Going on Safari with Baby/Kids Guide

Kenya is not among the most difficult place you can go on holiday or safari with your newborn, infant, toddler, or generally with kids. A few things have gone well for Kenya over the past 2 decades. When the NARC administration took over the leadership of Kenya in 2002, Kenya’s infrastructure and security sectors have seen great improvement. At the same time, significant investments focussed on premium glamping safarigoers have seen Kenya establish itself as an ideal place for a family visit.

Kenya is now seen as the African leader in e-infrastructure and digital technology, according to a 2021 Digital Quality of Life (DQL) Report. This means that Kenya has the best access to computational resources on this continent, ranking higher than all other nations. A study was conducted that revealed these results; it demonstrated how far Kenya has come with regard to its digital development. While it ranks 79th globally, the report ranked Kenya third, after South Africa and Mauritania.

Read my other guide on safety of Kenya as a tourist destination.

Can I go on a Safari with my baby?

The answer is yes!

Most safari lodges and campsites we talked to spoke of great amenities they have to make it easy for parents traveling with babies. It is also possible to find a lodge that makes it easier for you to bring your own baby necessities and equipment but can also rely on those provided by your tour operator. Kambu Campers is among the first tour operator to offer packages that specifically cater to families with little kids with custom tour packages ranging from self-drive options (fully), chauffer option, or a mix of the two.

For self-drive options, you can choose to have specific items such as a safety car seat or umbrella stroller which will be handy when going on safari walks. For guided safaris where you get a driver/guide, most packages you’ll find may not have some specific items such as a safety seat and stroller. However, with Kambu Campers you are able to rent these items from us at an additional cost.

If you choose to stay in a hotel while on your safari, most hotels have baby beds available but you may need to inform the staff of your arrival in advance so they can have it set up for you. Most hotels also offer babysitting services that are reasonably priced and you can have peace of mind knowing your little one is in safe hands.

What about my older kids?

The great thing about Kenya is that there’s something for everyone here. Kids aged 5 and above will enjoy safari game drives, bush walks, and even sea kayaking and swimming with dolphins! If you think your playful kids will overwhelm you to handle them, we recommend doing a guided tour where you get a driver who will also be your guide. Our guides provide the best experience for kids, teaching and entertaining them about the animals they encounter on their safari trip.

For teens, Kenya is full of many other activities that can keep them entertained during a family vacation; from visiting National parks like Tsavo West or Amboseli to cultural visits at places like Lamu Old Town and Fort Jesus Museum in Mombasa. Other activities include traditional dhow sailing tours, snorkeling and scuba diving at the coast, whitewater rafting in Sagana, visiting a tea plantation in Kericho, or even a city tour of Nairobi.

What to think about before traveling with kids on a safari: 5 key things:

Decide on either self-drive car hire or opt for car hire with a driver/guide:

Self-drive car hire is great for couples with older kids but for younger ones, it’s recommended you have a driver/guide who can make the experience much more interesting and fun. With guided tours, I appreciate the educational aspect they provide. Nevertheless, self-driving is an outstanding alternative for safaris with a baby where you have complete control of your own car, freedom to start and finish as desired, and even allow your infant to take part in the experience.

Unfortunately, if you book to stay in private conservancies such as those in the Mara Triangle, self-drive options may not be allowed. However, most of them offer guided private game-drive tours in the morning and in the evening – the drives are usually included with your daily rate. You can expect these game drives to take groups of families of around 6-8 passengers total.

We found that most conservancies that offer private game drives may not allow babies under 5 and do not recommend booking private conservancies if you are interested in these tours. However, if you want the best wildlife spotting opportunities, these conservancies are often well-staffed with rangers and trackers who have superb skills and can even go off-road for optimal sightings.

Choose family-friendly accommodations:

It is important to choose family-friendly accommodation while on a safari. The environment should be comfortable and welcoming for children and have several activities to keep them engaged. For instance, Kambu Campers provide family-friendly accommodations that are spacious and secure, away from the wildlife but close enough to it so you can easily go out on game drives or bush walks.

We also take care of all the little details such as providing cots, high chairs, and even activity centers for younger children on request.

Choose the right itinerary:

When planning your safari, it is important to consider the age of your kids and make sure you get an itinerary that will be suitable for them. We usually recommend a mix of game drives and cultural visits to give an all-rounded experience, especially for teens.

Always ensure you have enough rest time in the itinerary for your kids as safaris (especially game drives) can be tiring and long. This allows them to recharge, explore the surrounding area or go swimming in the lodge’s pool if available.

If you are doing a full camping safari, make sure you book in advance or ensure you have mapped out all the campsites where you will park your campervan. I have a separate guide on 7 places to park your campervan for the night.

Pack the right things:

Another important aspect to consider when planning a family safari is packing the right things. Make sure you bring enough snacks, sunscreen and insect repellent for everyone in your group.

