Safari trip with an 8 year old child


May 10th, 2012, 04:31 PM
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Safari trip with an 8 year old child


I am in the middle of planning a safari trip to Tanzania north circuit with my husnad and 8 year old child. We have asked for a private safari so that we have maxinum flexibility.

I am now wondering if even with a private safari, such a trip might be too gruelling for a small child. If the days are long and strenuous, she may not quite enjoy it and in turn we too will not be enjoying the trip!

Does anyone have experience with doing a safari trip with a small child? Should we wait another 2 years to do this?

Please advise!
kdd is offline  
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May 10th, 2012, 05:07 PM
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I did a trip to Tanzania with my daughter when she was 15. I did not plan it on my own as you are doing. Sounds like you have done a lot of research and are coming up with quite a plan. I went with Thomson Safaris. They have a family safari and for a single mom and daughter, it was perfect! Best trip of my life. Your inquiry intrigued me because I have traveled a lot with my daughter. She is now 26. We took her to London and Paris when she was 10 and when she looks back now, she is almost angry that we took her when she was so young because she can't remember much! She asks me, "Why did you do that? I wish I could remember it all." When we went to Tanzania we were with another family that had 4 children, one was around 8. All the older kids had a great time. The smaller one really was too young to totally enjoy it and remember it. She got cranky mid-afternoon, bored with looking at all the animals (we were all amazed and transfixed). I have taken my daughter places when she was too young and understand that now. I wanted to go!! But if you want her to have a true "African experience" I would wait a few years. My daughter learned so much beyond just the animals and the tents. The entire culture hit her and affected her and she was changed from that--for the better.
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May 10th, 2012, 06:59 PM
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We traveled with our 7 year old daughter to the Serengeti and Tarangire (3 years ago). The distances are not so far and now all the roads leading to the northern circuit parks are paved. Approximately it takes 4 hours from arusha to ngorongoro and then 4 more hours to Serengeti. Coming back from Serengeti may be the longest distance but probably you would stop at Manyara (~5.5 hours). The private safari is the way to go. The most important thing is to talk to your daughter and see what is important for her to do and let her participate in the itinerary. If she wants to buy trinkets or see lions or visit a Maasai Boma then you control the schedule of your trip and communicate this clearly to your safari guide and he will try to make it happen. In my opinion it is probably better to cut short the safari outings. A full day is too much for a 8 year old, but six hours is about right. For my daughter it was very important for her to go swimming in the swimming pool (even the freezing cold pool at the Ngorongoro Sopa Lodge). One night she got upset and was crying because we returned about 6pm to the hotel from a full day safari and that is the time that the pool closed. I decided that we would just try to swim for a bit even though it was late. She swam for 30 minutes and was fine. After that day I made sure that she had enough time to swim each day (about an hour). I am in the process of planning our summer trip to Tanzania now that she is ten. Another special thing that we did was to read a book together. Each night until she got tired and sometimes at the pool I read to her the book. I appreciate Janis' comments and that as children get older they will take away from the trip a deeper understanding of the country. I think that this year (now that Rachel is 10) she will be quicker at identifying the animals and learning the culture. Safari njema!
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May 10th, 2012, 07:57 PM
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Very insightful comments from both of you, thanks!

I am really torn now. Janis, you are right that a large part of it is that I so want to do this trip! My husband holds similar views as you.

Slbrosious, on the return, we are flying from Serengeti Mara to Arusha thus avoiding the long drive back. I think there is only one day planned with more than 3 hours drive (Central Serengeti to Serengeti Mara). Not sure about the typical length of the game drives. I know what you mean about the swimming pool, my daughter is exactly like that!!
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May 10th, 2012, 09:56 PM
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One more item I am concerned about - all the shots/medication my daughter has to take - malaria, typhoid, yellew fever (think she already has got Hep A and B). A bit too much for a small child?
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May 11th, 2012, 03:48 AM
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I realized that I need to correct a statement to my post from May 11th. The road is only paved until about the Ngorongoro gate. Between Ngorongoro and Serengeti it is dirt road.

The CDC doesn't recommend yellow fever vaccination for travel to Tanzania (unless you are coming from a country where it is endemic).

