Are you thinking of going on safari with kids, but not sure what to expect? There is a common belief that safari and family travel doesn’t go well together. Let me tell you that it’s not true. We decided to write this post because of all the emails we get from travellers and clients asking us about taking their kids on safari. I hope this will help a lot of families and parents out there to answer some of their questions, ease their fears, and most important – show you that you can have an unforgettable African safari experience, also with young children.
We are in no way experts of travelling to Tanzania with kids. We are just a family who likes to travel and our family is a combination of European and African, my wife is a Norwegian and I am a Tanzania currently living in Norway running a safari company from Tanzania and Norway, we travel and go on safari with our kids and share our experiences hoping to inspire others to do the same.
It just so happens that Tanzania is our all-time destination for our safari because we always manage to combine with visiting some of our families in the village and do the normal village celebrations every time we go there with our two kids.
Our firstborn went on a safari when he was a few months old and our second born daughter went on safari when she was 9 months old. We made a beautiful road trip to Iringa, Southeastern highlands of Tanzania where we drove pass Mikumi National Park which is one of our favorite parks in Tanzania especially for Family safari.
My wife has lived in Tanzania for over seven years, she has been running a safari company in Tanzania, I have experience in safari guiding and operation with my past experience working as a lodge general manager in Selous Reserve in Tanzania. We both for the love of wildlife and we choose to continue on what we love the most and create best family packages to Tanzania. Our kids have attended as many sun-downers and game drives as possibly for their age, watched animals at the waterholes and had so many unforgettable safari experiences.
So here is some practical information you may want to know when planning an African safari with young children.
We have compiled all kinds of questions that we’ve received from our clients and friends about taking kids on safari in Tanzania. If you don’t find an answer to your question below, please feel free to contact us on this page, and we will try our best to help you out.
In our opinion, the Southern circuit of Tanzania is the best countries for families travelling to Tanzania.
There are several reasons for this:
While most organised safari trips and game drives have various age restrictions. Our kids’ first safari experience was when they were still babies. It was a guided game drive in Mikumi National Park with an open vehicle.
In combination of Southern Tanzania circuit safari, its easy to combine few days on the safari and then later on go to Zanzibar for white sand beaches where kids can enjoy everything from swimming with dolphins, visit the red Columbus monkey (only found in Zanzibar) and visit the prison island where they will play and feed the 400 years old Tortoise.
If you are thinking of taking a longer safari trip with nothing but animal viewing for a few days in a row, you better check with our experts what our policy is in regards to kids age.
This will depend on the length and budget of your holiday. In Tanzania like many other African countries, the purpose of the whole trip is often nothing else but animal viewing. So you are in a safari vehicle for days and days in a row. Honestly, I think that these kind of trips are too long and too boring for young kids. Even most adults will probably have seen enough wildlife after 7 days, let alone children…
That’s why – again- Southern Tanzania is an excellent choice to take your kids on safari. Both areas has so much more to offer than just animal viewing, so you can combine safari drives with many other sightseeing possibilities and visit one of the beautiful islands in Tanzania such as Zanzibar of Mafia Island. I think that 3-4 days of safari in a row is more than enough for any child. If you can add some variation to your trip and go watching animals every couple of days rather than a week in one go, you will have a much more relaxing and fun trip.
We wouldn’t advise long safari trips with kids younger than 6. Here is a breakdown per age of what we think is best when considering safari with young kids.
Like everything, if done with caution, safari is perfectly safe with kids.
For guided game drives with kids, you have to remember that you are in an open vehicle. Kids shouldn’t make noise, and you shouldn’t stick your head or arms outside the vehicle. Follow the instructions of your guide.
If you are traveling to an area that has high malaria risk, make sure to talk to your doctor before the trip. For more medical information you can check this website of the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium.
In most African countries you do need some type of vaccines, both for kids and for adults. Make sure to check medical information for Tanzania before the trip. In Zanzibar its definately require you to have yellow fever vaccination.
You don’t really need to pack anything special for kids on safari. Except – my best tip – pack one pair of binoculars for each child. It keeps them interested and engaged during the rides. Safari involves lots of driving and lots of patience. Binoculars is better than any toy. Just don’t waste your money on toy binoculars, there are plenty of affordable decent quality binoculars that kids can use.
If your kids can read already, it might be interesting to take a book or an African wildlife guide, so that they can look up in the book what kind of animals they saw, etc. But don’t count on doing much reading on the bumpy roads in Africa’s National Parks.
Always take a sweater on safari, mosquito spray, sunscreen lotion, a sun hat, and sun glasses. Leave all the toys at home. Audio books do wonders!
It’s common to think that you need to buy a whole new wardrobe in khaki colours when going on safari. But in most cases, it’s really not necessary.
It might not be such a good idea to go on a walking safari wearing a red t-shirt, but for closed jeep safari vehicle, colours don’t matter at all. After all, you are sitting in the car all the time.
For open-vehicle safari drives I would advise against bright colours, but then again – you don’t need to buy ten new t-shirts for every kid. Just pick the ones that are less bright and that’s it. If you buy one thing, then it might be wise to invest in a light-brown safari shirt with long sleeves. You can wear it several times, also over other t-shirts, it protects against mosquitoes, and also against the sun.
As for colours of sweaters and jackets. Our kids had very bright rain jackets that we packed for our trip to Iringa. We weren’t going to buy three new jackets just for that trip. And you know what, the only time we needed those jackets was early in the morning or late in the evening, when it was dark, so the colour didn’t matter at all. If you are visiting Ruaha National Park in winter (July-August), you may need to wear a sweater or a jacket during the day as well. In that case it might be wiser to pack something in a light brown or dark colour. But you will see people wearing all kinds of colourful clothing on the game drives in Tanzania.
Most organised safari trips have some kind of a meal foreseen. Usually, our safari guide will stop the vehicle in a safe area, set the table outside, and you will have an unforgettable meal in an African savannah. Most guided safaris will include water and other drinks too, but you should always take some water with you, and I would definitely take some snacks for the kids. There is nothing worse than a tired, bored hungry kid, isn’t it? Favourite snacks can be a life-saver during long safari drives with kids.