Safari with kids

Those three words can create a whole jumble of emotions and imagery in parents’ minds!

Friends who are considering their first safari with little ones tell me their thought process goes a bit like this: First, their mind evokes a beautiful scene of the whole family enjoying a sundowner with everyone bathed in an orange, dusty glow, a silhouetted giraffe wandering across the horizon, a cold drink in one hand and their darling child’s squidgy fingers in the other hand. But then the mind kicks into reality-check mode and conjures a less idyllic scene: a fidgeting child in the safari vehicle, hot and bothered parents, disinterest in the slumbering lions that laze beside the car, children demanding snacks or fighting about who gets to sit next to Mummy. Fear of the latter can put people off booking a family safari altogether, opting to wait until children are a little older!

Close encounters with Samburu’s elephants ©Will Burrard-Lucas

Having just returned from a wonderful Kenyan safari including a stay at Sasaab and Solio Lodge with The Safari Collection, I’m here to convince the doubters!

Life with a wildlife photographer

When I married a wildlife photographer, I knew that safari was going to feature in our family life. We hit the ground running when we became parents, taking our daughter on her first safari when she was just six months old. We’ve been returning ever since. Our children are now eight and six years.

Bush breakfast in Solio Game Reserve ©Will Burrard-Lucas

Over the years, I have had a whole range of pre-safari parental worries. Will my teething babe scream all night in the canvas-walled safari tent and wake the whole camp? What will my terrible twos toddler have in store for us at mealtimes? How will I keep my four-year-old from running off?  But the reality? Many more golden sundowner moments and memories to cherish that anything else.

As a family, we’re always itching to get back to the wilderness where we are our best selves and connected with each other.

Riding high to Sundowner Rock at Sasaab ©Will Burrard-Lucas

That isn’t to say that safari with kids doesn’t have its moments! But I can say, without hesitation, that it’s 100% worth it. Each age just seems to get better (although I have no regrets about starting them young as they’re now as hooked as we are!) As they get older, each trip differs and it doesn’t feel repetitive. The activities on offer become more numerous as the kids grow. This last trip included adrenaline-fuelled activities such as a quad-bike safari and horse riding, firsts for us as a family. It really complemented conventional game-drives.

Family quad bike adventure at Sasaab ©Will Burrard-Lucas

Helping after a horse riding adventure at Solio Lodge ©Will Burrard-Lucas


We love meeting other families wherever we explore and the topic inevitably gets onto family travelling hacks. So, for parents out there considering a family safari, here are some of our tips and tricks:

  • Pick safari lodges that welcome and love children. The Safari Collection actively encourage family safaris at their lodges. Little touches go a long way to settling parental worries, such as board games in the lounge, art equipment in tents (painting sets, pencils and pads of paper), sports equipment for kids to use on the lawn, biscuit baking activities in the kitchen, herb garden foraging before meals and menus specifically for children. What’s more, all family units come with exclusive use of vehicle, so game drives are yours to make!
  • Don’t be afraid to personalise your safari routine. It takes a day or two after arriving on safari to figure out what your family’s routine should look like.

Giant Jenga at The Retreat at Giraffe Manor ©Will Burrard-Lucas

On arrival, the camp team will let you know what the usual schedule is for guests, but you don’t need to follow this. Most adult guests leave on a morning game drive at sunrise, enjoy a bush breakfast and return mid-morning. They eat lunch at camp, rest, then head out again for an afternoon game drive, eating dinner once the sun has set.

View from Solio’s family cottage ©Will Burrard-Lucas

However, this doesn’t always work for families, depending on the age or needs of the children. The Safari Collection teams were always accommodating, and when we had a toddler and a baby in tow, naptime and mealtime mattered a lot to me! Now our kids are a bit older, we are more flexible and are happy to wake them early and keep them up later into the evening. Just make sure your needs are communicated on the day you arrive to keep everything ticking over smoothly.

Pulling up carrots from the veggie garden at Giraffe Manor ©Will Burrard-Lucas

  • Don’t put too much pressure on everything going exactly to plan/perfection. Safari is a bucket-list kind of holiday, so it is understandable that everyone wants it to be perfect. But life (and safari with kids) can be messy and unpredictable. Children often sense when parents are tense and trying too hard to follow an itinerary, which is when they decide not to oblige! I try and identify what mood we are all in and what our ‘needs’ are.

Pool time chilling in Sasaab’s family suite ©Will Burrard-Lucas

Sometimes, we all just need a lazy afternoon at camp lounging around reading and playing card games. Some days, we need a later start (even if the sunrise is going to be epic and every other guest will come back and tell us about that elusive leopard). And other times, one child is feeling like a game drive and the other wants to swim, so splitting up for a few hours is okay too. The holiday will be judged at the end by whether everyone was happy, rested, connected and has fond memories to cherish, not by whether each moment was Instagram perfect.

  • Don’t panic if your children’s interest in the wildlife goes up and down. We sometimes choose to do just one game drive per day even though two is the norm. At lodges such as Sasaab and Solio Lodge, there are a plethora of other options which make for great memories and keep interest piqued for conventional game-drives. Recent highlights for us at Sasaab included visiting a Samburu boma (village) where the children played with the village kids and had a go at milking goats; riding camels to a sundowner spot and roasting marshmallows over a campfire as the sun went down; and going on a quad bike (ATV) safari.

Meeting the goats in Sasaab Village ©Will Burrard-Lucas

At Solio Lodge, we spent a wonderful morning on horseback, riding over the open plains past eland and zebra, followed by mucking out the stables and feeding the horses. We also rode our bikes on dusty tracks around camp to burn off energy. These additional activities also helped the children learn more about the local people and wilderness.

Mountain biking at Solio Lodge ©Will Burrard-Lucas

From mountain biking to village visits and camel rides, there are all sorts of exciting activities in addition to traditional game drives which help children discover more about the wilderness and different cultures. 

Cheetah cub near Sasaab ©Will Burrard-Lucas

  • Books and safari go well together. The Safari Collection have a specific blog post about the ultimate packing guide for a family safari which is well worth a read. For us, the item I wouldn’t be without are some good books. For the past few years, I’ve carried our current paperback book around with me on safari that we’re reading as a family. If we stop on the game drive to wait for something, like a wildebeest crossing or for the lions to finally get up from their snooze, then I’ll read (very quietly) to the children.

This can make waiting a pleasure rather than a chore. We’ve journeyed into Narnia, enjoyed getting to know talking farmyard spiders and pigs, and found our way into the Secret Garden all from the padded seats of game viewing vehicles in the bush. The children are now of the age they can read their own books, but none of us are willing to give up our tradition of a family book just yet.

Whatever age your children are, a family safari is bound to have many magical moments and result in memories to be cherished forever.

Making friends in Sasaab village ©Will Burrard-Lucas

Natalie Burrard-Lucas lives in the UK with her husband, photographer Will Burrard-Lucas, and two children. If you’d like to go on a similar family safari adventure, then get in touch today by emailing to start planning your dream trip!