A safari is a holiday with a difference, for both adults and kids alike. Spending time in the national parks and game reserves of Africa is as much an adventure as a holiday, and one that is action-packed and exciting, fun and educational in equal measure. East Africa is one of the best areas for a family safari, with Kenya and Tanzania offering easily accessible game parks that are home to a huge variety of wildlife including the famed ‘Big 5’, plus family-friendly accommodation and good value for money too.
Seeing animals in their natural environment is something that all kids will relish. Standing on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River in Kenya’s Samburu National Reserve watching a tower of giraffes on the opposite bank as they majestically stoop down to drink is a magical sight, and then a few minutes later you may be hurtling through the bush in search of lion on the prowl. Next stop is a pod of hippos wallowing in the river, making their extraordinary noise that sounds like playful laughter, belying the fact they’re one of the most dangerous animals you’ll encounter – albeit from a safe distance. After a relaxing afternoon around the camp’s pool, head out with your guide in search of more big game, as this area is home to a huge variety of wildlife including all three big cats as well as elephant, buffalo, zebra, crocodile and a huge variety of birdlife.
Many safari lodges and camps offer activities geared up especially for kids, so they can learn about the surrounding area and its wildlife in a fun manner, often with Masai tribesmen sharing their wealth of knowledge. The Mara Intrepids Camp on Kenya’s Masai Mara arranges different programmes of activities for different ages of kids, teaching them about the park, its wildlife and the environment in general. Masai naturalists will show them how to track wildlife from their dung, how plants are used and some basic survival skills in the wild. There’s even an obstacle course so kids can see what the wildlife has to go through!
School summer holidays are probably the best time for a safari in Kenya as the annual migration tends to be in full swing on the Masai Mara, with a few million extra wildebeest, zebra and other grazers making the plains their temporary home as they journey across from the neighbouring Serengeti. While the chances of catching the very moment when huge herds of animals spectacularly attempt to cross the Mara River are limited, visiting the Mara at this time of year leaves most visitors overwhelmed with the sheer quantity and variety of wildlife they see. By the October Half Term the migration tends to be on the move again, so a safari at this time of year should still give you plenty of activity in both Kenya and Tanzania. The annual migration only affects certain animals, and is unique to the Masai Mara and Serengeti, with other game parks unaffected as wildlife tends to be resident in these areas year-round. Christmas and the February Half Term have an emphasis on wildlife activity across the border in Tanzania, and while Easter tends to see more showers, it can be a surprisingly good value time to visit either country.
With a huge amount of wildlife activity year-round, visiting East Africa on a safari holiday at any time of year will be a rewarding, action-packed experience, and one that parents and kids alike will remember forever.
Top Tip…If you’re travelling with younger children arrange to have a vehicle to yourselves, so you can tailor the pace to suit your group. Consider travelling between parks by light aircraft to reduce travel times.
Top Tip …Combining two or three national parks will give you the widest cross section of wildlife, as each park is home to different animals. Take a guidebook or wildlife chart with you, so the kids can tick off the different animals as you go along.
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