Africa is best suited to older kids who can enjoy safari and some of the more intrepid experiences
Planning is vital when travelling to Africa as some countries are unstable and dangerous and there are health risks such as malaria in other areas. Some countries popular with families include South Africa, the Seychelles, Morocco, Namibia and Zanzibar in Tanzania. If you are going on safari, it is best to bring older kids as there is a lot of sitting still and bumping around which would not appeal to most babies and toddlers.
Egypt is a firm favorite for Western travellers but be aware that there are currently security issues surrounding flights to the Sinai Peninsula and until these have been resolved it would be best to delay booking for this region to avoid disappointment. Tourists are also advised to be vigilant when travelling to Tunisia due to the risk of terrorism. There are certainly other parts of Africa which are no go areas due to political and civil unrest. Kenya was a favorite for holiday makers in the 90s but there has recently been an increased threat of terror attacks. Malaria is another issue when travelling with a baby or toddler and it is advisable to avoid areas where malaria is prevalent. When planning a trip to Africa it is vital to plan well and research your destination thoroughly.
When to Travel to Africa
As a general rule, Africa is warm and sunny throughout most of the year but certain countries and even regions within a country experience a variety of climates. If you plan on going on safari, do your research or ask your travel agent the best time to go. Different seasons bring different weather but also different sightings. The wildebeest migration is one of the most incredible things you will see but go at the wrong time of year and you might not see many animals. The best times of year to go on safari in East Africa differs from the best time in South Africa.December to March are the best time for a beach holiday in Cape Town and the rest of South Africa and beach holiday destinations in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Mauritius and the Seychelles are generally considered year-round destinations.
Baby and Toddler Essentials
Outside the main cities, you can assume that disposable nappies, powdered formula and baby food that your child is used to won’t be available, so bring everything you need with you. Child car seats, high chairs in restaurants and cots in hotels are rare except in top-end hotels in tourist areas. Bring a car seat if you will be travelling a lot by car or taxi and a fold away high chair for eating out. A sling or baby carrier is also a must if you will be travelling around historical monuments or visiting temples or local markets which can be crowded and difficult to manoeuvre around with a stroller.
A visit to a GP with travel vaccination experience is a must and you can check on the health situation in various countries on the WHO and NHS Fit for Travel websites.
Africa’s most popular tourist destinations cater well to families and good hotels will offer high chairs, cots and food suitable for younger children. Buying your essentials may be more difficult in certain countries and you should be prepared to set aside a good portion of your baggage allowance for nappies, formula and food. Visa requirements and vaccinations vary depending on the country that you are travelling to so research your trip well in advance of booking.
Top Destinations in Africa
Morocco, Cape Verde and Egypt are popular beach holiday destinations within easy reach of Europe. In Egypt you can visit the Pyramids and other remnants of ancient cultures and also have a sun holiday in one of the Red Sea resort. Cairo is unfortunately not a very stroller friendly city and a quick stop there is all that is required. Luxar is worth visiting if you are interested in history as it is home to the Valley of the Kings. There are some wonderfully family friendly hotels here also. Morocco and Cape Verde have an abundance of family friendly hotels and accommodation options. Many of the hotels offer baby and toddler childcare, cots, high chairs and toys, which makes for a more relaxing holiday for mum and dad.
To the south, Africa’s family holiday highlights are Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa. In each, the mixture of wildlife and gorgeous beaches makes for idyllic family holidays combining adventure with relaxation. If you are travelling from the UK or Ireland, the jet lag will not be so difficult to deal with as most of Africa lies within 4 hours of the Greenwich mean time timezone. One of the biggest draws for tourists to Tanzania, Zambia and South Africa is the possibility of going on safari. Going on safari with a baby or toddler would be difficult given that the four wheel drive vehicles are bumpy to say the least and the locals say that travelling in one is like an ‘African Massage’. This would be difficult for a baby. Older toddlers would probably be quite happy on a shorter safari but a week long trip may be too much for them given that so much time is spent in a vehicle.
Zanzibar, Madagascar, the Seychelles and Mauritius are ideal family vacation spots offering stunning, white sandy beaches and plenty of wildlife. In Zanzibar and Madagascar you can swim with sea turtles and other local wildlife. There is also so fantastic seafood to sample and the people tend to be very welcoming towards visitors.
Health and Wellbeing for babies and kids
Make sure that you take out travel insurance for each member of your family. Also bring a good first aid kit, sun protection, insect repellent, bite cream/ antihistamine suitable for babies or toddlers, a mosquito net, sterilizer tablets or bags and antibacterial spray or wipes.
Malaria is widespread in many countries in Africa and it is not advisable to take babies to these places. Other diseases which can be found in parts of the continent include yellow fever, encephalitis and dengue. Check NHS Fit for Travel or the WHO website in advance of booking to establish which diseases are at your destination and then visit your GP to seek his or her advice on whether or not travel there with a baby or toddler is viable. Make sure that vaccinations are up to date and take some basic preventive measures.
The World Health Organization recommends that all travellers be covered for diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella and polio, as well as for hepatitis B, regardless of their destination. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the following vaccinations are recommended for all parts of Africa: hepatitis A, hepatitis B, meningococcal meningitis, rabies and typhoid, and boosters for tetanus, diphtheria and measles. A yellow-fever vaccination is not necessarily recommended for all parts of Africa, although the certificate is an entry requirement for a number of countries. It is likely that your child would need a number of these vaccinations and your Gp will be able to tell you if these are appropriate for your child’s age group. Some vaccinations can make you feel ill for a day or two and you will also need to consider the effect of this on your child.
The most likely ailment you or your little ones are likely to get is diarrhoea and it is important to always use bottled water when preparing baby’s bottles and to only allow little ones to eat fruit that you can peel yourself. All food consumed outside of good hotels should also be cooked well. When it comes to injuries (as opposed to illness), the most likely reason for needing medical help in Africa is as a result of road accidents – vehicles are rarely well maintained, and the road quality is poor. Bring a car seat with you and avoid travelling in vehicles where you do not trust the driver to slow down where requested.