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10 Packing Essentials for a Safari with Kids

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Going on an African safari is a choice you’ll be grateful for forever. This is a gift that keeps on giving as it offers a lifetime memory. It’s like allowing your little humans to step into the pages of a wildlife storybook.  

The boundless savannahs, magnificent landscapes, majestic beats, and nature’s thrill await. Indeed this family vacation promises unforgettable family adventures. But if you’re a seasoned traveller, you know meticulous preparation is the key to truly enjoying this experience. 

Meticulous preparation is the difference between a good safari experience and an extraordinary one. You and your family will have a good collection of snapshots and a treasure trove of cherished memories. 

According to Statista, about 5.1 million tourists visited Africa in 2022. This shows how Africa is such an interesting destination for many people. They’re all seeking to witness the continent’s incredible biodiversity. 

This guide aims to tell you must-have essentials and the secrets of why each item is important. This ranges from a hydration hack that will help soothe cranky kids to camera tricks that capture the essence of the wild. So, grab your adventurer’s hat, pick up binoculars, and dive into the exciting world of family safari preparation. 

Why Proper Packing Is Crucial

There is nothing as exciting as being in the African wilderness. You might be deep in the moments, relishing each live experience of lions prowling. And suddenly, you start hearing complaints from the little explorers. Nothing so alarming, it might be a  headache due to dehydration, scrapes from footwear, annoying swarms of insects, or cranky kids because of boredom. 

This is enough distraction that can break the amazing moments of the wild. Or perhaps, you’re watching a herd of elephants majestically graze, and all you can think of is how you forgot your camera back at the lodge. 

You can’t imagine that those awe-inspiring moments are passing by, unrecorded and will only be etched in your memory. However minimal these safari slip-ups may seem, they can steal precious moments from your adventure. They may even end up leaving you with regret instead of cherished moments. 

Thus proper packing goes beyond comfort. It will help you preserve your sanity and maximize the magic of the wild. It’s the difference between being fully present in the moment and being preoccupied with what you left behind. So, buckle up – we’re about to pack some peace of mind and ensure every moment in the wild counts.

  1. Snacks and Water – Fuel for Your Safari Adventure

Ah, the African wilderness – where time slows down, but your appetite doesn’t. While spotting a leopard stealthily stalking its prey may sound thrilling, the hours of waiting can make your stomach a ferocious beast. That’s where snacks come to the rescue, especially if you’re on a family safari.

Imagine you and your family perched in a Land Cruiser, gazing at the horizon for glimpses of wildlife. Enjoying every moment and basking in the magnificent beauty of the African wilderness. It’s been hours, and your little adventurers are starting to resemble famished lions. 

This is when a stash of nutritious snacks can be your best friend. You can carry a healthy trail mix, like protein bars, nuts and dried fruit. These portable power-ups will keep your energy levels and moods up, preventing your kids from turning into hungry little lions.

But what about hydration? As the sun beats down, the African heat can be relentless. That’s why carrying a reusable water bottle for each family member is crucial. Dehydration doesn’t just lead to grumpiness; it can cause nausea and heat-related illnesses, and worse still, it can cause heat stroke. This can end up turning your safari into a desert mirage of discomfort. The trick to relish the African family safari lies in staying quenched, staying happy, and staying wild!

  1. Binoculars – The Enchanting Windows to Wildlife

Now, let’s talk about the secret to unlocking the full enchantment of the African wilderness – binoculars. Sure, your naked eye can spot those distant rhinos and giraffes. But what’s the fun of settling for a blurry glimpse when you can have a front-row seat to nature’s spectacle?

Imagine this: You’re scanning the horizon, and with the right pair of binoculars, you suddenly zoom in on a lion napping under a tree, every whisker in perfect focus. The world of wildlife becomes a high-definition masterpiece. How exciting will it be for your kids to become the directors of their own safari documentary?

When shopping for binoculars, consider factors like:

  • Magnification power
  • Lens quality
  • Field of view
  • Eye relief 
  • Weight 
  • Cost

Most tour operators recommend an 8x magnification for that perfect blend of closeness and stability. But to be safe and confident, you’re better off doing the real test in-store. This will provide you with a perfect opportunity to gauge comfort and focus ease. Are you ready to capture the wilderness in all its glory? Arm yourself with these trusty companions as they will be your ticket to wildlife wonder.

  1. Repellents – Shielding Against Nature’s Tiny Terrors

As much as the wild is a fantastic place to be while on a family safari in Africa. Remember that you’re sharing the stage with the Big Five and nature’s tiny terrors – mosquitoes, tsetse flies, and other pesky insects. While their bites can be distracting and painful, what’s even more concerning is the risk of diseases like malaria.

Thus, for safety, you need to consider packing insect repellent. It will act as the superhero of your safari essentials. You can either choose one containing DEET or natural oils like lemon and eucalyptus. Insect repellents are magical essentials that keep insects at bay. 