It’s also good to bring entertainment items such as books, iPads or other electronic devices and board games so that kids can keep themselves busy when not on game drives. If your baby is on any medication, ensure that you have enough supplies during the trip.

Have a backup plan:

It is important to always have a backup plan when traveling with young children on safari. This includes having a contact list of trusted family and friends to reach if any emergency arises, or even having a personalized first-aid kit on hand. Kambu campers offer emergency roadside assistance through the emergency line.

It is also important to be flexible and go with the flow – plans can sometimes change unexpectedly so it is best to stay open-minded and ready for anything!

Beware of Malaria:

Malaria is a risk on game drives and there are several precautions that can be taken to avoid it. The first thing is to make sure you have the right medication for each member of your family, including babies. It’s also important to wear long-sleeve clothing at dusk and use insect repellent while outdoors.

If you’re traveling with very young children, it’s essential to avoid areas that are prone to malaria transmission, as they cannot take prophylactics. Prophylactic is a preventive drug given to people that may be exposed to malaria. Read CDC info on prophylactics here with details of side effects.

Be sure to stay informed of the areas with high transmission rates before entering them, and if possible, use lodges or camps that offer mosquito-proof rooms.

Additionally, be sure to check if any vaccinations against yellow fever should be administered before leaving for your destination. In some regions tsetse flies still exist and their bites can cause immense pain – so make sure you research this in advance too!

Water and sanitation situation:

It is important to be aware of the water and sanitation situation in the area you are visiting. In Kenya, tap water can sometimes be unsafe to drink so always check if it’s suitable for your younger family members. It’s best to stay away from untreated water sources such as rivers or lakes, especially for drinking or making formula for baby.

It’s also important to remember that when traveling in Africa, you might have limited access to clean water and sanitation facilities so it’s best to use the commercially-prepared formula for babies. This will help reduce the risk of disease and illness due to contaminated water or poor hygiene practices.

12 Essential Baby Safari Outfit:

When traveling with young children, it is important to pack the right clothing and accessories. Here are 10 essential items you will need:

  1. Long-sleeved t-shirts – to protect against insects
  2. Lightweight cotton pants/trousers – breathable and comfortable
  3. Comfortable walking shoes – closed-toe for protection
  4. Wide-brimmed hat – to protect from the sun
  5. Sunglasses with UV protection
  6. Sunscreen
  7. Insect repellent with approved ingredients
  8. Travel stroller or baby carrier – to limit carrying your child
  9. Cooler bag – to keep baby food and formula cold
  10. Disposable diapers – for convenience
  11. Baby Diapers and wipes – bring plenty as they may be hard to find in remote areas
  12. Toys and books – to keep the little ones entertained.

Why Conservancies and Private Reserves Limit Children on Safari:

Children’s behaviors can be unpredictable:

Most private conservancies and reserves require that children be at least five years old due to safety concerns. This is because young children may act out, wander off or even startle the wildlife, which can lead to dangerous situations.

Some activities require more maturity:

In addition to this, some activities such as bush walks or nighttime game drives require a degree of maturity and may be suitable only for those above the age of twelve.

In our review of tour operators offering family packages, we found that the age restriction varies from one operator to another. Overall, most safari operators and private game reserves typically prohibit children under a certain age from participating in their excursions. Typically, this guideline applies to those younger than 6 to 8 years old but can sometimes extend up to 12. This limitation is put into place for the safety of all visitors involved.

While the general age restriction for most activities is six years old, certain experiences such as gorilla trekking and walking safaris may require a minimum of sixteen. Other activities such as horseback safaris often limit the age to five and above.

A mature teen may be able to handle these activities with proper adult supervision. However, younger children may not be able to handle it and could become overwhelmed by the experience.

Some experiences kids may not understand or appreciate:

It is also important to consider the fact that safaris involve viewing wild animals and experiencing nature, something younger kids may not fully appreciate. While it is always a good idea to expose children to nature, you should be aware of their limitations and whether they will understand and enjoy the experience or not.

Kids may respond adversely to bug bites:

Another reason why some safari operators limit the age of kids is that they may react adversely to bug bites, which can be common in certain parts of Africa. Therefore, it is important to make sure you bring the necessary medication and topical ointments with you on your trip.

Lastly, young children may need more medical attention than adults so have a plan for that as well. If you are traveling with a baby, be sure to bring a good supply of diapers and formula/baby food with you.

How to know if your baby or kid is ready for a safari: 9 ways to know:

1.Not easily startled:

If your kid isn’t easily startled or scared by loud noises, they may be ready for a safari.

2.Can articulate their feelings:

If your child is able to express their feelings and emotions, they may be mature enough for a safari.

3.Understands the importance of conservation:

It’s important that your child understands the importance of conservation and respects wildlife. Before embarking on a safari, discuss this with your child to ensure they understand why it’s important to be respectful of the animals.

