3 Tips for Planning the Perfect Family Safari

We understand that a handcrafted safari is an investment for the whole family. For nearly a decade, EJ's mother-daughter founders, and their team have been sending families to Africa, discovering a few tricks of the trade along the way that can make or break that special vacation with your brood.

A father and daughter encounter a group of giraffes in South Africa.

A father and daughter encounter a group of giraffes in South Africa. ©Singita

Here, our co-founder Elizabeth Gordon offers a quick-hitting summary of all her top tips for pulling off that trip-of-a-lifetime with the kids. After all, adventures are always best when they're shared, especially when the company is your kin.

1. Think Camps, Not Countries

When it comes to traveling to Africa with your family, it’s less about the right country, and more about the right camp. A rustic bush camp for soaking in nature’s quiet ambience won’t suit a rambunctious youngster needling mom and dad for “what’s next” every 15 minutes. Age-appropriate camps with desirable amenities are a must. Swimming pools are always favorites where kids can burn off extra energy between activities. Plus, it’s a great way to cool off midday.

The right camp or lodge can tailor your experiences, like organizing playful picnics.

A family picnics while overlooking the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in Kenya. ©Lewa House in Kenya

We also know which lodges offer the best services to help with childcare, including babysitting. Some even have a playroom with games and activities, such as scavenger hunts and cooking classes, to occupy kids in between game-viewing drives. Kwandwe Ecca, in South Africa, for instance, puts together treasure hunts across the reserve, which incorporate learning some basic compass navigation. Singita Grumeti in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park offers a mini rangers program that teaches kids what it takes to guide in one of the world's greatest wildlife playgrounds.

RELATED: The Case for Taking Your Kids on Safari

2. Mix and Match Your Activities

Our programs are all about flexibility. Who wants a rigidly scheduled safari where you have no say, especially when preferences will vary as widely as your ages? Typically, when you go on safari, you go on game-drives in the early morning and evening. However, we aim to work with properties that keep the schedule wide open. Again and again, we find that keeping kids engaged and moving in and out of the car makes a world of difference.

The San Camp bushmen teach a young girl about their culture while on walking safari in Botswana.

The San Camp bushmen teach a young girl about their culture while on walking safari in Botswana. ©Natural Selection in Botswana

At private conservancies, you can customize just about every activity to fit the times that work best for you and your clan. We have families who opt to be out all day because they are having so much fun. We also can divide the group and have some folks stay back, while others go out.

At Kenya's Lewa Conservancy, for example ,you have your choice of game drives, walking safaris, mountain biking tours, or horseback rides with Borana’s superb operation, Riding Wild. Even ATV Quad Bikes can be arranged to explore fun remote areas and visit local communities.

If you want to take it up a notch, literally, we can arrange for a private helicopter to take your group on a scenic flight around Northern Kenya to see magnificent sites, such as Lake Turkana. For some culture and socializing, consider kicking it with the nearby school kids, who love playing soccer. Our clients have raved about what an impact it has made on their kids to meet local children. It’s a moving experience for everyone, and the possibilities are endless.

3. Keep Things Private

As in, privately guided. We want to make sure you have exceptional guides (some countries are offering amazing rates for private guides) because they are essentially traveling teachers for your kids. The guides in our carefully curated roster can teach your children, depending on their age, an array of skills, including how to safely throw spears, make bows and arrows, drive a car, go fishing, collect ancient stone tools, stalk a zebra, climb a hill or a tree. Game viewing often comes a distant second to the rest of these hands-on experiences in a child's eyes.

Enjoy a sundowner with the family after a long day of excitement and exploring in Kenya.

Enjoy a sundowner with the family after a long day of excitement and exploring in Kenya. ©Ol Malo in Kenya

This is also where flexibility comes in again. Take Footsteps Camp, in the Okavango Delta, where each family is appointed a dedicated professional guide, personal chef, waiter, housekeeper as well as mokoro guides. The guides we love really know how to connect with kids, can sense if their attention is waning, and can redesign the day to better suit their needs and interests. Plus, in this scenario, you never have to worry about timing around other guests.

Plan Your Visit

Call or email us to begin planning the perfect safari for your family.

RELATED: Why I Took My Daughter on Safari in Botswana

CONNECT with your personal travel expert.

Have you started planning your safari on your own? Are you totally overwhelmed with all the informationout there? Let us help you cut through all the conflicting information online and start planning a safari that is completely tailored to you. Get in touch with us and we can discuss your travel passions and help you begin the planning process for your dream safari.

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John Moody