Is it safe to take your kids on an African safari?

  • July 11, 2018
  • Our 5 year old daughter sits on the lap of a safari guide at Chitabe Camp in the Okavango Delta. The guides know the animals and are experts in recognising behaviour – a key factor that will keep your family safe! ©Richard Field

    Taking your beloved children on safari to deepest, darkest Africa might sound a bit crazy. How do you keep your family safe when lions, leopards, hyenas, elephants, buffalo and hippo roam wild and free? It is just too dangerous, isn’t it?

    Well yes and no.

    A safari to wildest Africa does have it’s dangers and the dangers are real. However there are also very real dangers in our everyday life as well (just driving in many cities is easily as dangerous as being out in a wild area on safari, possibly way more so). The dangers on safari can be managed and mitigated so long as you follow certain rules. These rules will invariably be laid out for you when you head out into the bush:

    •  No running (only food runs in the bush) 
    •  No walking around at night without a guide or manager to escort you 
    •  Kids need to be accompanied by an adult at all times 
    •  If you see a dangerous animal during the day, give it space and if it doesn’t move off then just go back to where you’ve come from. Somebody will come and help. 

    You get similar rules when out on safari. If you’re out on game drive your guide will tell you to:

    •  Keep seated around animals 
    •  Keep your voices down around animals 
    •  Don’t move around or make too much noise 
    •  Don’t try and attract the animals attention 

    These rules are simple and easy to understand, and it is vital they are followed to the letter. Younger kids in particular need to make sure they have acknowledged the safety procedures at every camp you go to and often on every game drive too. If you see an elephant close by, gently tell your kids to keep their voices down – even if it’s the 50th elephant you’ve seen that day and the 50th time you’ve told them. The same goes for predators like lions and leopards.

    The guides play a major role in mitigating danger. Most have been working in these wild places for many years and are experts in recognising potentially dangerous animal behaviour. They can tell whether an elephant is anxious or perfectly relaxed from several hundred meters away, and they’re constantly reassessing that behaviour in case it changes. They’ll invariably give an anxious elephant )or lion or leopard) much more space, so that the animal doesn’t feel threatened and you and your family stay safe.

    My wife and I have taken our kids out of school and we’re travelling through the best safari areas of Africa for a full 6 months. Our youngest is 5 and doesn’t take instruction particularly well. So far we’ve had 30 days together in wild, remote places often crawling with wild animals (and over 100 days in Africa itself). However we’ve been aware and we’ve been careful. She’s never without an adult in a safari camp (neither is her 11 year old sister). We try and sit her next to the guide, or next to myself and my wife on game drive and we’ll move on or head back to camp if she’s getting too restless. Sometimes she’s skipped game drive to stay with a camp manager to “help” them with their work. So far (and I’m touching wood as I write) we haven’t had a problem at all. In fact, my biggest fear is that she is so totally comfortable in the bush that she doesn’t actually believe the dangers are real.

    So is it safe to take your kids on safari? Yes, absolutely. But the simple rules need to be followed and the parents need to play their part too.

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