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How to Plan a Family Safari to South Africa


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Tips and advice from family travel experts to help you save for, plan and enjoy a family safari vacation in South Africa

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How to Plan a Family Safari to South Africa

  1. 1. How to plan A Family Safari to South Africa How to plan A Family Safari to South Africa Tips and advice from family travel experts to help you save for, plan and enjoy a family safari vacation in South Africa
  2. 2. Does the safari lodge offer educational programming and game drives for children? Whether you are travelschooling or simply on vacation, families often want to include educational programs and games drives for children during their holiday in South Africa. Not all hotels and safari lodges include educational programming, and if they do, the quality of the education programming varies. Choose a safari lodge that offers a wide variety of activities for children. For example, at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, hotel staff meet with parents upon arrival to talk about specific activities for children, which include trail walks, face painting, clay making and stargazing. Sanbona Wildlife Reserve even offers a special family-only lodge, complete with board games, crafts and children’s books. When planning a family safari to South Africa, the most important decision is where to stay. As a popular travel destination, in South Africa there are a wide range of hotels and safaris to choose from, from small boutique bed-and-breakfasts to large brand name chain hotels. The key is to choose a kid-friendly accommodation that fits your budget and lifestyle. Here are tips to choosing the best family-friendly hotels and safari lodges in South Africa. how to Choose a family friendly safari lodge Find more tips and travel packages at
  3. 3. how to Choose a family friendly safari lodge Find more tips and travel packages at Does the safari lodge offer babysitting? Whether it is because parents would like to take part in an evening game drive, go to the onsite spa or even relax for time on their own, it is important that the safari lodge you stay at in South Africa offers babysitting services. For example, at Kariaga Game Reserve, children under 5 are not permitted on game drives for safety reason, so babysitting services are available (for a fee). Always book your babysitting services well in advance of your departure. How do guests rate the kid-friendliness of the hotel? It’s one thing for a safari lodge to claim that they are kid-friendly, but to determine if the hotel you plan to stay at will accommodate children, read reviews on sites such as TripAdvisor. It’s often the hotels that add special touches that make your holiday in South Africa memorable. For example, the Cullinan Southern Sun Hotel in Cape Town (included in our Ultimate South Africa package), gets excellent reviews from mothers and fathers on TripAdvisor. “Our boys (1,5 and 4,5) were entertained with all sorts of activities. The Easter bunny came to visit and brought lots of chocolate,”writes Scarlett D. in her TripAdvisor review of Cullinan Southern Sun.
  4. 4. how to Choose a family friendly safari lodge Find more tips and travel packages at Does the hotel or safari lodge offer kids eat or stay free incentives? A family safari trip to South Africa can be very expensive, so when booking your trip be sure to stay at a lodge or hotel that is offering a kids eat or stay free promotion. The age restrictions vary from hotel to hotel. For example, at Madikwe Game Reserve (where most of our guests stay during in South Africa, the lodge’s children stay free promotion only applies to kids 12 and under when staying with two paying adults. At others such as Hog Hollow, children ages 2-12 stay at a reduced rate. Are children permitted on the game driv es or walks? On all DSA Vacations’family safaris in South Africa, families are encouraged to take their children on game drives and walks. However, each lodge has specific rules about the minimum age that children should be before going on a game drive. At most lodges in South Africa, the minimum age for children to participate in a game drive is 8 years old. For safety reasons, young children are rarely permitted on game walks.
  5. 5. how to Choose a family friendly safari lodge Find more tips and travel packages at Is there television or internet? Allowing your children to watch television while on vacation is a personal choice. Some parents prefer that their family unplug from all electronics while others welcome the opportunity for their children to watch educational TV shows or movie documentaries. Most hotels in Cape Town include complimentary cable TV in their rates, but others such as Hog Hollow do not have a television sets at all. Striking a balance are safari lodges like Grootbos Private Nature Reserve, which only allows educational DVDs on days will poor weather. Larger hotels such as Table Bay Hotel in Cape Town offer complimentary include high-speed internet. Do not except to have internet access when staying at a safari lodge. Are there laundry facilities? Packing for a family vacation to South Africa can be a challenge. Most airlines that transfer you within South Africa have strict luggage weight restrictions and packing light is key. Before booking your family safari, check to see if your hotel or lodge offers laundry services so that you do not have to pack clothing for the duration of your trip. Some luxury camping accommodations in Botswana, such as Footsteps Across the Delta, include daily laundry service in their rates. Other family-friendly lodges, such as Jaci’s Lodge at Madikwe Game Reserve, have laundry facilities but are excluded from their rates.