4.Physically healthy:

If your kid is physically healthy enough for a safari, that’s a great sign that they are ready to go.

5.Can follow basic instructions:

It’s important that your child can understand and follow basic instructions about safety, such as staying in the vehicle at all times.

6.Passion for animals:

If your kid loves animals and is interested in learning more, they may be ready for a safari experience.

7.Able to handle long car rides:

If your kid can handle long car rides and is not easily bored, then they may be ready for a safari.

8.Not afraid of the dark:

Since much of the wildlife activity on a safari takes place at night, it’s important that your child is not afraid of the dark.

9.Not easily overwhelmed:

Safaris involve lots of new experiences and can be overwhelming for some kids. If your kid has an easy-going personality, they may be able to handle the experience. Read about how long to drive your campervan per day.

What you need when on a safari with an infant:

Baby Carrier:

During game drives, you can have your hands free to handle the roof-top rails to look over and a carrier is a great option for keeping your baby close to you and comfortable. Rent a baby carrier from lightweight Infantino carriers to ergonomic Tula carriers.

Stroller:

If your child is old enough, a stroller is great for quick game drive stops or longer hikes. While we have limited varieties of strollers you can rent, I strongly believe you’ll find a brand you’ll like. Strollers are great during game drives as you can easily transfer your baby from the car to a stroller if need be and can also stroll around without feeling the heaviness of your baby in a carrier or a handheld car seat.

If you want to come with yours, we recommend coming with a lightweight model such as frame stroller without the fancy bells and whistles or a jogging stroller, if you’re feeling up to the challenge. 3-wheel stroller models are great at maneuvering unpaved terrains and is easier to push as the bigger back wheels give it traction.

Baby Sleeping Bag:

This is a definite must-have but only if your baby is no longer prone to SIDs. Sleeping bags can be a hazard to small babies because they can overheat and become suffocated by the fitted layers. If your baby has outgrown SIDs, then a sleeping bag should definitely be in your bag for colder evenings on the safari.

Sleeping bags may be used by kids from age 5 and up.

Diapers & Wipes:

No matter how many times you change diapers throughout the day, it’s always better to bring more. Bring an extra bag of diapers and wipes from home just in case you might have a hard time finding them during your safari.

Snacks & Water:

Snacks and water are essential for any kid on the go, no matter their age. Carry enough snacks and drinks for your whole family to prevent dehydration or hunger during game drives.

Sunscreen & Bug Spray:

It’s important to protect your children from the strong African sun and pesky bugs, especially if you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors. Be sure to bring enough sunscreen and bug spray for everyone in your family.

First Aid Kit:

No matter where you go, it’s always a great idea to bring a basic first aid kit with you. Make sure your kit includes band-aids, tweezers, sanitizer, and other basic items for minor accidents. Kambu Campers offers these for free when you rent our vans. However, if you need specialized kits such as snake venom kits, please let us know before embarking on your safari.

Safety Harnesses:

For very small kids and toddlers, it’s best to bring a safety harness. This isn’t just applicable for game drives but can be used in any situation where you want to keep an eye on your kid while still having your hands free.

Baby Car Seats:

Keep your infant safe on those bumpy game drives with an infant car seat. Make sure the seat is compatible with your vehicle or you can rent it!

Kambu Campers gives you the option to rent our car seats. These car seats have been extensively tested with the United States’ stringent side-impact testing done by NHTSA to ensure maximum quality and safety protection in case of a collision.

For babies ranging from newborns to those aged 2, NHTSA recommends that they use rear-facing only car seats. For kids aged 2 to 4, NHTSA recommends that they use forward-facing only or convertible car seats with a harness and tether. For kids aged 5 to 8, NHTSA recommends that they use booster seats in the back seat of the vehicle until the vehicle’s seat belt fits properly without any slack. Read more about NHTSA recommendations here.

Formula/ Baby food:

Bring at least one week’s worth of formula and baby food with you. It’s better to be safe than sorry just in case you’re unable to find what your baby needs during the safari. Generally, breastfeeding during your safari is better than bottle-feeding. This is because it is more hygienic and also saves you the hassle of finding baby food, warming the food, and cleaning the bottles when you’re out in the wild.

If breastfeeding is not an option, Go2Africa suggests looking for accommodation with a kitchenette in order to have easy access to hot water and the essentials needed for sterilizing and warming baby bottles. This way, you’ll be able to provide your little one with all of the nourishment they need without having any unnecessary hassle!

Kambu Campervans have a small kitchenette with a microwave, toaster oven and two-burner cooktop. This makes it easier for parents on safari to warm baby food and bottles when needed. Read about our camper vans for hire here with details of the amenities it comes with.

