Parents often wonder about the best age to take their children on safari. They want to be old enough to enjoy the experience but young enough not to spend the week plugged into their DS or iPod, displaying teenage indifference.
There is no right or wrong answer, as all children are different and will vary in their interests and attention spans. As a general guide however, children will get enjoyment and excitement from their safari if its the right place and done in the right way.
My eldest daughter did her first safari aged two, staying at a private reserve in South Africa where young children are allowed. Does she remember anything now a decade later? Of course not. Did she have a good time? Absolutely, her excitement at seeing elephants and giraffe is a happy memory my wife and I will share forever.
So when are children old enough to have memories of a safari holiday. I did an experiment. My youngest daughter was six when she went on her first safari. She is now 10. I asked her to write down what she could remember of the experience:
I really enjoyed my safari trip in South Africa. It was the best trip of my life. The landscape was beautiful and the animals were amazing. I remember clearly the time when we were in our truck and an Elephant came up to us and sniffed my sister’s face. The guide, Derk, was great. He kept her calm for the few seconds it was sniffing and when it had gone away she was fine. I also remember when there was a thunder and lightning storm. The rain was warm but we all sheltered in the living room. As the lightning ran across the sky again I noticed a giant shape out of the window. When there was another flash we all realised that it was only an elephant trying to find food. I don’t know why but we all found this hysterical and burst out laughing, I guess it was because I was so scared.
It was around Easter time while we were there and I was disappointed that I was going to miss the Easter bunny (I was only young), so our guide put out some mini packets of chocolate for us in the garden so we could find them. He was good like that. Another time was when he let us toast some marshmallows on are fire. They were delicious.
While in the truck on day there was a male lion just lying in the middle of the track, sun bathing I suppose it was. I don’t know how exactly but they did eventually shift him of the track. There was also a small heard of giraffes that for a while followed alongside us. This was my all-time best holiday. I really enjoyed it and hope that I can do it again.
I knew she’d remember the chocolate and marshmallows… She also charged me a Magnum ice-cream to write the above for me.
We sent a friend on holiday with his 11 year old son last year and it was interesting to talk to him on his return. He was old enough to read up about things before he went. He had spotting lists for the animals and birds which he loved trying to complete. The travelling between parks and on all the game-drives passed without moaning. He loved it when the guide took him tracking and looking at termite mounds. He wants to go back asap… Have a look at the Safari video he made for us when he returned, it shows his excitement and enthusiasm.
If your child loves animals, they will love safari. If very young they may not remember it when they’ve grown up, but that doesn’t mean that both they and you don’t love the experience at the time. Its such an exciting activity it leaves strong memories that will stick from a young age (like my six year old) and soon they know more about what to see and where to go that you do.
Choose the right trip – with swimming pools, shorter drives and safe camps, and all children will love to search for African animals on a safari. To give you an idea, check out our Kenyan Family safari and take it from there, we’ed be happy to advise.