Generally speaking, game-viewing safaris are not ideal for very young children, and many smaller, more intimate (and, consequently, peaceful) camps and lodges will place a moratorium on kids below a certain age. Certainly, you should think twice before taking children under 12 on game drives with other passengers -- for children under 8, it's an absolute no-no. The problem is that young children get bored (game drives can go on for hours), and boredom leads to listless noisemaking, which annoys other passengers, interferes with the game-viewing experience, and may even frighten the animals away. One option for smaller kids is to organize a game-viewing vehicle for exclusive use for your family, which means you can return to your lodge when you want. Also keep kids occupied with animal and bird checklists, and perhaps give them their own binoculars or cameras.
Conversely, taking teenagers on safari is a perfect introduction to the African bush. They have the patience and enthusiasm to look for animals on a long game drive, and it can't be more exciting for them (and their parents) when they spot their first elephant or lion. Besides considering how the behavior of your children will impact the people, animals, and environment around you, it's vital to think carefully about the natural dangers posed by the wilderness and its inhabitants. While on safari, you are always at some kind of risk of attack by wild animals, and while adults usually understand the importance of following simple safety instructions, children may take a lot of convincing. Many of the safari lodges and camps reviewed and recommended in this book are unfenced, and it's relatively easy to imagine younger children wandering off into the bush. Many families do travel on safari, but unless you want to have sleepless nights, you'll want to ensure that your younger offspring are accommodated in the same room or in a suite with a bedroom adjoining yours.
Heritage Hotels (www.heritage-eastafrica.com) runs their very popular Adventurer's Club for children 4 to 12 and Young Rangers Club for those 12 to 17 at some of their Intrepids and Voyager safari lodges, which keep kids occupied while parents go on game drives. The lodges themselves have family rooms/tents.
The coastal resorts are very child-friendly, and good discounts can be had if you opt for a family or adjoining room. In some cases, children under 6 are free. Other considerations are that children are prone to sunburn or falling ill with minor stomach upsets and must be protected from contracting malaria at all times. Items such as diapers, powdered milk, and pureed food are available only in Kenya and Tanzania's major city supermarkets, and they are expensive. You may want to consider bringing enough for the length of your vacation.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.