It is the dream of many families to experience an African Safari with their children. Of course the first questions we're usually asked is how old should children be to go on Safari?
At Vacationkids, we believe experience is the very best teacher in the world. Our mission is to create trips that help parents share the world with their children. That said, Africa does come with some exceptions. This is why there are no black and white answers here. The correct answer is the most sensible one.
Unless your family members are very experienced, intrepid style travelers, Africa is not recommended for little ones. For the enjoyment and safety of everyone, kids need to have a certain level of maturity. First they will need to tolerate the long haul flights from the U.S. For some dedicated flying families this may not be a big deal but still something to consider. In addition, seeing wildlife in Africa requires hours patience and often silence usually in open-sided vehicles that provide little protection from the dawn chill or midday heat.
It's true, there are some 5 year olds who are old souls with incredible maturity and stamina that would excitedly enjoy every minute of a safari. Then again there are 15 year olds that have the maturity of a typical 5 year old. So as you can see there are no hard and fast rules here. Parents need to be the judges here. How much will your children get out of a safari at this point in time verses the investment of your time and money. Generally speaking older, more mature kids will enjoy the full impact of a family safari.
Africa is one of those destination where an experienced guide will certainly enhance your enjoyment and insure that you get the most out of this experience. The insights that guides share about the wildlife and local culture is invaluable to what your family will learn on this journey. A guided tour means your family will be part of a tour group made up of other guests. No doubt you will arrive as strangers and depart as friends for life sharing such a fantastic experience. Just bear in mind, for the comfort and safety of everyone who has paid for this trip, most guided tour companies do have minimum age requirements for Safaris. The tour company needs to cater to all of its paying guests, not just your kids.
Some family centered tour companies will allow kids as young as 6- 8 years old but every safari has different rules. For this reason, we generally recommend safaris for families with tweens and teens.
So what about those intrepid travelers with young children that have their heart set on taking a safari? A private camp or house can be arranged and often is not as expensive as it sounds. A private guide can also be arranged. Your guide will be the expert balancing what is safe for your child and your safari expectations. Inviting a few like minded families to join you means a customized experience with shared costs.
Safaris are also a very popular choice for a multi-generational vacation. The entire clan wants to share this incredible experience but perhaps one or two of the grand kids don't meet the age requirements...so what do you do?
In this situation, a custom craft a tour is probably the best option. Pricing usually works out best when you have around 8 guests. Because there is no worry about bothering other guests the only age requirements will be those connected to safety issues. You can experience any of the advertised safaris seen in the glossy brochures except the only people on the tour will be your invited friends and family. Grandma won't mind if one of the little ones gets fussy. These special group tours can easily be customized according to the physical demands of the itinerary right down to the style of accommodations.
We appreciate that half the fun of a safari is all the anticipation and planning. The more you know, the more informed consumer you become. That said, Africa is not a "do it yourself" destination for most people. You'll want to work with an experienced travel agent with trusted local contacts. Talk to us and we can help you plan the perfect safari for any age.