The one thing that my daughter is dreading about the trip to Tanzania this year is taking the malaria medicine (even though for mefloquine it is only taken once a week). She said that she would prefer that it was liquid and not a pill. I just read that mefloquine can be crushed and added to water or milk. We may give that a try.
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May 11th, 2012, 06:16 AM
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Taking and updating comments from a post I made several years ago about the private Kenya/Tanzania safari we did when our boys were about 9 and 11.

1. Meals in the lodges are great, but they don't last long with kids. Bring LOTS of snacks and drinks (stock up whenever possible along the way). Besides, there were several times we got stuck/or were "pursuing" an elusive animal and were late arriving to the lodges for meals - and those snacks came in handy for all of us. At one point, I thought we would be spending New Year's Eve with the wildlife!

2. Be realistic! As ex-pats, our kids travelled the world - but they were still kids. Wait a day or so, and then let them bring out their own entertainment if they want (it was Gameboys for us - I'm sure there is something different now). Some of the drives get a bit dull, and - to a kid - once you've seen 30 giraffes...number 31 isn't that exciting!

3. In addition to their own binoculars, our boys had inexpensive cameras. Most of the photos didn't turn out - but they had fun and got a few photos we missed.

4. Not sure what time of year you are going, but we were there at Christmas time and zip-off pants/shorts really came in handy.

5. The Masai Village near Olduvai Gorge was quite interesting, but my older son was a bit wary when the chief's oldest son too his hand and led him off into the group of grown men. Great photo!!!!

6. Understand that this is the type of trip that they may enjoy now but not really "appreciate" until they are much older. My older son went back to Tanzania with a school trip when he was 16. He was the only one who had been there before and enjoyed being the resident "expert."

7. Make sure everyone watches films like the Lion King, Madagascar, Born Free, etc before going. Not completely relevant, but it gets you in the mood - kind of like watching Sound of Music before going to Salzburg!
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May 11th, 2012, 08:43 AM
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The ideal age for a child to go on safari is about 8/yrs. when they understand rules and regulations. So yours if right there.

Being on a private safari you can decide when and for how long your gae drives. If you don't want to go out at 6am, then don't. Or if you want to pass on a game drive altogether, you can. It's only on those days when moving from one area to another that you really have to keep on schedule as guide knows how long it'll take to get from one to the next.

As mentioned above, have snacks and even games to keep them busy especially on some of the longer drives or during downtime. Also, their own camera and even nocs. You can certainly arrange for early dinners if you wish or if you want private time for yourselves, can arrange for a nanny (small fee). Tanzanian's love children and can keep them busy during downtime.

Granted children may soon forget such an adventure and while they'll remember it for a few years after especially when looking at photos; more years than maybe 5, or by the mid- to late-teens, they do forget.

As to pools, some of the lodges have but fewer tented camps, so ask if this is important. And know that if traveling during July/August midday air is fine, but later on towards sunset can get downright cold and few pools are heated.

In the end, you know your child... but 8/yrs old is the perfect age for a first safari.
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May 11th, 2012, 08:55 AM
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Make a photobook after the trip (including your child's photos) so they do remember the trip in more detail. We traveled with kids and found not leaving the lodge at the crack of dawn worked best. We left after breakfast often after we slept till 8:30. there were still lots of animals. Lots of snacks, and buying from roadside vendors make life even more interesting.
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May 12th, 2012, 04:23 PM
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Hi kdd

I took an 8 year old niece and 10 year old niece on my first safari and they were very good. I also had Mum with me so it was one child to one adult ratio. We had our own vehicle and of course, that did make it easier. The girls are very good at their own entertainment and both good readers. Pretty sure I allowed computer games on the planes, though not once we hit africa. I did make sure the 8 year old had a sleep each day, even for a short while as she really did need it and you are up early and to bed a bit later. The girls also wrote a simple journal of what they saw and the highlights of each day.
Re injections etc, definitely go to a professional travel doctor and ask them your questions. I took the girls there and went from there. They were put on malaria medication etc and had yellow fever. They will know what they should have and how their systems will cope, give you that information and then you decide what you want to do based on their advice.

The girls are now 20 and 22 and have been on 5 and 6 trips with me, and I think they have loved every trip and I don't think they have been bored at all.

They were with me all the time and you really have so much to see or do that they have little time to be bored. Though certainly depends on the child.