  6. 6. how to Save money for your family safari holiday Find more tips and travel packages at Cut out unnecessary expenses Best known for his backpacking adventures around the world, Steve James from knows that travel can be expensive. On both his blog and in an article for Matador, James tells future travellers to eliminate all unnecessary expenses in order to save for their trip. Adults should consider dining out and alcohol as expenses to cut and children should borrow books and toys from lending libraries. Use an automatic deposit program Janet Bodnar, writer of the popular Money Smart Kids blog, advises families saving for a vacation to set their savings to auto-pilot. “The very best way to save money is to take it off the top before you even see it,” Bodnar told Frommers Travel. A family safari in South Africa is a dream for many parents and children, spending years planning their perfect holiday. Part of the planning process of going to South Africa is saving for your trip. While DSA Vacations has several affordable family vacation packages to South Africa (some even under $1100 per person), the reality is that a holiday will cost thousands of dollars by the time flights, travel health insurance, travel health vaccinations and medications, excursions and of course the travel packages are all add up. Here are our favorite tips for saving money for – and on – your family safari to South Africa.
  7. 7. how to Save money for your family safari holiday Find more tips and travel packages at Involve your kids The great thing about saving money for a family safari to Africa is that you can involve your children in the process, teaching them valuable lessons about money. Encourage your children to sell their old clothing, books and toys on E-Bay, earn money through household chores, contribute a portion of their birthday money or if their old enough, get a job and start their own automatic savings plan. All the experts that Suzanne Rowan Kelleher spoke with for her Frommers post on savings strategies agreed that parents should involve children in saving for a family vacation. Travel in off-peak seasons Some families choose to book their safari to South Africa during animal migration season for the thrill of seeing so many of Africa’s wild animals up close - but be warned that you will pay a premium during that time of year! If visiting Victoria Falls in Zambia is on your list of destinations, consider visiting South Africa in November or December, when the falls are at their lowest, offering a unique view of the falls. At Kariega Safari Lodge, families pay 25% less during the off season. Booking in the off-peak season allows families to take advantage of discounted rates, says Cameron Huddleston on
  8. 8. how to Save money for your family safari holiday Find more tips and travel packages at Look for lodges offering“kids stay free”packages Safari lodges in South Africa that specialize in family travel often charge less - or nothing at all - for young children. For example, at Madikwe Safari Lodge, kids under 6 stay for free. Keep in mind that young children are not always permitted on safari game drives, however these lodges do offer a wide variety of activities for children and even babysitting services so that parents can experience a game drive in South Africa. Book all-inclusive or best-value packages Don’t assume an all inclusive safari vacation to be the most expensive option - in many cases it is the most affordable! Most of the lodges that are included in our travel packages include meals and beverages for adults, with kids staying and eating at no additional cost. On the other hand, best value packages with DSA Vacations may not be all inclusive, but instead have families staying in comfortable hotels in Cape Town or Botswana and driving into game reserves each day. These best value family safari packages mean that families can enjoy both city and safari experiences. Research and apply for travel grants If you’ve scrimped and saved and still don’t have quite enough for your family safari to South Africa, Independent Traveler has a creative way to top up your holiday savings account: apply for a travel grant. It may not fund your entire trip, but for families that qualify, a travel grant can help cover some of your travel costs.
