If watching David Attenborough's The Hunt on BBC has inspired your children, why not consider taking them on a family safari next year? Although Africa has its fair share of challenges when it comes to travel, it also has several destinations that are ideal for families. Our twins were just four when we first took them to South Africa.
On safari in Kwandwe Game Reserve, South Africa (Photo ©William Gray)
Malaria-Free Family Safaris
Whatever age your children, health is likely to be the main issue when considering whether or not to go on safari in Africa. Think hard before taking very young children to sub-Saharan Africa where malaria is endemic. There are exceptions - some parts of South Africa and Namibia are malaria-free. One of the safest ways for young families to enjoy a safari is to combine Cape Town and the Garden Route with a few nights at one of the Eastern Cape's malaria-free game reserves. Many of these are not only home to the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, buffalo and leopard), but they also boast luxurious family accommodation, superb guides and special activities for children. This 18-day holiday in South Africa includes three nights in Amakhala Game Reserve.
Encounter with a leopard tortoise at Grootbos Game Reserve, South Africa (Photo ©William Gray)
Self-Drive Family Safaris
The road infrastructure in South Africa is excellent, making self-drive an easy and affordable option - especially when compared with other safari countries where pricey internal flights are often required. After the direct overnight flight from London to Cape Town, simply pick up your hire car at the airport and hit the road. Several operators offer self-drive packages including flights, car rental and prebooked accommodation. Rainbow Tours, for example, can arrange a 17-day self-drive tour that will take you from Cape Town to Grootbos (a wonderful coastal reserve renowned for its extraordinary fynbos vegetation, walking safaris and family horse riding) before continuing to the arid plains of the Karoo to view meerkats and visit ostrich farms. A few nights touring the Garden Route, visiting Monkey Land and walking with elephants at Knysna, is followed by three nights on safari in a malaria-free game reserve near Port Elizabeth.
Learning to make fire with the Maasai (Photo ©William Gray)
Family Safaris for Young Warriors
One of the most rewarding aspects of a family safari is engaging your children with the real world, leaving Wi-Fi far behind, and watching their eyes light up as local guides teach them how to identify animals by delving into their droppings or deciphering tracks around a waterhole. Family-friendly safari lodges and camps offer an incredible array of activities for children. A small bush camp in northern Kenya, Laikipia Wilderness has recently introduced a safari school programme inspired by the owner's children who are five and seven. Activities include beading necklaces and bracelets, fishing for catfish and setting up overnight wildlife camera traps. Also in Kenya, this eight-day safari from Mahlatini features a warrior academy where children aged five and above can learn how to track animals, throw a Maasai spear and live like a Samburu warrior.
Leopard Beach Resort on the Kenyan coast (Photo ©William Gray)
Family Safari and Beach Combos
If you're unsure whether a safari is for you, a good way to get a taster is to book a beach holiday on the East African coast which also includes a few days on safari. The reef-fringed coast of Kenya and Tanzania has some superb accommodation, including family favourites like Leopard Beach Resort on Kenya's Diani Beach and the Breezes Beach Club on Zanzibar. Several operators can arrange safari and beach combos - this 11-night Tanzania holiday teams up Zanzibar with a superb camp in the Serengeti, while this Kenyan option combines wildlife watching in the Masai Mara with a stay on the private island of Funzi. You can also find places along East Africa's coast where bush meets beach - giving you the best of both worlds in one location. Little-visited Saadani National Park in northern Tanzania, for example, often has elephants roaming the beach. The Family Adventure Company has a 10-day safari featuring Saadani where activities for children include tracking animals and setting camera traps.