On returning home, I always make each girl a photo album so once the photos are done, they come over and choose which ones they want and I do an album, online these days and that is also a very good way to remember a memorable trip!

Kind regards
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May 13th, 2012, 01:05 PM
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I took my 2 sons aged 7 and 2 1/2 on camping trip to Namibia and Botswana last year. All the trip was selfdrive,we had a great time, so I just sat, go for it!!!
You allready have some good advice, but my kids loved the portable dvd-player, it helped at lot during driving. We tried to keep the drives at around 3-4 hours a Day, but we drove 6000 km in the 5 weeks, so we had some long days. But agter ar long Day, we allways had an easy Day with almost no driving.
But Don't expect you daughter to find allthe elephants, wildebeest,zebraes etc. exciting, sometimesmy sons just wanted to see dvd. we also tried to get out of the car and we did some boat safaris(you can't do that up north ,you have to go south to Selous) and other things like visiting local tribes and markets.
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May 14th, 2012, 02:12 AM
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It appears that Yellow fever certificate is not a requirement to enter Tanzania if travelling from Singapore. Can anyone confirm this? Similarly, Singpore too does not require a certificate from travellers to Tanzania?
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May 14th, 2012, 06:49 PM
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I am encouraged by comments from parents who have travelled with small kids. Thanks for the many helpful tips. We have paid the deposit today so we are going!!
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May 17th, 2012, 11:45 AM
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I just replied on your medication question, but I'll throw my 2cents in here too!

We took our son to Africa when he was six. We did a quick tour of Nairobi -- the elephant and the giraffe refuges, during our layover. Then we spent a week in Zanzibar. Although we saw and did some pretty amazing things, his favorite times were interacting with local children. As an only child he can get pretty bored just hanging out with grown ups!

One thing we did was make contact with a Zanzibarian charity that works with local schools. Before we left he climbed a mountain (okay, a big hill) and asked friends and family to sponsor him. He made about 500 pounds to donate to the charity. During our stay we were able to visit a couple of the schools and donate more items -- skipping ropes and laptops were the big hits!

We also brought a (soccer) football. One afternoon on the beach in front of the villa we brought out the football and within minutes 20 or so local children popped up and we played football for about an hour. It was probably our highlight of the trip.

So my advice: find a way for your daughter to be a child, with other children if possible. As an only, my son gets dragged along on all of our trips. Sometimes we do adult things and he's a bit bored so we always try to incorporate some child friendly things for him. It's funny, but it's usually those experience that we remember and treasure!
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May 28th, 2012, 08:21 AM
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Our family spent a bit over 2 weeks on safari when our kids were 5 and 8. It's been 4 years since that trip and both can still tell you vivid stories of our adventures. Every child is different, however, and mine love animals. I think the primary decision points with younger kids are whether they enjoy animals (e.g. will they watch Wild Kingdom all the way through an episode) and whether they can be quiet/still when the situation warrants. My kids were completely mesmerized.

A guide that is great with kids will make all the difference in the world. Our very first guide was incredible - he taught the kids all about the bush, how to track, how to identify spoor, etc. He made it fun and interesting for the kids which helped with the rest of the trip. My 5-yr old completely blew the guide at the next camp away when he tracked a lion.
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May 29th, 2012, 08:33 PM
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Looks like a lot of great comments and suggestions above. I don't have much to add other than taking your children on safari is a gift from you to them, that they will treasure forever. Everyone experiences things differently, and the expedition from the eyes of an 8-year old will be perceived very differently, but equally meaningfully, than someone older.

We've been safari-ing with our little boy since he was a toddler, and now he's been to 32 countries and seen some of the most amazing wildlife on the planet. He is constantly thanking us for (his words), "showing me the world". Our trips together are family bonding-time extraordinaire, and we have all grown as individuals through our travels together. At school, his teachers constantly tell us how is amazing and truly unique worldly experiences are creating a real world citizen.

While I do understand one of the comments above about entertainment for the kids, we don't allow electronic games on our trips (or at home for that matter). Music is fine but no games. We instead opt for road games and talking to each other and actually looking out the window...;-) But whatever works... The trip should be everyone's entertainment, IMO.

Take a look at one of our last safaris with the kid - he was six then:

Next week, we are heading to Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Uganda and Central AFrica for two months on a mega safari! He's nine now and he helped plan this one...
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