  9. 9. how to Safely take children on a safari game drive Find more tips and travel packages at Wait until your children are in school "I would only recommend a safari to families with kids 4 and over. They key is to wait until your kids can sit still for a period of time (for the game drives) and listen well to instructions (especially on when to be quiet- for the safety of the entire group)," advises Jamie Lynne Grumet on her blog I Am Not the Babysitter. DSA Vacations hosted Grumet and her family in March 2013. Be sure to check with the safari lodge for what their minimum age requirements are for taking children on game drives (most require children to be at least 8 years old). The biggest attraction of any family safari holiday to South Africa is naturally "The Big 5" (in Africa, The Big 5 are lions, African elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards, and rhinoceros). Many of the lodges that host DSA Vacations' guests are located on wildlife game reserves making viewing of The Big 5 easy, however it is on guided safari drives where the magic of South Africa can truly be experienced. Guided safari drives are a safe way for children and families to view wildlife in Africa, but some parents may be worried about how their children may (or may not!) behave on a drive. Young children can be very excited about seeing lions and African elephants, but patience is often needed while tracking African game. Here are some expert tips from family travel bloggers for helping parents and children to fully enjoy their guided South African family safari.
  10. 10. how to Safely take children on a safari game drive Find more tips and travel packages at Let children use a camera and binoculars On her post about taking children to Africa, travel agent Anouk Zijlma warns that young children can easily become bored on longer safari drives in South Africa. By letting them use a camera and binoculars, children become part of the action. Maybe they will spot a lion before you do! Consider a self-drive or private safari At larger lodges where families may have to share vehicles during a game drive, keep in mind not all travellers will enjoy having children on their safari. If this is the case, spend the extra money to rent a private guide and vehicle, advises travel agent and contributor Anouk Zijlma. Remember your little kids are potential prey for the Big 5 Yes, it's a scary thought that your young children could potentially be a meal for wild dogs. On her post on National Geographic's Intelligent Travel, Heather Greenwood-Davis reminds parents to weigh the prey factor. "My sons once stepped out of a jeep at a game reserve where wild dogs were being preserved and the immediate transformation of the dogs from playful puppies to hunters made me very grateful for the electric fence," she writes.
  11. 11. how to Pack for a family vacation in South Africa Find more tips and travel packages at Most lodges, such as Kariega Game Reserve, offer laundry facilities. We suggest packing light and taking advantage of on-site laundry.“Pack clothes that are in natural colours, except for white, which can be spotted by game a long ways off,”Mark Nolting tells USA Today in an interview about safari packing tips. Make sure all families members have broken in their shoes before your vacation - game walks are not the time for blisters or sore feet. q 1 X comfortable closed-toe walking shoes q 1 X sandals q 1 X rain jacket q 1 X wide-brimmed hat that shades your neck If you are planning your first family safari to South Africa, it may be tempting to bring multiple changes of clothing for everyone in your family. But the important thing to remember about packing for a family safari to South Africa is that there are weight restrictions in place on not only the flights that you may take from one destination to another within Africa, but also on the game drive vehicles. The challenge is separating the essential travel items from the items that your children think that they need to bring on a long trip (do they really need to bring every stuffed animal and book on their vacation?). Not to mention, you will want to bring home souvenirs from your trip to Africa, so not overpacking is key! q 4 X socks and underwear (all experts agree that extra socks that go past your ankles are a must) q 2 X shorts q 3 X t-shirts q 1 X pyjamas q 1 X swimsuits q 2 X lightweight pants q 1 X long sleeve shirt or sweater formal wear (if required for dinner at the safari lodge you are staying at)
  12. 12. how to Pack for a family vacation in South Africa Find more tips and travel packages at Toiletries Bring your preferred brands of toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, shaving cream, soaps and shampoos to Africa. The toiletries available in Africa can be very expensive and not of the same quality as what you would buy in North America. Many of the lodges that DSA Vacations’guest stay at do have small shops where you can buy toiletries in emergencies, but keep in mind that they only take South African currency. In addition to your personal toiletries, bring: q insect repellant containing Deet q sunscreen with a high SPF level q medications q anti-malaria pills if required q anti-naseau medication q anti-diarherrai medication Accessories Leave your contact lenses at home. The sand and dry air in Africa makes putting in and taking out contact lenses uncomfortable. q head lamp or flashlight with spare batteries q luggage scale q camera, spare batteries, memory cards and charging cables q zip lock bags to store toiletries while on game drives (game drives are very sandy) q sunglasses q wall plug compatible with South Africa voltage q lightweight backpacks for all family members q micro fibre towel
  13. 13. how to Safely take children on a safari game drive Find more tips and travel packages at Book with a reliable tour operator that accommodates kids The family travel market is full of tour operators offering safaris to South Africa and for families on a budget, it may be tempting to book with a less expensive operator. Keep in mind that not all lodges accommodate children and that less expensive is not always better. Amie O'Shaughnessy, editor of Ciao Bambino advises that families travelling to South Africa book with a single tour operator offering an established portfolio of properties. "If someone is offering a package that is much less than the others in the market, there is a reason for that and I’d choose another provider," O'Shaughnessy says. Have activities ready to keep children busy during the drive Driving to your safari destination may take up to two hours and parents of young children know that even the most patient child will get bored during the drive. You can either prepare your our activity package with coloring sheets and quiet games, or ask your safari guide and lodge for ideas to keep children busy. The best South African family lodges, such as Madikwe Safari Lodge and Kariega Game Reserve, have activity sheets, notebooks, painting and coloring sheets to keep kids entertained.
