We are often asked if a Zambian safari is a good option for families with children. We are here to shout a resounding YES! Most kids love to get out into nature and see animals in their natural habitat. The younger generations are sponges for information and will keep the safari guide entertained with endless questions.
A trip to Zambia can make your children more socially aware and mindful of others. There are fantastic educational opportunities at every turn. However, it is critical to acknowledge that safaris with children do require pivoting your itinerary and slowing things down a notch. Check out our tips for getting the most out of a Zambian safari with kids.
Where to stay
Finding the right place to base yourself for a Zambian safari is essential. Livingstone is located on the Southernmost tip of Zambia and makes for a fantastic hub. You can quickly get out to numerous national parks and come back to a home base where the children are familiar.
Zambian travel agents will know which safari lodges are better catered for children. We recommend looking for a location that is fenced and has a swimming pool. Enquire in advance if meals can be taken earlier than other guests and if they offer child rates. Some safari lodges will only cater to older children, and though you might want to convince them otherwise, it would be best to find a lodge where everyone will be comfortable.
When to go
Zambia’s peak safari season is from May through October. Keep in mind that June and July can be relatively cold, and October can be extremely hot. When travelling with children, our recommendation would be to go in late August or early September. The weather will be warm enough for a splash in the pool, which is always helpful for keeping the kids entertained.
The ‘green season’ or wet season in Zambia is from November through April. Many safari lodges close during this time, but some more easily accessible lodges are open year-round. The game viewing can be a bit trickier at this time of year as the foliage grows; however, you will have the advantage of low season rates and quieter lodges. Walking safaris are often not possible in the wet season; but, children under 12 can’t partake in a walk anyways, so you won’t feel like you’re missing out.
Consider the age
Some people think that children need to be eight or ten or even twelve before it is ‘worth it’ to take kids on safari. We have taken plenty of toddlers on game drives throughout Zambia, and they have had a blast. At the end of the day, you know your own child best. If you think that they would stay engaged and listen to direction from the guide, then safaris in Zambia are fabulous at any age.
Type of activities
It is best to be realistic about the attention span of children on safari. An adult might be able to head out into the bush for seven days at a time, but this will soon become difficult with a kid of any age. Switch up the activities so that your children stay interested. In Livingstone, it is possible to take the kids on a game drive in Mosi-oa-tunya National Park or on a cruise on the Zambezi River.
If you contact operators in advance, they can tailor-make an itinerary specifically towards the younger generation. For instance, watch and see how obsessed kids are with learning to identify animal poop. You can keep children engaged for hours by showing them the differences between zebra and elephant poop. Add watching dung beetles to the mix, and you’ve got junior Attenboroughs in the making.
On a typical day at a safari camp in Kafue, Lower Zambezi or South Luangwa National Park you will head out on an early morning game drive and then a late afternoon drive. This means that the middle of the day allows for a lot of downtime. Make sure that you have prepared activities to keep the kids busy.
Children will love having their own digital camera, binoculars and animal reference books. We recommend packing their day pack with plenty of child-friendly snacks and neutral clothing. Don’t worry if you need electronics every so often to keep the kids entertained, as this is a trip for the whole family to enjoy. Just be sure to remember the headphones and that there won’t be WIFI in the bush.
Book as a Private Trip
We highly recommend either booking a private safari and guide, or hiring a fully equipped self-drive vehicle for your Zambian safari. A private safari and guide mean that you can take it at your own pace but have the expertise of a professional safari guide. Your child will also have someone to ask ‘why’ to all day long. In general, Zambians are fantastic with kids. By having the same guide for multiple days, your kids will get over any shyness, and you can continue to tailor the trip to your preferences.
We have no doubt that taking your kids on safari in Zambia will be an amazing experience. By following our tips, you can hopefully get the most out of your safari and look forward to coming back again and again.