In 2010 my family was given the incredible gift of a safari in Kenya. Afterwards at a restaurant our waiter asked my four-year old daughter what her favorite animal was.
“I didn’t like the zebras,” she said.
“They weren’t pink.”
He laughed so hard he nearly cried and then ran to the restaurant’s souvenir shop and grabbed a red (almost pink) t-shirt for her as a gift.
Keeping note of the funny things the kids say is probably my best tip for making the most of your safari with kids.
How do you make the most of a stunning once in a lifetime adventure when you have diapered twins along? Or tweens? For long stretches, a safari is essentially just riding in a car over bumpy terrain. You are locked inside a vehicle with your entire family for hours and hours and hours. There are no (or should be no) televisions or video games, no iPads or cell phones. Just the wild outdoors but you can’t get out to touch it.
Here are tips for making your safari enjoyable for all ages.
- Overstock on the essentials: snacks, water, blankets, sunblock. Morning and night drives can get cold but so close to the equator at noon, skin will burn quickly.
- Binoculars – you’ll want at least two pairs, you don’t want to miss the leopard because the kids are fighting over binoculars.
- Bird guide – safari guides tend to be experts on the animals but not always on the birds and east Africa is home to hundreds of unique and stunning birds.
- Kid cameras – these will keep them occupied and engaged but allows you to hold your fancy camera. They’ll probably take cool photos of things you might not even have noticed.
- Sports bra – off road driving all day long? ‘nuf said.
- Printed coloring sheets with tally marks – keeps young kids busy and engaged coloring and counting or drawing their own pictures of animals. Try counting wildebeest during a migration!
- Plastic safari animals – kids can reenact a hunt or make animal noises or match the animal with the one outside the window.
- Animal fact book – again the safari guides are great resources but for kids who love facts, they can tell you themselves what they learn plus they’ll have it for later. Cool facts like: Did you know elephant ears are the shape of Africa?
- Don’t get trampled by the rhinos. Stay in the car (most of the time). These are actual, wild animals.
- Let the kids wrestle a little bit. Animals outside the car, animals inside the car. They just can’t sit still that long and usually the cars are big enough that some wrestling can be done in the aisle or bench back seat
- Ask the driver to stop once in a while so you can just listen. Soak in the wind in the grass, the sound of giraffes battling by knocking their necks against each other, a water buffalo eating, silence.
- Don’t mess up the photos – for example if your husband is videotaping a crocodile taking down a zebra, don’t get so excited that you grab his arm. Oops.
- Don’t let the monkey steal your bread, or any other kinds of animals. Keep an eye on your food. And your small children. My daughter still talks about when the monkey stole her muffin, right out of her hand.
- Sleep and let the kids sleep. Sometimes the drive will seem interminably long. Its okay to snooze for a bit while the driver searches out that herd of elephants. And let the kids sleep too, it will make everyone happier in the long run.
- Put together a photo album as soon as possible afterwards (or have a really cool mother who does it for you).
Any tips you would add? What is your favorite safari animal?
Thank you! I went on safari as a kid, but now the tables are turned and we’ll be going on safari with our own three kids and some extended family. I’m passing this along. I’m going to pick up a East Africa bird book. Birds are great for watching in the morning and when the larger animals are scarce. And a kid camera – great idea!
Thanks for this. We are planning a trip to Kenya next year and these tips will be useful.
This is great! We will be in the Serengeti for 5 days in April, sans kids, but good tips for the adults too. I’m getting my husband a bird book!