Today I return to Africa for six weeks to guide two families, including some very young children. I’m often asked, is a safari a right experience for a kid?
I’m guiding two back-to-back families, one of my favorite guiding gigs. Kids are fabulous on safari. They’re uninhibited, socially immature, reactive – all the things we would want for a technicolor experience! They’re honest.
Parents and grandparents are constantly asking whether children can (a) take the long flights, (b) take the long rides, (c) have the attention span, (d) will eat the foreign food, and (e) will get sick.
The fact is that these are questions in many cases that the adults are asking about themselves. They are valid questions, but they don’t apply any more to children than adults.
Children are much more flexible than adults, and that’s probably why they do so well on safari. I’ll be guiding more than a dozen kids in the next 6 weeks, 10 of them are under 10 years old, and 2 of them are 5 years old. Frankly, I think an African safari is a better trip for a 5-year old than visiting European capitals!
Parents and grandparents often seem very concerned about whether the kid “is old enough to remember anything about the experience.”
There are quite a few seventy-year olds I guide every year who remember nothing. Some kids will remember; some won’t. (My own children seem to remember more about what they did on safari when they were 5 and 6 than I do!)
But more importantly, remembering an experience is not necessarily the most important thing. There must be thousands of important experiences a toddler will never recall, yet which shaped his personality and character. I can think of few better things in today’s myopic if xenophobic age than to thrust toddlers into alien, exciting environments, and to foment the idea that “different is good.”
And just as important, it’s what the parents or the grandparents will remember. The lives of parents and grandparents don’t stop just because they suddenly have children to care for. It’s part of our existence, our evolution to nourish and nurture, but not just our offspring, ourselves as well! We, too, learn from our children, and their perspectives during an African safari are absolutely some of the best there are.
I have often seen parents and grandparents reaching near moments of epiphany on safari as a result of something that a young child sa1d or did. That’s priceless.
The family safari is for everyone, not just the kids. And I can’t think of a more synergistic vacation, one that is likely to achieve a more memorable and lasting result, than an African Safari!