  14. 14. how to Safely take children on a safari game drive Find more tips and travel packages at Pack clothing that will keep them comfortable Most family safari game drives take place in the morning or afternoon but older children may want to take part in night drives. If this is the case, remember to bring warm clothes in the jeep, particularly in the colder months from May to September, advises Kariega Game Reserve. Don't feel pressured to go on every safari game drive The excitement of being on a family trip in South Africa can catch up with kids who want to take part in all the drives and activities a safari lodge offers, leaving them cranky and exhausted. If your children are tired, let them sleep. "Let your little ones rest when things are slow and rouse them for the highlights," Greenwood-Davis tells Intelligent Traveller. "Tired kids make for terrible safari companions," she adds. Family-friendly safari lodges offer several game drives throughout the day, allowing for ample time for your family to relax and enjoy quiet time together as a family.
  15. 15. how to Stay healthy during your South African vacation Find more tips and travel packages at Get vaccinated against Hepatitis A and Typhoid Fever Regardless of where you are staying in South Africa, all travellers are at risk on contracting Hepatitis A and Typhoid Fever, most commonly through contaminated food and water. Eating and drinking safely, combined with vaccinations are advised by the CDC. Keep in mind that the typhoid vaccine is only 50%-80% effective, so you should still be careful about what you drink and adventurous eaters may want to exercise caution. In planning your family safari to South Africa, one of the first questions you may have is about travel health, vaccinations and malaria. The Center for Disease Control reports that risks of contracting malaria is low and there is no risk of contracting yellow fever in South Africa, but parents of young children will still need to seek the advice of a travel health doctor or clinician prior to even booking their safari to find out which medications, vaccinations and other precautions that they need to take.
  16. 16. how to Stay healthy during your South African vacation Malaria-free does not mean worry free While there are areas in South Africa which are malaria-free (for example, DSA Vacations' Family Wildlife Adventures package is hosted in malaria-free Madikwe), families should still seek a travel health clinician's advice regarding protection against malaria. Spread by mosquitos bites, protection against malaria beyond vaccinations or medications includes covering exposed skin by wearing long sleeves and long pants and applying mosquito repellant. Share your full travel itinerary with your travel health specialist who then will provide a course of action to reduce the risk on contracting malaria while in South Africa. Children are at higher risk for rabies Because rabies can be found in bats, dogs and other mammals throughout South Africa, the Center for Disease Control recommends that people who will be camping, hiking and caving or working with wildlife should be vaccinated against rabies. Children in
  17. 17. how to Stay healthy during your South African vacation particular are at a higher risk for rabies, because they tend to play with animals and may not report animal bites. Needless to say, keep watch over your children when they are in the company of animals that you do not the health history of. Check to see if you need a Yellow Fever vaccine If you are travelling from the United States to South Africa, you are no longer required to receive the yellow fever vaccine, however the government of South Africa requires proof only if you are arriving from a country with risk of yellow fever. These yellow fever vaccination recommendations are recent changes, updated after extensive research by the CDC and the World Health Organization. While there is no risk of yellow fever in South Africa, it is ultimately the choice of the traveler and their travel health specialist as to whether or not a vaccination should be given.
  18. 18. For more information about DSA Vacations and the family safari travel packages we offer, please contact us. 1-800-203-6724 For more information about DSA Vacations and the family safari travel packages we offer, please contact us. 1-800-203-6724