Get creative with baby’s meals and try some solids such as butternut squash, carrots, potatoes, rice and spinach! Boil these then mash them up using a fork for easy-to-consume baby food. If you’re finding it difficult to find butternut squash in Kenya, it’s because its called pumpkin. The same applies to sweet potatoes – Ayib in Swahili.

Inoculations:

Make sure all the kids in your family have had their inoculations before going on safari to protect them against any diseases that may be present. Check with your doctor to see which immunizations are recommended for your child’s age.

Finally, be sure to bring plenty of water and snacks for everyone (including the adults!). Kenya is known for its delicious cuisine, but if you’re travelling with kids, it’s nice to have some familiar items on hand. Not to mention, a few extra pieces of candy go a long way when it comes to keeping the littles happy and entertained.

By taking the proper precautions, you can ensure that your family will have a safe and enjoyable Kenyan safari!

What’s the cost of a safari for a kid?

The cost of a safari for children depends on the type of safari and the length of your stay. Generally, children aged 12 and under typically receive 50% off adult rates on game drives and activities, so it’s best to check with your tour operator before booking. If you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option, check out Kambu Campers which offers great discounts for families traveling with children.

Kambu group safari vehicles offer safari packages tailored to your family’s needs and budget. Our “family safari” package includes accommodation in our campervans, select campsites, meals, game drives and activities tailored for kids. This package also includes a 10% discount for families traveling with two or more children. Check out our website for more information on our various safari packages.

Another reason to bring your kids on a safari in Kenya is that the park fees are sometimes waived for children under 12. However, we recommend that you contact your tour operator to confirm this before booking.

South Africa and Namibia feature severally in top family-friendly safari packages, from the Kruger National Park to Etosha National Park.

Both South Africa and Namibia rank better than their East African counterparts such as Kenya, uganda and Tanzania because;

  1. They have low cases of malaria: South Africa and Namibia both have low rates of malaria, which makes them popular choices for families with young children.
  2. The Parks are very accessible: the parks are close to major cities and airports, making it easy to get to. The car rental market in economies such as South Africa also makes it very easy to rent a car to visit a park.
  3. They are more family-friendly options: Most safari lodges in South Africa and Namibia offer services such as babysitting and child minding, making it easier for parents to enjoy their safari experience without worrying about their kids.
  4. They are considerably safer: South Africa and Namibia have lower crime rates than their East African counterparts, making them more desirable destinations for parents looking to take their kids on safari.

12 activities to do with kids during the safari trip:

1. Go on a game drive: This is a great way to get up close and personal with wildlife, while also teaching kids about the different animals of Africa.

2. Visit a cultural village: Learning about different cultures is an important part of travelling, and visiting a cultural village is an enriching experience for all ages.

3. Take a hot air balloon ride: Enjoy panoramic views of the African landscape from a hot air balloon – perfect for kids who love heights! When participating in a hot air balloon ride, there is no age limit – only that all riders must be at least 48 inches tall so they can look over the basket’s edge. In order to ensure safety and comfort during the flight, children must be able to stand unassisted for around an hour and parents are not allowed to hold them.

4. Ride an elephant or camel: Riding on the back of an elephant or camel is sure to be a memorable experience for any child. Some conservancies in Laikipia such as Al Or Nyiro offer horseback rides.

5. Take part in a conservation project: Kids aged 8 and above can participate in a number of different conservation projects. For example, the Ol Pejeta Conservancy offers activities such as tracking rhinos and monitoring wildlife.

6. Visit an animal orphanage: Many reserves have animal orphanages and it’s a great way for kids to learn about how to care for and protect animals. In Nairobi, elephant and giraffe orphanages are very popular.

7. Go on a nature hike: Taking a nature hike is an excellent way to explore the African bush, while also teaching kids about the different plants and animals that live there.

8. Go on a night safari: Going on a night safari is great for kids because they get to observe nocturnal animals such as hyenas, owls and bush babies.

9. Participate in educational programs: Many conservancies have educational programs aimed at teaching kids about wildlife conservation.

10. Attend a traditional dance performance: Attending a traditional dance or music performance can be an exciting way to learn about African culture.

11. Go on a bird-watching safari: Birdwatching is a great activity for kids, as it encourages them to observe different species of birds and learn about their habitats.

12. Take part in cooking classes: Taking part in cooking classes can be a great way to get the whole family involved in learning about local cuisine. The Jambo Kitchen in Nairobi offers cooking classes for kids.

With the right precautions and knowledge, Going on a Kenyan Safari with young children can be an enriching and unforgettable experience for the entire family. It’s important to do your research beforehand so that you are aware of potential risks and know how to manage them if they arise. Be sure to also plan activities that are appropriate for the age of your children so that they can have a safe and enjoyable experience.

Happy Safari! 🦓 🐘 🐆 🦒 🦍 🐅 🐪🌴🌿

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