By Tracey Davies
Forget the ropey safari parks of your childhood, where lions mated lazily and bored baboons gnawed at windscreen washers. There’s only one real way to see wildlife and bring The Jungle Book to life, and that’s on safari. Choosing a good tour operator is the key to a successful family safari holiday. They’ll find you the right safari and tailor an itinerary to suit you and the needs of your family.
BEST SAFARI DESTINATIONS WITH KIDS
This is the place for a more flexible (and usually malaria-free) safari experience, and hence great for families with younger children. Many game reserves are close enough to ‘civilisation’ that you can go safari-lite and enjoy day expeditions too. Or you might, for instance, combine a trip to Madikwe, a malaria-free game reserve in the North West Province, with a week by the beach in Cape Town.
This is a great year-round destination, with temperatures hovering around the mid to high 20°Cs. August is generally more expensive as it coincides with the Great Migration. Try a hot-air balloon ride over the Masai Mara for an experience you'll never forget.
Touted as the next hot safari destination, Zambia is perfect for families, too. It's home to 19 game reserves, the big five (elephant, lion, leopard, rhino and buffalo), and the awesome Victoria Falls, while for those who fancy a bungee jump, it’s an adrenaline junkie’s heaven.
BEST SAFARIS WITH YOUNGER KIDS
Try Kenya - perhaps the glorious Amboseli National Park, in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro, then Lake Naivasha and finally Masai Mara. A short itinerary jam-packed with lively game-drives and bush walks is a great way for young families to experience the best of Kenya and its wildlife.
BEST SAFARIS WITH OLDER KIDS
Eight is a great age for kids to discover the joys of safari. Look for a lodge offering a variety of safari experiences, from walking, canoeing and boating to the more usual driving safaris, plus a childcare service if grown-ups want to game-spot alone.
TIPS FOR GOING ON SAFARI WITH KIDS
• Supply kids with their own camera and/or pair of binoculars.
• Make a checklist or animal bingo card with animals and birds to tick off.
• Choose a family-friendly lodge that offers alternatives to game drives.
• Stay somewhere with a pool so kids can cool off from the African sun.
• Book a two-centre holiday and combine a safari with a beach holiday.
Find out more about family holidays in Africa.