A safari is a great learning experience and can also be an excellent way to spend time with your friends and family. This is the one time you’ll have the opportunity to see untamed wilderness up close and with your own personal guide to offer as much information as you can handle.
So what exactly is the right age when children can be considered safari-ready? I get this question a lot and it probably comes as no surprise to learn that there is no ‘right’ age. Children mature at different rates and in different ways, and no two are alike. The onus is on the parent or guardian to determine when a child is old enough to have the patience and attention span to endure the long game drives.
With private safaris, there is some flexibility as it is only your group in the safari vehicle. So, if your son or daughter is unable to sit still after three or four hours into the game drive, there is the option to head back to camp. But you must bear in mind that you may be an hour away from camp. With group safaris you are not afforded this liberty. I have seen more than once a safari vehicle returning to camp, small child in the front, crying their eyes out, grimacing faces in the rear, upset at the thought of missing an exciting afternoon of animal watching. Even with a private safari, it’s still important to think of the others in your party. For example, if you are going with another couple who has older children or who isn’t bringing children, bringing along a young child will have an impact on everyone’s itinerary.
It’s always exhilarating when you encounter wildlife. I never tire of seeing a giraffe, with its long, spindly neck, emerge out of the background, nicely camouflaged by the Acacia trees. Animal babies of any species put a wide grin on my face and I could spend literally hours watching them at play. However, it’s very important to bear in mind that when you’re observing these animals in the wild, that you are absolutely forbidden to leave the confines of your safari vehicle. For younger children, this can be extremely difficult, especially when Mother Nature calls.
To conclude, I normally try to encourage children eight years and older to go on safari. Not only are they old enough to remember the experience in enough detail, but they also are starting to get to the age where they have the attention span and patience required on safari. However, younger children are always considered on a case by case basis.
Things to consider when booking a safari with younger children
Some questions I suggest parents and guardians ask themselves when considering booking a safari with younger children include:
How does my child cope with very early morning starts? Can my child go 3-4 hours without a toilet break? Does my child do well on long drives? Can they tolerate being in a vehicle for over four hours at a time? Is my child into wildlife and nature? Is my child attentive and willing to listen to the guide as they explain the wildlife and surroundings to other guests in my party?