To ensure its effectiveness, reapply as per the label instructions. But that’s not all! The best way to back up your defences is to wear lightweight long sleeves and pants. Also, don’t use heavy-scented perfumes, which could attract unwanted attention.

Besides, while on a family safari, it would be best to sleep under insecticide-treated bed nets. Most lodges usually provide them for visitors. Another crucial essential is packing anti-malarial medication. The best approach is to seek guidance from your family physician or a travel clinic before departure. This will help your family stay armed against mosquitoes, reducing the chance of contracting malaria. Remember, your health is your passport to a worry-free family safari. 

  1. Cameras – Capturing Safari Stories in Pixels

The truth is that the wild moments are as fleeting as a cheetah’s sprint. That’s why carrying a trusty camera is highly recommended to capture breathtaking landscapes and awe-inspiring wildlife. Remember, your visual safari journey starts here. 

For perspective, try and picture the sun painting the sky in hues of gold and crimson giraffes silhouetted against the twin light canvas.  I can assure you this is a scene you want to treasure forever. And what’s a better way to capture and treasure these moments? Consider using both digital cameras with telephoto zoom lenses and your smartphone.

Most safari enthusiasts recommend a zoom lens on a camera as they allow you to get those frame-filling shots from a safe distance. Besides, this helps you to keep yourself safe while stopping you from interrupting the animal’s natural behaviour.

To capture the rustic moments of the wildlife, ensure you review your camera option that excels in high-quality video. This is because sometimes the magic happens in Motion.

 But if you’re on a family safari, here is a tip you’ll need to consider.  Ensure your kids have their cameras and encourage them to use them too. This is so important as it is not just about preserving memories. It’s also about making them active participants in this wildlife adventure.

Of course, don’t forget to remind them to try and enjoy the experience from the window now and then to soak in the wonder unfolding around them. After all, you do not want them to miss the real magic in just taking the snapshots. For a family experience to be enjoyable, it has to be a shared experience. 

  1. Day Pack – Your Safari Sidekick

The day pack will act as your mobile command centre. Remember, this isn’t just about anybody to Safari sidekick your survival kit and your treasure chest of essentials all rolled into one.

Your day pack and ensure you have the following essentials stored:

  •  Sunscreen
  •  Snacks
  •  Water bottle
  •  Rain gear
  •  Cameras 
  • Sunglasses
  •  Binoculars 
  • Medication

 It will feel more like Mary Poppins’ magical bag but with a safari twist. But to ensure a comfortable safari experience and show you, choose a day pack that’s lightweight and equipped with enough compartments and pockets.  

This will help to keep your gear organised and easily accessible.  You’ll also want to avoid noisy velcro closures that may startle the animals. For sure, nobody wants a cheetah to think it’s dinner time. 

Ensure you prep your day pack in the evening so that it can be easy to just pick and go for the morning game drive. You want to have a grab-and-go experience, as it will help you streamline your mornings. Besides, this will help you focus on the real adventure waiting beyond.

  1. Sunscreen – Shielding Against the African Blaze

Ah the African sun sometimes it’s out to show off.  It’s like a sport like that never dims.  So the best way to protect your family’s skin from turning red you have to ensure you carry your sunscreen. 

Imagine basking in the glory of the savanna watching elephants graze and lions in search of water or their next hunt under the unforgiving sun. This experience is fantastic and you wouldn’t want to spoil it by experiencing a painful sunburn. So to avoid the itchy ordeal, slather your skin on sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher.

But for extra precaution, go for “reef-safe” sunscreens with mineral-active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. This is essential as chemical sunscreens can bleach and harm coral reefs.  To be honest, we are here to admire the beauty of both land and sea not to destroy.

And if you have planned water activities, your best bet will be water-resistant sunscreens.  as they will stay put even when you’re taking a refreshing dip in water activities. For great results, apply generously 15 to 30 minutes before stepping into the sun and reapply every 2 hours. And a point to note is don’t forget those tiny ears, neck, and face they crave for sun protection too.

  1. Sunglasses and Hats – Stylish Safari Essentials

If you’re in the African wilderness, sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats are not just stylish. As we already know, the African sun is unforgiving. So this will act as your family’s defense against the sun’s fiery glare and scorching heat.

So when on a game drive and the sun is beaming down like a relentless spotlight, your sunglasses will shield your eyes from the blaze and add a dash of Hollywood glam to a safari look. 

But for complete safety, ensure that sheds block 100% of UVA/UVB radiations.  You can opt for oversized sunglasses because they shield the eye’s periphery from reflected light. What a nice way of ensuring fashion meets function in the African wilderness. 

When shopping for hats, choose fabrics with ventilation to keep cool in the African heat. Also, make sure that the hat’s brim shades your ears, neck and face. I know baseball caps are a wardrobe staple for many; however, on safari, wide-brimmed hats steal the show. The caveat here is to ensure they come with chain straps you wouldn’t want your hat to be blown away and photo-bomb a lion’s portrait session. 

