them in sleeping in bed.

6) A view – considering your child’s height and age, pack an inflatable pillow to elevate them slightly so that they won’t miss out on seeing animals during game drives. Also give them their own binoculars.

7) Be sleep savvy – pack their teddy or other comfort toy in your day bag, to make it easier for them to nap ‘on the go’. Keep bugs at bay by applying (kid-friendly) insect repellent during the day and at bedtime. Pack a mosquito net for your child’s cot/bed if the lodge doesn’t have one available (they are likely to so check first).

8) First aid kit and meds – new environments often trigger sicknesses or allergies. Be sure to pack non-prescription antihistamine, paracetamol, a thermometer and your first aid kit, and have it readily available.

9) Waterless hand cleaner and wet wipes – keep little hands and faces clean and fresh throughout the day, with wet wipes and waterless hand cleaner (opt for the hygiene one).

10) Relax and have fun – the above checklist will go a long way in making your safari as enjoyable and stress-free as possible. However, nothing is quite as effective as parents who are intentional about resting, having fun and making memories with their family. You lead the way; they will surely follow!

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