Trip Planning

Dreaming of a Family Safari in Africa

One of my favorite family travel writers, Mara Gorman, has weekly post on her website, The Mother of all Trips, called “Mondays are for dreaming” about those extraordinary travel experiences Mara (and all of us!) dream about.

Today, I’m dreaming of a family safari in Africa.


Over the New Year’s Eve holiday a few of the Ciao Bambino writers got together and brainstormed on a “must go back to” family travel list. From Lucca, Italy to Guilin, China to Cambria, California to Turks and Caicos — the list has something for everyone. While I love revisiting favorite haunts, this year, I’m itching to take our family on an exotic adventure. One of my favorite articles from Dana is on Kids & Critters. That’s exactly what I’m in the mood for — animals! Lots of them. And no, a zoo won’t do the trick.

Now that we live in Europe, Africa is a much easier trip from a flight perspective than starting from the West Coast of the US. Twelve years ago we spent three glorious weeks in South Africa and Zimbabwe, so it seems East Africa may be in order.


I’m starting from square one and after doing an initial Google search on “kids travel Africa”, page one results seemed compelling but after that I’m seeing either dated articles or marketing fluff without real content. On to “family safari vacation.” Bad news, those results look even worse.

Clearly, quality family travel content is needed for this part of the world. Fortunately, in this market there is another option.

Tour Operators

Planning trips to places that involve heavy touring are best done through an expert tour operator, meaning a company that specializes in full itineraries including transportation, accommodations, and guides. For Costa Rica, we recommend Classic Journeys out of San Diego. We don’t have anyone to recommend in Africa … yet.

Do you have a favorite Africa Tour Operator or itinerary to share? Please let me know!


I keep a running list of bookmarks for destinations all over the world. This list is torture when I’m not planning a trip, but an absolute joy once the real research begins.

Giraffe Manor
Check out the photos for the Giraffe Manor hotel. What? I must stay here.

CC Africa/&Beyond Africa
We planned our trip through South Africa at the Conservation Corporation Africa lodges and they were quite simply, unforgettable. Extraordinary lodges combined with vital conservation efforts defined this company. I don’t know much about this new brand, but certainly will start my research here.

National Geographic Best Adventure Travel Companies
When you travel to a place like Africa, particularly with kids, there zero room to fool around with unknown resources. National Geographic publishes a Best Adventure Travel Companies (On Earth) List. I put Family Adventures and African Safari into their tool and got 53 results.

Not really a “short list”, but certainly an amazing resource and place to start. I can’t imagine using an operator not on this list. Safety is a concern wherever you go but this issue in Africa is even more complex. Health and transportation safety, well-established practices in the field, and quality accommodations are all critical.

This post is the first in a series on planning this adventure. Stay tuned for insight on what I find …

Need more inspiration? Check out other 2011 travel ideas from the Travel Blog Mob:

BootsnAll – Where to Travel Next: How Do You Decide

Nerds Eye View – Back to Austria in 2011

The Vacation Gals – Zip Lining in a Costa Rica Rainforest

Wandering Educators – Top Ten Travel Destinations for 2011

Traveling with MJ – New Year, New Places, New List

Sharing Travel Experiences – A New Destination for a New Year

Wanderlust and Lipstick – Best Destinations for Solo Women’s Travel

Spot Cool Stuff – Southern Sudan: The World’s Newest Country

Start a Discussion

  • I feel like you’re doing the dreaming (and planning) for me. This is something I really want to do. My father went on safari several times and wanted to take the boys one day – I’m hoping that we get to do it with my stepmother sometime soon.

  • Not sure why an Africa safari isn’t on my top 10 list (fluctuating as it does), but I admire the research that you did to help anyone with their own safari travel plans!

  • I have always wanted to go on African safari. After reading your blog and checking out that Giraffe Manor, it’d be cool to stay there and wake up to see giraffes roaming outside. How awesome would that be? 🙂

  • An African Safari is a great adventure for a family to share!
    May I humbly suggest you consider us an operator on your short list? We’re a non-profit travel org who has been partnering with the Maasai Association in Kenya for many years. We arrange homestay trips in a Maasai village that are very popular for families, and we include several days of safari in the itinerary.
    A great way to expose your kids to indigenous culture and species, making for a very memorable trip.
    Here’s a blog post we wrote about our Maasai partners in Kenya:
    And here’s a link to our trip page:
    We’ll look forward to watching your planning progress!

  • My daughter sent me this since she’s considering going to E. Africa. I’ve been to Bataleur 3 times and loved it except when a group of loud Australians were there. Usually the guests are much older–never ran across any young couples. Has this changed.
    I’ve been to Ngorogoro Crater Lodge 3 times–the lodge is wonderful, but the crater is mostly filled with tourists.
    I’ve never been to Manyara Tree Lodge–would be curious about that. Do you have any info? And do they drive from Manyara to SUCanvas?

  • Elizabeth – I think it depends on when you are going. During school holiday periods and the summer, there are more likely to be families on safari. Stayed tuned for my full post on Manyara but in short, we loved it! The ecosystem is lush and gorgeous. The drive from SUCanvas to Manyara would be long (total length depends on where SUCanvas is at any point). After doing the drive from the Crater Lodge to SUCanvas, I’d fly next time. The road is essentially an unpaved highway …

  • Hi, thanks a lot for sharing experiences. We are thinking about doing safari in Kenya with a 9-year-old. Her name is Nikol and she´s been dreaming of going to Africa for a long time. She loves giraffes, she´s got loads of giraffe-toys and we go to visit them to our city zoo every week (we are from Prague, the Czech Republic :)).
    I wonder if you finally made it to Giraffe Manor hotel. Was it as amazing as it looks?

  • Indeed! It would be an awesome trip! Take pictures like crazy! Its gonna involve a lot of planning and a bit pricier than most holiday trips, but I know that it will be all worth it in the end.

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