  1. Headlamps – Illuminating the Nighttime Safari Drama

I know headlamps sound peculiar. But as the African sun dips below the horizon, the wilderness transforms into darkness. With realms of shadows and whispers.  but they’re not this is where your headlamp comes in handy.  It will act as your flashlights for nocturnal adventures.

Having a reliable headlamp helps you to navigate without stumbling over 10 friends or intentionally scaring off curious night wanderers. Equipped when shopping for a headlamp, consider features like 

  • Long battery life
  • Various brightness settings
  • Lightweight construction, 
  • Waterproof durability

 you’ll also find other headlamps that have red light options.  This is a great addition as it lets you see without disturbing the nearby animals. 

  1. Rain Gear – Preparing for Nature’s Surprise Showers

One thing about the African bush is that the weather can swiftly change.  You might have gone during the dry season but might experience surprise showers that can spoil the fun. That’s why it’s important to have lightweight waterproof jackets and pants as your Ali’s against sudden downpours. Besides having your rain gear on, it makes you a participant in nature’s surprises.

You need to ensure that your reindeer has breathable fabric like Gore-Tex. This is vital as it ensures wet weather protection without the risk of overheating. Here’s a hack you can leverage when packing, pack quick-drying long-sleeve shirts and pants. Besides shielding you from insects, they also protect you against the sun, wind or unexpected chills. Plus, it helps you not to worry about your designer wear getting stained or torn. Keep in mind that safari is all about comfort and adventure. 

  1. Footwear – The Foundation of Safari Adventures

Your footwear is the unsung hero of your safari wardrobe. The African wilderness is full of rough terrain. Besides, it varies greatly as you can find rocky, muddy, sandy and slopped terrains. That’s why it’s essential to get it right on shoes. This can translate the difference between an adventure and a misadventure. 

The right footwear is specifically essential if you’re going on a walking safari. Waterproof hiking boots or shoes offering good ankle support and traction are vital. As it will help you navigate rugged terrain like a pro. Right footwear ensures your feet are comfortable and ready to tackle whatever nature throws your way. 

But the truth is not every safari moment calls for a rugged adventure. When going for community visits or chilling at the lodge, lightweight sneakers are the best choice. And if you’re chilling around the pool, lightweight sandals are your best friends. The trick here is to ensure they’re sturdy, as you wouldn’t want a wild encounter due to flimsy footwear. 

Also, for extra safety, break in your new shoes or boots while still at home. This will help you avoid blisters and sore feet while on a family safari. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What if I forget something important?

Man is to error, and it happens to the best of us. But fear not! You can find replacements for items like toiletries and medication in airport shops or local towns and villages near your lodge. 

2. How do I keep kids engaged during long game drives?

Long drives can be overwhelming, even for adults. Now imagine how they can test the patience of young ones. Worry not! Here are a few easy tricks to keep the boredom at bay:

  • Include activity books, sketch pads and pencils in your day-pack bag. This will distract them as they nurture their inner artists with wildlife-inspired drawings.
  • Take turns looking through the binoculars and the camera. This helps to turn spotting wildlife into a fun and interactive game. 
  • Listening to an audiobook about African wildlife is also a great hack. This will help transform the vehicle into a storytelling stage. 
  • Ask the tour guides questions about interesting sights and facts. Their knowledge adds depth to the safari experience. 

3. Is it safe to take young kids on safari?

Absolutely, but you need to consider the right precautions:

  • First, tailor your family safari experience to your kid’s needs and maturity.
    Avoid risky walking safaris if you have very little kids.
  • Request for an experienced family safari guide. As they’re able to understand the unique dynamics of families.
  • Consider using safari vehicles with top-height windows and doors to prevent falls. 
  • Also, ensure you keep children close at hand when outside vehicles to avoid unexpected encounters.
  • Make sure you educate kids about safe behavior around wildlife it’s not a zoo, but the lessons are just as exciting. 
  • The key to a successful family safari is finding a professional guide to balance adventure and safety, tailoring the experience to your kids’ ages and needs.

Conclusion

Now, with your detailed packing list and your questions thoroughly answered, you are on the threshold of an extraordinary African family safari. Remember, a safari experience is beyond witnessing the breathtaking beauty of Africa’s wilderness. It’s about creating a tapestry of adventures you and your loved ones will treasure forever.

Remember to enjoy the wonders of the African landscape every time in your backpack plays a role in crafting these memories. Starting from the binoculars that bring distant wildlife up close to the snacks to the snacks that keep spirits high during long drives. Keep in mind that each choice reflects your dedication to a safari filled with awe and wonder.

So, what are you waiting for? The wild is beckoning and the stage is set for your family to embark on a family safari like no other. Start planning your safari today, and let the grand adventure unfold.

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