Why take young children on Safari?

Time and time again, I have heard (or more usually read) ‘we don’t recommend safaris for young children’ and time and time again I hear myself muttering the same phrase in response ‘Why the hell not!?’

So… we’re here to debunk those ‘myths’

  1. They won’t remember it…
    Well that is partly true, but in this digital age of cameras, smart phones and IPADS, it’s super easy to record it all so they know they HAVE done. One of the big reasons I decided to start this blog was to capture our moments for the children to relive as and when they want to. Will they remember it all? Certainly not (neither, by the way, will I!)… but they know they’ve done it… and they know they can do it. And if they wish to, they can do it again.
    As far as I’m concerned, it’s no different to reading to a child. They won’t remember the books you carefully chose for them. But they will remember the feeling of being read to. It’s a proven fact that children who are read to are far more likely to love reading themselves as they are older….. well, it’s the same with adventures!
    And I’m pretty sure J and G will never forget this particular lunch!!
  2. There are early starts and late nights.
    So what? Show me a child who ever wanted to go to bed on time! One night, our last sighting was this rhino…. J was beside himself with joy! It was late. It was cold. And it was bloody marvellous!
                      
    And less than 12 hours later, this was our sunrise….

    We sat, snuggled together, under our blankets as the sun rose.
                         
    And then an elephant appeared
    If anything, the early mornings and late nights are what the children will (i) love and (ii) remember forever.

    OK, the early mornings can be a little more troublesome, but with a little planning (shower before bed, clothes ready to step into) you can be out of the door within 5 minutes. And I find that children absolutely adore ‘breaking the rules’ too… being poured into clothes at 5am and settling down under a couple of warm blankets to watch the sunrise and the animals. Then diving into a steaming mug of hot chocolate (well, G anyway… J’s not a chocolate fan, but he got some of his favourite ginger biscuits!). It’s a total adventure.

  3. The other guests won’t like it.
    Well, it’s true that some people just don’t like children and it is something I was slightly concerned about, being on a trip that mostly attracts over 50s… I made sure the children were kitted out head to foot in khaki!!! (I actually think there had more khaki than the rangers!!)

    I was so worried that the children would be a distraction that spooked the animals. But my fears were unfounded. In fact, the children turned out to be a huge plus point on our truck…. In Selous, several times our driver mentioned that the animals were scared of the trucks. It turns out that Selous allow shooting trips, and the animals are very cautious of getting close to the trucks. But… the animals also know that if there are children present, the trucks are not a threat…. Youngsters means no guns! And we were blessed to get up close to the lions as a result.

                           

So, my 5 top tips when taking you children on safari:

  1. Don’t get stressed that they won’t remember everything. Neither will you. Keep a journal or a blog that they (and you!) can review later.
  2. Do make them aware of the rules. You will be surprised at how quickly they understand that this is a zoo in reverse… the children are in the truck and the animals are free! We were lucky enough to see elephants and hippos at the hide and J knew he had to be quiet….
                 
  3. Don’t assume they have the same expectations as you… You might be out to tick off the ‘big 5’ but they are just experiencing a world they’ve never seen before. A termite hill taller than a car is a big deal! Termites, wildebeest and gazelle… all hold amazing appeal to younger viewers!
          
  4. Do know their limitations… After a late game ride one night and a very early one the next morning, we were invited to a BOMA dinner. They are supposed to be wonderful… But with two tired children and one with VERY particular food issues, it just wasn’t for us. Best call it quits while you’re head!
  5. Don’t assume that your children are a nuisance. Everyone in our party was extremely kind, caring and generous with the children. I didn’t find a single person who wasn’t interested in hearing their opinion or view. And the game reserves were well placed to cater for children too!

We might not remember all of it, but we saw amazing sights, amazing animals… and made amazing memories.

 

2 opinions on “Why take young children on Safari?”

    1. Absolutely! I didn’t feel J and G were too young at all… though do check out the reserve before you book it… we MUCH preferred Pilanesberg over Selous, for several reasons, but mainly Pilanseberg don’t allow shooting trips and it was much more child friendly (I’m sure the two go hand in hand!) Also, we’d never been on safari before so we weren’t out for anything in particular – the children were just as excited by gazelles, springbok and termite mounds – the ‘big animals’ were just a bonus.

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