Family safaris are the hardest to arrange by far. Parents might be happy to chat endlessly about the wilderness of Africa experience, but more often than not this means long hours in a hot vehicle. "Are we there yet?" is just as hard to answer on roads that lead to Uganda national parks.
This, together with high prices, is why safaris are not always seen as family holiday choices. Indeed, some more exclusive camps still maintain a lower age-limit of 12. They may cite safety – and, of course, you don't want your kids becoming too friendly with the local buffalo – but they are also concerned about their other guests. After all, clients who have paid top whack for their exclusive bush retreat could do without tantrums over twiglets, or the unrelenting click-bleep of a Nintendo DS as their vehicle tails a leopard.
Get it right, though, and there are few more rewarding family holidays than a safari. You just need to plan carefully and compromise a little on the agenda.
First, small is beautiful: think macro, not wide-angle. Cut down on some of those long game drives and spend more time in camp; a day in camp can be worth two in the bush. Indeed, you can get the Uganda bush in a microcosm. A salamander snaring moths on your ceiling can be as gripping as any lion kill, while a sandy picnic site offers a real-life puzzle-page of tracks and signs. Children can enjoy their own thrilling close encounters with the likes of hornbills, vervet monkeys and mongooses – and all on their own terms.
When you choose to go will depend upon where you're heading. In much of Uganda the dry season, from May to November, is peak safari time, with roads open, wildlife coming to water and sparse vegetation making viewing easier.
Sometime in Uganda the rainfall pattern is more complex and you can go at any time of year. Christmas holidays are peak season in the Uganda. In the end, wherever or whenever you take your family on safari the rewards will be the same: a wildlife safari, plus the ultimate outdoor children's playground. Mix up your itinerary, get hands-on, and there'll be no time for temper tantrums.
What's more, travelling with children offers adults the perfect get-out clause from all those pre-dawn departures and long waterhole stakeouts – and a chance to rediscover the natural world through younger eyes. If they find it interesting, be it rhino poo or baboon bums, then it probably is; you just haven't looked closely enough. There is more to safaris than big game, after all, and getting down and dirty with nature is where the wonder begins.
- Families with Younger Children – Avoid safaris that provide longer drives – take a short day or 3 day overnight safari places such as Lake Mburo 2 day safari or a 3 day to Murchison Falls national park.
- Park Entrance into National Parks for Children in Uganda: Children 15years – pay 15 USD less in price per day for park entrance fees. Under 5year will enter park without paying.
- Less Activities for Children: Gorilla Tracking minimum age is 15, Chimpanzee Tracking is 15 years at Kibale Forest and Kyambura Gorge at Queen Elizabeth and at Budongo Forest near Masindi. Things such as Volcano Hikes that are 6 to 8 hour in length would also be a thing not to be considered. There are alternative children activities at Kibale Forest that can be arranged that are supervised by trained park staff or your driver- can take them on an alternative hike or other activity – the same can be done while Gorilla Tracking at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where the children can go on a village walk, forest hike or older ones on a bike ride.
- Hotels, Lodgings, and Tented Camps for families: Some give a discount for children if they stay in the same room or give discounted prices for children. The age limitations vary from lodging accommodation to accommodation. Some welcome children while others do not depending on the ages of the children. There are many lodging facilities with swimming pools which will certainly enhance the time of most children.
- Vehicle for a Family Safari: A safari van is the best vehicle for a family with children going on a safari. There is ample room to move around and a safari van may not be as confined as another vehicle.
- Food for Children in Uganda: There is lots of things to eat here in Uganda for children at lodges, hotels and tented camps. You will not find a lot of hamburgers on the menus, but there are items that children will like such as Fish and Chips, Chicken Strips and Chips, sometimes you might find pizza here or there.
- Things to drink for children: Sodas are here, Pepsi and Coca Cola products such as Pepsi, Coke, Mountain Dew, Sprite and Fanta, some fruit sodas such as Alvaro are found here. Fresh Juice is readily available but always ask if they add bottled or boiled water to the juice. Water is also available in bottled form such as Rwenzori. There are of course many fruit juices for children that you can buy – please read the fine print – in some cases even when it says “pure”sugar might have be added.
- Book your Family Safari with a Tour Company such as Steady Safaris Tours: It is best to book your Family Safari with a reliable tour company that is Children Friendly and will give you all the advice you need in detail such as Steady Safaris Tours.
- Create your own Family Safari: Using a pre-packaged safari tour will be cumbersome, since often you will hear, “They are too young,” such as where Chimpanzee Tracking and or Gorilla Tracking is in package. At Steady Safaris Tours we can assist you to put together a “family friendly safari.” You create it and we will help you in every way with suggestions, advice, travel times between parks and lodges that will be fun for the kids.